Expert spelling tips for KS1 and KS2

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Tutor and author of the best-selling Spelling Made Magic, Clare Winstanley, shares her practical tips and clever tricks to make spelling practice fun for KS1 and KS2 children.

Few people are more enthusiastic about spelling than Clare Winstanley. She shared her expertise with TheSchoolRun forum members in our webchat. Here are some of the highlights:

What do you think of kids using text speak?

That's a really good question! Some of my students have become less self conscious about their spelling ability since being able to spell phonetically in text speak. Spelling is often a matter of confidence. Most of my dyslexic students have low self-esteem because they feel they are rubbish at spelling.

Personally, I wouldn't discourage your child using text speak as they will become 'fluent' at writing and will feel at ease with it. But I would ensure they know that they will have to use 'proper' spelling in their school work.

If there is a word they tend to spell incorrectly regularly, because of text speak, such as 'hav', perhaps you could encourage them to spell that word correctly in their text messages for a week. Using text speak positively, you could encourage them to count the syllables in long words and make sure each syllable is present in text form. This will help them in their school work when they are spelling polysyllabic words.

Are there specific common words that are misspelt most often? 

I think the 'ght' combinations, as in 'straight', and the 'ugh' words, including 'thought', 'through', 'although' etc are tricky. I teach 'Ten Tough Words' as a package, representing them in different media. For example, I have letters cut out of leather for 'tough', bubblewrap letters for 'thought', corrugated cardboard for 'through' and sandpaper letters for 'rough'.

Common words that seem to be spelt incorrectly the most in my experience are 'their', 'who' and 'watch'.

What do you think about the use of mnemonics for difficult words? 

I love mnemonics and acrostics but they can cause problems sometimes! I used to teach 'because' with 'Big Elephants Can't Always Use Small Entrances' until I realised that 'always' sounds as though it could be spelt with 'or' at the beginning! So I now use 'Big Elephants Can Add Up Sums Easily'.

It's important to learn an acrostic thoroughly. I ask lots of questions to reinforce it. For example, for spelling ‘colour’ I use, ‘Carry Old Ladies Over Uneven Roads.’ So I might ask:

  • Where do you carry old ladies? Answer: Over uneven roads.
  • Who do you carry over uneven roads? Old Ladies.
  • What are these roads like? Uneven.
  • So, what is the whole acrostic? Carry old ladies over uneven roads.
  • How do you spell ‘colour’?

With practice, a child should realise when it is spelt ok! If not, devise an acrostic or mnemonic of their own as that gives them ownership of the spelling and they are more likely to remember it.

Find out more about Spelling Made Magic.