Teaching spelling

This forum has been created to provide a non-challenging environment for teachers and parents new to using synthetic phonics.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Thu Nov 29, 2007 10:36 pm

Hi D.R.
how do you deal with spelling mistakes in creative writing or spelling tests? What do you do to correct these mistakes?
First, I don't do any creative writing with my pupils. I mostly have one hour a week in which to teach them to read and spell and that's not easy in so little time!

As far as spelling tests are concerned - if I can see that they are out of their depth (which is very easy to spot, one-to-one), I stop the test and repeat the lesson. If there are just one or two errors, we work them out together, segmenting and sorting out which graphemes to use and maybe practising writing over and over on the whiteboard.

You also asked on another thread about dictations. To be honest there are very few errors to correct in dictations because most of the words contain correspondences we have been working on and the passage/sentence will have been previously read. What errors there are tend to be the so-called 'High Frequency' words, which I don't specifically teach because I know my pupils' schools will have spent a lot of time on them. If the errors occur in words containing correspondences I haven't yet taught, I would use the same procedure as above but point out the unknown grapheme on my letter-sound correspondences wall-chart.

Hope that helps.

Jenny - thank you very much for your contribution. Unfortunately, I am not really in a position to know to what extent reading helps spelling as I spend so little time with my pupils. In any case, they have all been taught using mixed methods and tend to read very carelessly if left to their own devices! So I rather doubt whether their reading, apart from during their lessons with me, is even reinforcing there spelling.

To go back to my original query, it seems to me that there are various options when it comes to introducing the correspondences of the Advanced or Complex Code for spelling.

1. Introduce multiple spellings of each phoneme together.

2. Introduce one new spelling of each phoneme at a time.

3. Introduce one new spelling of each phoneme, together with those previously taught (for revision).

My very first encounter with Synthetic Phonics was through Debbie's website and the only manual available in our local bookshop, the one we must not mention. From these sources I certainly came away with the impression that the first option, above, was 'the correct way to do it'.

But in practice I found that my pupils could not cope with it. So, obviously, that has left me puzzled and I am still hoping to hear from RRFers who have had experience of introducing the Advanced Code correspondences (for spelling), whether working with a class, a group or one-to-one.

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Thu Nov 29, 2007 10:57 pm

Judy,

I've been reluctant to join this thread because I don't have any answers!

I tend to agree with you, in that most of the children I work with can't cope with more than one spelling of a phoneme at a time, but the most frustrating thing I find is that they can do a perfect list of spellings for me when the focus is on that particular PGC, but revert very quickly to their habitual 'wrong' spelling, or use bizarre graphemes ('i' for /ay/ for example), when they are not focused or when we revisit the words.

So, my main preoccupation is not with whether to introduce single or multiple phoneme spellings, but how to break 6 year old habits... :???:

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Nov 30, 2007 1:49 am

First of all, teaching spelling must be highly valued in schools. I don't think spelling is generally taught well or consistently in schools.

When I do teacher-training and ask who, for example, does dictations in their class, perhaps one or two teachers at best say they do.

When we get onto the practicalities of 'phonics' at the level of the phoneme, often only reception teachers and infant teachers have an idea about synthetic phonics teaching - also some sencos. (Special Educational Needs Coordinators.)

Teachers and teaching assistants can 'work some graphemes out' by knowing the words or applying onset and rime phonics. Often adults are literally unable to separate out consonant clusters at all.

When I ask who in the school taught (for example) 'soft c' or 'soft g' last year; who taught the sound /ee/ as having many spelling variations, who modelled reading through all blending and spelling unknown words through beginning to end segmenting - no-one - or few people - mostly no-one in the key stage two does this and yet I am able to demonstrate that they, as experienced adult readers and spellers, apply their blending and segmenting skills (not necessarily at phoneme level).

In other words, the picture is pretty bleak except that these schools are recognising that they need training as whole schools and are willing to improve their practice.

