Spelling is one of the first things that kids are taught as they progress from their Reception years into Infants and beyond – with words becoming gradually more complex through enhanced learning and a growing familiarisation with letters and the way they work together to form words.
Of course, before spelling, children are first taught to speak and recognise the sound of words – with phonetic alphabet development one of the more modern methods of teaching children to read, write, and form full sentences. Through a phonetic understanding of the alphabet, kids are taught not only how different letters look and are used, but also how they sound – and, crucially, how they can work together with other letters to produce different pronunciations.
What this does is ultimately make kids spelling easier to get their head around, as they already have some understanding of how letters look and sound together in complete words. With that said, what can teachers and parents do to teach kids spelling in a fun, effective, and interactive way?
Getting started with kids spelling
The easiest starting point when it comes to teaching kids to spell, is through words they know and are familiar with already – for example their own name and other common words they hear and use around the house and at school.
Creating links between words with the same sounds is an important part of boosting children’s recognition of different letters and how they work together, starting with one syllable words and gradually working your way into longer words – for example: bed, fed, and ted. This can be enhanced further by encouraging children to say words out loud – allowing them to recognise sounds for themselves, with tons of different games and activities available for interpretation both inside and outside of school.
Some of our favourite games and activities include:
- Word bingo, matching words that have the same pronunciation – enabling children to link the words and understand how they way they are spelt links them together
- Create displays using common sounds, expressing the way these sounds and words are spelt and putting them up for children to see every day. A great way of doing this is to have a display board of “end” words, “ed” words, “ing” words, and other common sounds.
Once you’ve got the basics down and children have learnt to distinguish between different sounds and recognise the phonetics of the letters they are using, it’s time to progress to the next stage. This is where those early and most basic patterns are developed and factored into longer words, and where children will start to learn how to pick out individual letter sounds from longer words in order to distinguish the letters used in spelling them.
Spelling and speaking out loud is a big part of this stage of teaching children to spell, encouraging group work and one-to-one work where kids are given an opportunity to listen to words and identify the recognisable sounds and letters they hear.
This out loud and interactive style of learning should be combined with the basic task of reading and memorising different words, for a comprehensive learning approach which mixes phonetics with familiarity on paper.
Teaching children spelling as they progress into other subjects
As children get older and start to learn about other topics and subjects, it becomes important to be able to spell more words and employ further skills in deciphering the letter combinations which appear in unfamiliar and new words and phrases. This is likely the time when you will start to identify those who are ahead and those who may be struggling – with challenges stemming from all manner of different things including potential dyslexia, issues with eyesight, and other learning difficulties and obstacles.
Teaching children spelling across different topics and areas of learning is very much part and parcel of the overall curriculum and should be achieved through interactive and engaging games as well as more serious learning techniques.
Spelling Bee’s and challenges are popular with older children in school, adding a competitive spin to spelling and encouraging kids to spell as part of their continued development at home.
Writing is another big part of learning to spell, with writing and repeating words one of the easiest and most effective ways of helping kids understand the formation of letters and how they work together to create full words and sentences.
Some other ideas for teaching kids spelling include:
- Creative displays and projects which encourage kids to make word and visual displays out of words cut from magazines and newspapers. The more you can surround kids with different words used in context, the more you will support their spelling and writing skills.
- Encourage reading with reading journals and review projects. Seeing words written out in the context of their favourite stories will help kids remember them.
- Play games, for example crosswords and wordsearches which rely on accurate spelling in order to find the correct answer. These games are particularly engaging at the end of class and can be a great way to round up all the different spelling and words learnt during a specific lesson or learning period.
Kids Spelling – additional support
It is important that spellings are practised both inside and outside of school in order for children to progress and keep up with the class. Providing workbooks is a good way of framing continued learning outside the classroom, with parents able to give their child the additional time support they might need if they are struggling.
For those facing bigger challenges and learning obstacles, consider looking into the provision of extra help and resources for support.