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).


Word study's are learning about words - not memorizing them from a word list. It is a method of investigation, discussion and active learning.

Nouns with an 'y' on the end can change to plural by dropping the 'y' and adding 'ies'. Instead of merely telling your students the rule and expecting them to remember it, by discussing the topic and giving them prompts and hints they may arrive at this answer themselves.

This is far more meaningful than lazily writing out the rule for them to remember (Bush, 2008).


Following on from a word study, the spelling idea learnt should then be placed into a writing context. Shared reading, which is defined as "where enlarged books are used to explore the conventions of print and the reading process", is an ideal method in following up with spelling reinforcement (Hill, 2006, p. 73).

By picking out words that are formed with the spelling rule previously learnt through a word study, this aids in creating links for children with reading and writing (Bush, 2008).

Using a problem-solving and inquiry approach allows students to come to answers themselves and makes the entire process of learning to spell a word far more meaningful and interesting (Bush, 2008).


Every student has their own unique understanding of spelling and language, and spelling lists help to cater for this diversity. Studies have found that only 300 words equates to three quarter's of a child's writing (Croft, 2001). The remaining quarters owes to a child's own experiences, and therefore a class spelling list is not as effective as a personal spelling list for students (Croft, 2001). Class spelling lists are not effective for children as they wrote-learn them for a spelling test, and then forget the words completely.

As a graduate teacher it is vital that words included on a personal spelling list are not every word a child spells incorrectly, but moreso the words that they will use more commonly in writing. The "single most important feature is the extent to which each child may be induced to be responsible for his/her own learning" (Croft, 2001, p. 29).

Decisions about prospective spelling lists may be utilised via this set of questions:
- are the usage of the words common?
- can they be extended into other parts of speech?
- do they run parallel with any current teaching themes or units of work?
- can further knowledge and research be gained/sought from the words (Meeks, 2003)?


Spelling can be taught in any classroom literacy program!

Examples of where it can be reinforced may be:
  • Shared Reading - Using a text, ask children questions such as 'Who can find me a book with an /ou/ sound? How many sounds can we hear in this word? What letters make this sound?' (Bush, 2008).
  • Small Group Reading - Ask similar questions during Guided Reading with a small group.
  • Whole Group Writing - By utilizing modelled, shared or interactive writing, this helps to reinforce spelling. Question students about possible spelling options and ask them to share their strategies with their peers (Bush, 2008).
  • Whole Class Spelling - If a new spelling strategy or concept is introduced to students, this should be focused upon at the beginning of the writing session as an entire class. In small groups this concept is discussed yet again to reinforce before writing begins. Additionally, "this allows for short bursts of instruction and reinforcement at word level, before being further reinforced in context, as the lesson moves into whole group shared or modelled writing at the beginning of the writing literacy block" (Bush, 2008, p. 3).


Beginning teachers can assess their student's spelling in the following ways:

- By analysing and probing the spelling mistakes. From this you can then plan for further instruction (Hill, 2006).
- Spelling errors may include: over-dependence on partial phonics familiarity, exclusion of letter, inclusion of letters, transposition of letters, perplexity of homonyms, failure to drop the 'e', auditory perception and mistaken articulation (Hill, 2006).



Rule 1: When a word ends with a short vowel followed by a consonant, double the last consonant before adding 'ed'.

Rule 2: Add an 'es' to action words ending with a 'sh'. 'ch', 'ss', 'x' or a 'z' to make the present tense.

Rule 3: When an action word ends with a consonant followed by a 'y', change the 'y' to an 'I' before adding 'es'.

Rule 4: Double the consonant before adding 'ing' to words that have a short vowel followed by a consonant at the end.

Rule 5: When a word ends in a silent 'e', drop the 'e' before adding an 'ing'. The magic 'e' runs away!

Rule 6: When a word ends in a double consonant, do not double the last letter before adding 'ing'.

Rule 7: For action words that end in 'ie', change the 'ie' to a 'y' before adding 'ing'.

Rule 8: Often 'ly' is added to base words to turn them into adverbs, adjectives or describing words.

Rule 9: When adding 'ly' to words which end in 'y', change the 'y' to an 'i' before adding the 'ly'.

Rule 10: When the suffix 'full' is added to the end of a base word, one of the 'ls' has to be dropped.

Rule 11: Before adding 'er' and 'est' to words ending in a consonant, followed bya  'y', change the 'y' to an 'i'.

Rule 12: Double the last letter before adding 'er' or 'est' to words that have a short vowel followed by a single consonant.

Rule 13: Double the last letter of words ending in a short vowel followed by a single consonant before adding a 'y'.

Rule 14: Just add a 'y' to words ending in two consonants to from describing words.

Rule 15: For words ending in a silent 'e', you must first drop 'e' before adding a 'y'.

Rule 16: To indicate possession or ownership by a person or object an apostrophe (') followed by an 's' is added.

Rule 17: To indicate ownership by a person whose name ends in an 's' or a plural noun, just add an apostrophe, (').

Rule 18: An apostrophe (') is also used to create a contraction, indicating where a letter or letters have been left out. 

Rule 19: 'I' before 'e' except after 'c'.

Rule 20: CAPITAL LETTERS are used at the beginning of names and palces.

Rule 21: Prefixes can be added to words to create new words. Prefixes ending in vowels are added directly to base words.

Rule 22: Sometimes negative prefixes are added to words to create new words and change their meaning.

