I have to say teaching Literacy in Year 2 sometimes made me feel like a broken record. Spellings, spellings, spellings. I was bored of talking about spelling and so were the children, but it was holding them back from being marked as ‘expected.’ That list of common exception spelling words had to be evidenced along with spelling rules, phonetically plausible attempts and more, to prove pupil’s writing was ‘where it should be’ for their age.
Helping pupils with spelling can be exhausting and sometimes feel pointless. Not because children shouldn’t know how to spell a variety of words, but because some of the words they have to be able to spell don’t enter in to their everyday writing. Trying to teach them to spell a variety of suffixes, contractions and common exception words can lead you down a highly time-consuming path, trying to find or most likely create the perfect model texts.
For some, the solution for this is to rely on spelling tests, but others question if that’s sufficient evidence, because they are spelling the words without context. Teachers are encouraged to get pupils to use dictionaries and thesaurus to help them spell but this can mean pupils spend excessive time searching for words which they then copy straight in to their books. When speaking to teachers at other schools it was clear that as a whole teachers were getting mixed messages about how to teach spellings, what their pupils should be capable of, and what counted as ‘independent spelling’.
However, I feel like last year I really cracked spellings with my class. Of course there were still some errors and misconceptions , but overall the progress in spelling was far better than in previous years. My pupils had a good understanding of strategies they could use and knew how to independently use resources to support themselves. Additionally, they helped each other. Spellings became less of a constant niggle for me and my pupils.
Below I’ve listed some strategies for teaching spelling that worked really well for me. If you want some tips for teaching other aspects of writing head here: https://www.reallyschool.com/2018/12/12/how-to-enjoy-teaching-literacy/
- Get arty
Make spelling fun by encouraging pupils to practice words in paint, patterns, funky writing, collages etc.
- Spelling construction
Get pupils to build words using items like Lego, blocks, pin boards etc.
- Spelling games
Use spelling games e.g. missing letters in words, odd one out, spot the difference etc.
- Peer support
Get pupils to support each other with their spelling, check they agree on how a word is spelled, and if they are unsure ask an adult. Encourage them to show each other ways to remember difficult words.
- Resources access
Ensure that you not only have spelling resources, (e.g. word banks, dictionaries etc.) but that pupils have easy access to them and know how to use them.
- Mini quizzes
Instead of formal spelling tests why not try mini quizzes on just a few words. You could even have pupils work in teams on this.
- Stop and model
When you spot common errors in a lesson don’t wait, stop the class or a small group and model how to spell that word correctly, how to remember it, and how to check it. Make sure pupils also know the meaning of the word, so there is purpose to learning to spell it correctly.
- Mini experts
Appoint some spelling experts, ask them to support groups with their spelling and help them correct them. This could be done as a mini in-lesson progress check. Go around the classroom, listen in and provide additional support where needed.
Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants etc.
- Visual aids
Look at the shape of spellings and the letters within them and see if you can create visual aids. These are most effective when related to the meaning of the word e.g. turning the ‘oo’ in look into eyes.
- Individual strategies
Work with pupils to help them find what strategies work for them and encourage them to use them.
12. Individual targets
Set targets for pupils to motivate them e.g. 3 key spellings to write correctly in 5 bits of writing for a special certificate.
- Build it up
Don’t expect them to spell everything correctly at one, practice a few words at a time.
- Spelling apps
Use apps for spelling, there are lots of great free ones out there for your pupils to practice in a more relaxed way.
- Work with parents
If you have pupils who particularly struggle with their spellings talk to their parents about it. Ask parents to help them practice some key words.
- Encourage trying
If pupils try first, they get so much more out of the experience than they would if you jump right in.
- Understand misconceptions
Where pupils are making the same mistakes, talk to them about it. What do they find difficult? Look for common errors to find sources of misconceptions.
- Reward effort
Make sure pupils know that trying your best is important.
- Talk through how you spell when you model
When modelling a piece of writing, explain how to spell key words.
- Don’t stress
Don’t let the expectations pile on the pressure. Try your best and encourage your pupils to do the same.