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Teaching Spelling

Spelling is a difficult skill to master in the English language as there are many grammatical rules that need to be learnt. Before teaching spelling your child must know their letter sounds (not to be confused with learning the alphabet, which is required, but does not help with blending and segmenting words which is necessary for spelling). You may decide to make a Sound Book for your child, which could simply consist of an exercise book with a letter sound on each page. This way you can practise reading each letter sound daily, and add a new letter to the book when your child is ready.

Before you start teaching spelling, your child needs to be able to read some words and blend letters together to form words. This can be done using the phonics method, where children learn the letter sounds followed by the letter names. Once your child can read with some confidence, they are ready to start learning to spell. Most children are not ready to start learning to spell before the age of five. When you start teaching your child to spell talk to them about how words are sounded out by saying each letter sound and then blending the letter sounds together. 

Blending Sounds

As adults we instantly blend letter sounds together when we come to an unfamiliar word in order to make sense of the word, for example, a new or unusual name. It is an automatic process which we are not always aware of doing, but this process of blending is vital for reading and spelling. This can come naturally to many children once they have learnt their letter sounds, but for others it may take more time to develop and require extra support. Your child may struggle with blending if they are not familiar with the 42 letter sounds. Children also need to be trained to read the first letter sound first, as some children read the last letter sound initially and this leads to frustration as they cannot then read or spell the word. Plenty of help can refine this skill such as through games like Pass the Word.

Flash Cards

Spelling and reading can be practised using first word Everyday Words Flashcards. This method will encourage your child to hear the sounds in each word and then blend them together, to read the word which corresponds with the picture.

Once your child is able to read the words with the pictures, this can be taken a stage further by covering the picture, so your child learns to read words, without the need to blend each letter sound. To develop spelling of these words say the word by segmenting each letter sound and then encourage your child to have a go at writing it. For example, ‘cloud’ ‘c’ ‘l’ ‘ou’ ‘d’, encourage your child to count each letter sound on their fingers and identify the number of sounds in each word e.g c l ou d, has four sounds. Start with simple two letter words and progress on to three and four letter words. This is an ideal way of teaching spelling of regular words which can be spelt by using the synthetic phonics method.

Irregular words which do not follow the phonics system and therefore cannot be easily segmented and spelt are referred to as Tricky Words. These words have irregular spelling patterns which have to be learnt.

Reading and Spelling

If your child brings home a reading book every week from school, you could take the opportunity to try spelling some of the key words from it together. This will not only help your child with their reading of more difficult words but also with their letter formation and writing skills. You may want to incorporate a Reward or Star chart into your spelling sessions, so your child is more motivated to take part.

There are lots of ways to make learning to spell fun such as by using:

  • Magnetic Alphabet Lower Case letters

  • Foam letters such as the Fish 'n' Spell Bath Game

  • Paintbrushes and pots of water on the patio (ideal when the weather’s is dry!)

  • Glitter in a small tray (your child can use their finger or a paintbrush)

  • Sand in a small tray

  • Shaving foam mixed with paint

  • Adhesive backed foam letters

  • Wooden Abc blocks

  • Various online spelling games
  • Playdough and alphabet playdough cutters

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net



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