Rule 23: Prefixes can be added to roots to form new words. Roots often have meanings from other languages.

Rule 24: When adding a vowel suffix to words ending in a silent 'e', drop the 'e' and add the suffix.

Rule 25: The letter 'g' may have a soft or had sound. A soft 'g' is usually followed by an 'I' or 'e'. A hard 'g' is usually followed by a consonant or an 'a', 'o' or 'u'.

Rule 26: The letter c' may have a soft or hard sound. When 'c' meets an 'a', 'o' or 'u' its sound is hard. When 'c' meets an 'e', 'I' or 'y' its sound is soft.

Rule 27: CAPITAL letter are used to spell the names of proper nouns, including people and places.

Rule 28: Homophones are words that have the same sound but a different meaning and spelling.

Rule 29: A homograph is a word that may have more than one meaning or pronunciation.

Rule 30: Sometimes when writing, words may be shortened. These are known as abbreviations.

From (Spelling Hints & Tips, 2007).


Some examples of spelling activities may be...

Synonyms ... (can also do this for Antonyms)

Choose 10 of your personal list words, and write a synonym for each of these words.
e.g. fight - brawl

Using a dictionary

Choose 5 words from your personal list, and write the dictionary meaning.
e.g. rabbit - A burrowing, gregarious, plant-eating mammal (family Leporidae) with long ears, long hind legs, and a short tail.


Select 5 words from your personal spelling list, and draw an illustration to match.

Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check

(BBC, 2011).
New teachers can refer to the BBC Skillswise website for further spelling games, worksheets and

Listing words alphabetically

List your personal spelling list words alphabetically

Word Grouping 

Group your personal spelling words into three different group. Underneath, write a few sentences explaining why you decided to allocate them into these particular groups.

Separate your spelling words into syllables.


Draw a box around the outside of each letter in your spelling words.

(Tadewaldt-Wren, 2000).

Word Snakes

Write word out six times, with no spaces. At the start of the word line draw a snake's head, and at the end of the word line draw a snake's tail.

e.g. builderbuilderbuilderbuilderbuilderbuilder


THRASS is an acronym for Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills. New teachers must be aware of the high level of use Thrass charts receive in the primary school classroom.

"THRASS will help you to teach children that, basically, when reading we change spelling choices to speech sounds and when spelling we change speech sounds to spelling choices" (Thrass, 2007, p. 3).

The THRASS chart helps teachers to educate students about the breakdown of words and the graphemes (spelling choices) of the English language.

For articulate spellers who are unsure of how to spell a word, we break it into speech sounds and then pick the most accurate spelling choice from the sound. The THRASS chart offers the entire range of graphemes, and for students who do not have a wide knowledge of graphemes they are able to refer to the chart to make a more informed choice of how to spell the word. From a "greater understanding of graphemes, learners become more confident in the skills of reading and spelling" and the chart promotes larger grapheme awareness (Thrass, 2007, p. 5).


Graduate teachers are often consumed by a cocktail of emotions when starting their career; nervous, excited, determined, eager and daunted. Teaching your class to spell is an essential component of education and the literacy curriculum. Students need to know how to spell in order to aid them with reading and writing, now and in their future life. 

Spelling is learning about words, and through teaching the origin and logic of words this will help to cement spelling strategies and ideas into your student's minds. There are four knowledges of spelling; phonological, visual, morphemic and etymological. Dictionaries are a useful resource for the classroom, and by incorporating phonics, THRASS, word studies and spelling lists into your pedagogy this will aid your pupils in becoming more proficient spellers and users of the English language. 

Spelling can be reinforced via shared reading, small group reading, whole group writing and whole class spelling. Interesting and engaging spelling activities, rules and strategies make spelling more enjoyable for the entire class.

Monday, 18 April 2011


Batt, J., Ceely, N., Frencham, R., Hayes, B., & Long, N. (2007, July). BEE Spelling. Critical capital: teaching and learning: AATE and ALEA national conference. ACT Department of Education, Canberra.

BBC. (2011).
Skillswise. Retrieved from

Bush, H. (2008). The classroom spelling program: more than learning words. Practically Primary, 13(2), 26-28.

C. (2001). Write to spell in primary classrooms. Education Horizons, 6(6), 28-31.

Hickman, B. (2007). Have a spell: positive approaches to teaching spelling. Fine Print, 30(1), 16-18.

Hill, S. (2006). Developing early literacy: Assessment and teaching. Prahran, Australia: Eleanor Curtain Publishing.

Jones, S. (2009). Importance of spelling. Retrieved from

Meeks, L. (2003). Spelling does matter. Special Education Perspectives, 12(1), 47-60.

NSW Department of Education and Training. (1998). Focus on Literacy: Spelling. Retrieved from

Spelling Developmental Continuum. (1994).
Education Department of Western Australia. Melbourne, Australia:Addison Wesley Longman Australia.

Spelling Hints & Tips. (2007).
Moura State School. Retrieved from

Tadewaldt-Wren, C. (2000).
50 Spelling Activities For Any Spelling Program. Greenwood, Western Australia: Prim-Ed.

THRASS. (2007).
For teaching English as a first or second language. Retrieved from

Westwood, P. (2008) Revisiting issues in spelling instruction : a literature review 1995- 2007. Special Education Perspectives, 17(1), 33-48.

Winch, G., Johnston, R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2006). Literacy, Reading, Writing and Children’s Literature. Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.