Spelling is just one of those things – it seems so hard to get it right and to have an effect upon children’s writing but often that is because we need to have all three of the following things in place in order to make a difference.
- Teach – choose a spelling programme that has progression and suggests activities and ways of working. Make sure that is pays sufficient attention to strategies for learning and remembering words, and if it doesn’t add them in. Make sure it focuses on patterns in our words rather than learning lists of words. Model being interested in words, investigating why things are spelt the way they are so that children understand that there is a reason for our spelling. Assess what children are learning about spelling patterns and how they articulate what they know. This does notnecessarily mean setting a list of words to take home and learn.
- Apply – model for children what they should do with spelling at the point of writing. Children need to take the responsibility for this. So show them how to use a have-a-go sheet, trying out different spellings for the words until they can get as near to a spelling as possible. Use that spelling and draw a line underneath it in their writing to show that they need to come back to that word and work on it a bit further. At no point in this process should children ask you as the teacher if it is right. Model using a have-a-go sheet whenever you write and across the curriculum. Model using a wide range of strategies to get to the correct spelling (analogy, letter string patterns, linking it to other words that have similar meaning or come from the same family, mnemonics used etc). Give children time to try and find the correct spellings of these words after writing and then if they can’t, and only then, help them. Give children time to learn these spellings and if parents insist, send these words home to be learnt. Teach children how to work in pairs to test each other.
- Assess – how are children spelling in their writing? What words are they struggling with and therefore what patterns should be included in your teaching. How is what they are doing now progress?