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Spelling in Reception

Spelling in Reception
How is spelling introduced to Reception-age children? We explain how phonemes and then graphemes are taught in the classroom, and what words children are expected to be able to write by the end of their first year of primary school.

Learning to read means learning to write: reading and spelling in Reception

Step 1: recognising alphabet letters

Children learn to recognise all the letters of the alphabet in Reception, the idea being that any time they are faced with a letter they will be able to make the sound of that letter. 

Children will be taught letter sounds with a variety of songs, games and age-appropriate activities, for example: a 'lucky dip' where they have to say the sound of a letter they have picked or matching an object to the letter that makes its initial sound. It is vital that they are confident with all their letter sounds before they move onto the next stage, which is putting sounds of letters together to make short words.Reception children need to learn how to form the letters they are learning about.  

They need to start by understanding how a letter is formed and start making these motions themselves. For example: a child learning to form the letter ‘s’ may be given an adult demonstration of how to do this in some sand, and then encouraged to copy. They may also practise using various different media, such as pens on a whiteboard, chalk on a blackboard and pencil on paper. A lot of care and attention is spent on showing children how to correctly hold a pencil. Children will also be taught how to write carefully on lines.

Step 2: blending sounds to make words

By the second term of Reception children begin to learn to ‘blend’ sounds, which means that when shown the word ‘cat’, instead of saying each letter as a separate sound, they are able to blend the sounds together to say the whole word. ‘Cat’ is a CVC word, because it is made up of a consonant, then a vowel, then a consonant. 

Step 3: reading CVC, CCVC and CVCC words

Children will then move onto reading CCVC words such as ‘snap’ and CVCC words such as ‘fast’.

What words do children learn to spell in Reception?

By the end of Reception, children are expected to be able to write one grapheme (written symbol) for each of the phonemes (sounds) in the English language, which are:

The framework for literacy states that Reception children should be able to write ‘simple regular words’. The kinds of words will vary from child to child, but most teachers will aim to have children writing CVC, CCVC and CVCC words by the end of Reception.

Examples of words children might learn to spell in Reception include:

  • sat
  • pat
  • shop
  • then
  • slim
  • post
  • sing 
  • milk

A number of high-frequency words and tricky words are also learned in Reception; children are encouraged to learn these words "off by heart" as they're not always phonically decodable with the phonics skills they have.

Reception spelling worksheets

Look through our selection of Reception spelling worksheets to get hands-on with early spelling learning and try our Reception spelling practice 'tests' to boost your child's confidence with the Look, Cover, Write and Check method.

How spelling is taught in primary school, year by year

Find out what words and spelling patterns children are taught in each year of primary school with our parents' guides:

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