The dreaded spelling list comes home each week and children are often devastated when they only achieve 2 or 3 out of ten when tested back at school. Even when they learn the list and achieve well in a test, the reality is often that they cannot transfer the knowledge to their text level writing or even recall them two or three weeks later.

So what can you do as a parent to help them learn those spelling?

The first thing to do is to test their basic knowledge of the list by dictating each word and asking the child to try writing them to discover what they already know about the words. Give praise for those spelt correctly and then discuss the parts of words that are spelt incorrectly. The child may just have omitted a letter or reversed letters. Encourage them to see that they may have spelt the majority of a word correctly and that this is good. Then work only on those difficult parts, drawing the child’s attention to them with colour or pictures or other spelling strategies such as mnemonics, spelling rules, word families or discuss the foreign influences on English spellings. Encourage them to use their ‘pictorial’ memory for those words that are not written the way they sound. Create a link to the word and the context by using mnemonics to aid recall. For example if the word to be learnt is ‘two’ then a mnemonic with a picture and a sentence may secure the correct spelling:

Draw pictures to emphasis which one is which.

How much easier would it be to learn those spellings if they were accompanied by pictures.

Securing those spellings in automatic memory by embedding them in language. So putting those words into written sentences can help with this. The more we write a word within a sentence the more likely it will be secured automatically in ‘motor’ memory.

Some spellings fit into ‘families’ of sound (phonic families) for example using the sound ‘UR‘ This family of words can include: Burglar Thursday Saturday Church Turkey Turnip Purse Nurse Purple Fur. Create some pictures and a simple storyline to link the words together.

word families or phoneme for 'ur'

Encourage your child to create their own stories from the words in the word family. Read back stories to help transfer those patterns to reading.

Download the PDF example below which demonstrates how a spelling word family can be used to create reading material. Encourage spelling practice through a short comprehension exercise, encouraging recall in writing.

Create a memorable story for ‘ur’