Stages Not Ages – Is your child ready to learn how to spell words?
Do you have a pre-schooler who has a high interest and recall of reading and writing concepts?
Do you have a child beginning school next year and would like to familiarise them with some spelling strategies they will be covering in the first year of school?
Do you have a child with learning difficulties who needs skills broken into small achievable steps?
Are you an adult learner who wants to improve their spelling by going back to the basics and re-learning the progression of spelling?
Regardless of which of the above you or your child is, beginning spelling is the same for everyone.
The English Language is a hard language to spell. There are 26 letters in the alphabet which make 44 sounds and over 200 spelling variations.
To make beginning spelling easy I have made 3 steps.
Step One – Thinking Time
Some children do not need thinking time. They only need the opportunity to create whether writing or drawing. Some children however, when confronted with a blank piece of paper, become anxious about their ability to write. For these children, use prompts to help them write.
Whether your child is writing a word, sentence or essay there should be some time for thinking before hand.
Great prompts for young children are:
– photos of a recent trip or activity they enjoy
– drawings – their own drawings
– cards/letters/postcards to family and friends
-their favourite toy or teddy
– their favourite page in a book
Step Two – Recognising Sounds
Hearing sounds in words means your child is able to break the word they wish to spell into sounds. For example the word cat is broken into 3 sounds /k/ /a/ /t/ while the word shop even though it has 4 letters there are only 3 sounds /sh/ /o/ /p/.
If your child is interested in writing words they should be introduced to the Most Common Sounds of the English Language.
Each letter in the alphabet has a letter name and a Most Common Sound. Once children learn the most common sounds they will begin whether incidentally or in a structured lesson to learn the other sounds in the English Language such as digraphs (th, sh, ch) and long vowel sounds. Remember there are 44 different sounds in the English Language.
Most Common Sounds
a-apple b-book c-car d-dog e-egg f-fish g-guitar h-hat i-igloo j-jar k-kite l-leaf m-mouse n-nose o-octopus p-pig q-queen r-rainbow s-sun t-tree u-umbrella v-volcano w-watermelon x – box y-yellow z-zip
Young writers often write one letter which represents the whole word. If they drew a picture of a tree and want to write tree, they often hear the beginning sound /t/ which is the strongest sound to their ears at this stage.
Step Three – Connecting Sounds to Letters
Your child knows what word they want to write (Step One), they hear the sounds in the word (Step Two) and now they need to connect the sound they hear with the letter/s it represents.
Beginning writing is a hard skill. Not only do they have to recognise the sounds in the word, they then need to connect the sound they hear with the letter it represents. For example the word slide – they can hear it starts with the sound /s/.
They need to remember the sound /s/ is the letter s. Once they have connected the sound to the letter they need to remember what the letter s looks like.
Size, shape, spacing, direction, pencil grip and letter formation should not be the priority for beginning spellers, during this time. Connection between sound and letter is the priority.
A snapshot of spelling progression (brief!) – if your child wants to write the word slide, they may progress through these stages.
s – the initial letter in words often represent the whole word due to being the strongest sound your child hears.
sd – the next strongest sound is often the last sound your child hears
sid – the vowel sound – whether long or short is often the next spelling progression for children
slid – blends now become more pronounced as children break the word into sounds
slide – spelling variations may have been introduced by this stage and your child understands the long e vowel sound represents the letters i_e.
Give your child plenty of opportunities to write and to practise hearing the sounds in words.
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