Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Beginning teachers are often nervous and feel daunted about taking on their new role as a facilitator of learning. It is fundamentally important that a beginning teacher’s worries are put into perspective; do not let your expectations put unnecessary pressure on yourself.

A particular dimension of literacy that graduate teachers often struggle with is teaching their students how to spell, and is an area that sometimes attracts frustration from educators. A classroom spelling program is a tool that can help to address these frustrations (Bush, 2008). Hill (2006) states that spelling is imperative, and children need to learn how to spell so that their writing can be read by other people.

Young children’s attempts at spelling moves through numerous developmental stages that involves the use of phonics. Phonics “focuses on the sound-letter relationships used in reading and writing, and involves an understanding of the alphabetic principle” (Hill, 2006, p. 208). This demonstrates the notion that spoken language is composed of sounds, which are then linked to written letters (Hill, 2006).


Learning to spell strengthens the relationship between letters and their sounds and helps to develop both reading and aids with writing (Jones, 2009). Spelling should be a basic part of every student's education, and "the more deeply and thoroughly a student knows a word, the more likely he or she is to recognize it, spell it, define it, and use it in speech and writing" (Jones, 2009, p. 2).

Although spelling comes across as being easier said than done, the more people begin to understand the structure and codes behind spelling, the simpler it becomes. By comprehending spelling rules and patterns, spelling becomes straightforwardly decodable even for people who don't instinctively take these on board. They also help a new teacher to explain the purpose behind why a word is spelled in a certain way, rather than just saying 'that's just how it is spelled' (Jones, 2009, p. 2).

Correct spelling gives the value of credibility and is a system for constructing meaning and knowledge (NSW Department of Education and Training, 1998). 

Having the ability to understand spelling helps writers to generate a greater awareness of meaning when they write. Learning to spell is a thinking process where students learn to apply different spelling techniques in the appropriate context, as well as deciphering the patterns and systems involved in the English language. Employers will often look for good spellers as someone is generally going to read what you write, and people often make assumptions about one's level of academic knowledge based on their spelling capabilities (Spelling Developmental Continuum, 1994).


Graduate teachers may ask their students to learn lists of words, which often forms a classroom spelling program. After taking them home to learn at the beginning of the week, the students are then tested on it at the end of the week. Students are clever in that they will memorise the words for the test, then forget it straight after! Teachers, both beginning and experienced, often have trouble trying to teach children to spell via a spelling program such as this.

Spelling is more than learning words, its "learning about words" (Bush, 2008, p. 3). It is important for communication and writing.

Strategies for spelling are essential for children to use when they are faced with an unrecognizable word that they want to learn (Bush, 2008). These strategies stem from the four knowledges of spelling.


There are four areas of knowledge that are crucial when educating a child in spelling, and they further aid children to acquire diverse strategies when learning to spell.

1. Phonological knowledge

In order for a child to learn how language works, they must link a word with its sound. At the pre-phonetic stage a child understands the connection between sounds, letters and words.

At the phonetic stage sound cues are still understood but they also see that "words are usually spelt as they sound" and "commonly seen words are spelt correctly" (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl, & Holliday, 2001, p. 105).
To be a good educator of spelling, one will teach students about words and the patterns embedded within them.
  • Phonemes are the smallest class of sounds. e.g. map is made up of three sounds.
  • Blends are diverse sets of phonemes that form together and can be made up of a two or three letters. e.g. scratch.
  • Diagraphs are pairs of letters that make a single sounds (can be consonant or vowel diagraphs). e.g. ch as in chief.
  • Dipthongs are sequences of two vowels that are perceived to be one syllable. e.g. boy, wide, eye (Winch et al., 2001).

2. Visual knowledge
A person who is an articulate speller can look at a word and decide whether it appears 'right' or not, based on previous memory of word patterns and parts. People who read a lot have reinforcement visually of previous texts, and have visual memories of what a word looks like (Winch et al., 2001). 

3. Morphemic knowledge
Morphemic knowledge refers to the units of which words exist, such as suffixes, prefixes and word bases. For example, the word running is made up of two morphemes; runn and ing. If students comprehend patterns in words spelling will become much easier for them (Winch et al., 2001).

Bases of words relate to words belonging in word families. e.g. swim, swimmer and swimming are derived of a like base. The base of a word can be added to with prefixes and suffixes.
Prefixes are "letters put before a word that add to or qualify its meaning" (Winch et al., 2001, p. 266). e.g. unattached means not attached.
Suffixes can "alter the spelling or grammatical status of a word" (Winch et al., 2001, p. 267).
-ng, -ship, -ry, -ing, -tion and -sm are examples of everyday suffixes.

4. Etymological knowledge
Etymology relates to this history and background of a word, and by knowing the origin students can become more interested in the spelling of that particular word (Winch et al., 2001).


No beginning teacher should be without an Oxford Dictionary! Oxford’s are a fantastic tool to keep in the classroom as they tell you about the origin of a word, which helps when trying to explain why it is written the way it is to a student (Hickman, 2007). Let students get used to using a dictionary and discovering words, and you can create many spelling games via the utilization of  a dictionary!

Anything you can teach a student about history is a positive, and will help students make sense of words. “The history of English spelling is about understanding the mistakes of the past” and why words are spelt the way they are (Hickman, 2007, p. 16).

Teach students the logic of words. Demonstrate to students why there are double consonants (bubble) and “take them through the short and long vowel sounds and the patterns that go with them” as well as the prefixes and suffixes (Hickman, 2007, p. 16).
Additionally, educate your students with skills such as the silent ‘w’ words, where a ‘w’ is silent in front on an ‘r’ (write, wrong, wrist, etc.), and silent ‘k’ words when in front of an ‘n’. Bring in word-building (can and cane) and show them ends of words such as ‘ous’ (mischievious) (Hickman, 2007).

Tell your pupils stories and have them enjoy learning new words through fun and imaginative activities!


It is useful for new teachers to understand that a brilliant spelling program should consist of clever and witty strategies that promote spelling knowledge and word development, useful and fitting words that the students are faced with during their reading and can then incorporate these into their pieces of writing, and fascinating activities that force students to look at words from a different angle and outlook (Batt, Ceely, Frencham, Hayes, & Long, 2007).

To "plan an effective program that adequately meets the diverse needs of all students we need to first learn all about our students and their knowledge and understanding of spelling” (Batt et al., 2007, p. 6).
By using spelling inventories teachers are able to do just this. A spelling program should ignite student's fascination and curiosity in language and words (Bush, 2008).

Spelling inventories...
A spelling inventory is a list of words that have been vigilantly selected due to particular patterns and features that can be taught from them (Batt et al., 2007).


As a new teacher it is important to recognize the significance of phonics when teaching your students the art of spelling.
Phonics relates to sound-letter relationships and an important element in learning how to write and spell. The following list outlines the stages of phonics.

1. Prephonic spelling
Written letters are determined by actual letter names (Hill, 2006).

e.g. I L N ALADE
(I live in Adelaide)

2. Semi-phonetic spelling
A single word may be written as one or two letters (Hill, 2006).

e.g. I LIK PLA
(I like playing)

3. Phonetic spelling
Can write words with a near-perfect pairing of letters and the sounds they make (Hill, 2006).

(In the holidays we ...)

4. Transitional spelling
Begins to employ common letter patterns (Hill, 2006).

e.g. Noth Adlidli is a good school. the offiec ...

5. Independent spelling
Can use numerous strategies and methods to spell such as patterns, phonics and visual remembrance. Can check whether the word looks 'right'. Phonics is no longer used as a major strategy (Hill, 2006).