Teaching spelling – homophones

seven stepsWe are blessed with a language that contains many homophones. I did read somewhere that it was a sign of the sophistication of our language but I can’t find the quote so it may be something I made up to convince someone they were a good thing. They can certainly be the basis of word play.


The seriously chased are seldom chaste for long. The seriously chaste are seldom chased for long.

The 2014 National Curriculum does demand that we teach children how to spell a large number of homophones, some of which are near homophones but are seriously challenging. How many adults know when to use affect or effect?

I recently worked with  a couple of NQTs teaching in Yr6 who wanted to know how to teach the difference between affect and effect.  We generated a long list of ideas and then tried to categorise and generalise the ideas behind the activities and came up with a seven step plan. Of course, we then realised that it could be used to teach the spellings of any homophones.

You can find our seven step plan here.  You do not always need all seven steps and nor do you always need to do them in the order that we have listed here.

Do you have any good resources you could share to teach children how to make choices about the homophones they use?

Spelling in the new curriculum – everything you need!

Most people have by now looked at the  spelling and grammar expectations in the new curriculum and tests.  Spelling’s time has finally come!  Anecdotal evidence suggests that those schools who were disappointed with their grammar and spelling test results in the summer often cited the spelling element of the test as the area that needs development. In fact the spelling results went from 14% of the marks uner the old regime to 29% of the marks in the GaPS test.

Back at Literacy Headquarters we have been working away at this aspect of the new curriculum for some time and have finally managed to share  the resources that we have created. (All can be found here.)  We are recommending that KS2 will need at least 15 X 15 minute spelling sessions each half-term.  The further away from the age-related expectations, the more spelling you will need, so the fifteen sessions are just a starting point.

First, we have produced a term by term pathway through the spelling for each year group.  You will know that the objectives in the curriculum are in one big bundle for Yrs3 and 4 and Yrs5 and 6 and so what Angela has done is to decide how to divide these up .  This suddenly makes the spelling curriculum look more manageable.  Included in the pathway are signposts to resources and ways of teaching elements that are included in The Spelling Bank and Support for Spelling.

Secondly, we have now started to think about the pattern of teaching across the fifteen sessions.  We are continuing to use the revisit/review, teach, practise and apply structure introduced in Support for Spelling because it is a familiar structure to those moving from kS1 to KS2.  However, in KS2 each element is taught on a different day rather than all occurring in one session.  To make this clear we have now created a day to day pathway for the spring term of each year group. (Click on term 2 to find the planning for each year group) As for all of the above, these are only suggestions and can be changed and moved around to suit your class.

There are certain elements that appear in each year group:

  • homophones
  • rare grapheme/phoneme correspondences (GPCs)
  • prefixes and suffixes
  • letter strings
  • word endings (that are not suffixes)
  • learning and remembering spellings
  • proof-reading

This means that it is very easy to differentiate across a class be it single or mixed age.  The whole class can be working on homophones but different ones can be used for particular groups of children.

Finally, Sandra has created an excel spreadsheet that analyses the spelling results of the test.  So if you plan to give your children the spelling test from the 2013 paper, you can now analyse the results and identify areas to focus on in your teaching.

We hope that this will get you started.  If you use the resources, let us know what you think.

See other spelling posts here.