Then, as you know, I am promoting the need for SHARED Alphabetic Code charts so that everyone can think commonly about the relationship between phonemes and graphemes and both teachers and learners (and don't forget parents) can see where they are 'heading' and what needs teaching and learning.

Until such time as whole schools implement such a structured approach to spelling, then only those children with virtual photographic memories will succeed in spelling. All the rest are damned to poor spelling.

The end of key stage two tests results put no real value on spelling and teachers are highly unlikely to focus on teaching spelling - instead they will be teaching children about writing in specific 'genres' and rehearsing this ad nauseum.

I believe schools can really, truly, dramatically improve spelling standards. And as I point out in training, what do interviewers do when they receive job application forms riddled with spelling and poor grammar. Do 'bins' spring to mind.

So, not to teach spelling is life-affecting. That is how important it is.

I am studying types of phonics programmes and realising just how much you can still teach phonics which is far removed from the direct phonic skills needed for reading and spelling.

For example, to think you are teaching spelling by providing learners with three columns of various graphemes for them to build up words is not a spelling routine. The spelling routine involves starting with a whole spoken word, segmenting it into its sounds from beginning to end and then allocating graphemes for those sounds. Of course learners need to know that there are spelling alternatives BUT TEACHERS NEED CHARTS TO BE ABLE TO REFER TO THESE ALTERNATIVES CONSTANTLY.

When I ask attendees during training just who has a dedicated prominent display board with basic skills literacy posters, charts etc, the answer is more often than not NO-ONE.

I ask the teachers what I would see if I did a tour of the school.

NOTHING about The Alphabetic Code.

So, it is very good to hear of you referring to your spelling alternative chart.

As you can see my teacher-training sessions are really quite challenging and revealing. But I also leave teachers knowing what they can do about it, where to start, how to audit and that I am here to offer any kind of advice re reading and spelling.

Any teachers reading this posting right now needs to ask themselves if they have a vision of The Alphabetic Code chart in their head, whether they share it with parents and learners and use it as part of their planning, teaching and tracking processes.

Well?

Judy
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Post by Judy » Fri Nov 30, 2007 1:50 am

Maizie wrote:
the most frustrating thing I find is that they can do a perfect list of spellings for me when the focus is on that particular PG, but revert very quickly to their habitual 'wrong' spelling
Maizie, if it's any consolation, I find exactly the same thing and I put it down to the fact that as well as having to try to combat all those years of bad habits, what I am teaching is not being reinforced in school, which accounts for far more of the pupils' time (and probably energy) than my time with them. The only solution, I think, is to constantly loop back and revisit. But then this takes up so much time that we move forward at a snail's pace.

Maybe our situations are very different from class teaching in that we are both teaching 'strugglers'?

But I don't know that for sure - after all, my pupils are getting one-to-one attention, even if it is only for an hour a week at a time of day when they are very tired. Is the same thing happening in classes in schools? So far no class teachers have posted about their experiences but I'm still hoping that they will.

The fast pace of SP teaching is often cited. But does this just apply to reading, which I agree can move forward very quickly, though this very subject is currently under discussion on the General Forum? Do we need to accept that teaching all children to spell using knowledge of the Alphabet Code is going to be a much longer process, in spite of the fact that some programmes claim to make rapid progress by introducing multiple spelling alternatives together? If so, what is the difference between SP and the 'old', much derided 'dyslexia' programmes?

Does anybody have any views, if not answers?

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Nov 30, 2007 2:06 am

what is the difference between SP and the 'old', much derided 'dyslexia' programmes?
I've just referred to one approach to teaching spelling which is 'phonics' but not synthetic phonics.

The difference is the skills-based work which resembles proper adult (or experienced) blending all-through-the-word for reading and segmenting all-through-the-spoken-word for spelling routines.

To do 'phonics' is not good enough.

When you add all the consonant clusters and onset and rime units of sound, you multiply by a huge amount the phonics that you need to teach in terms of 'units of sound' rather than minimising these and teaching the skills required directly for reading and spelling.

Teachers focus on teaching units such as 'een' and 'eet' instead of drawing attention to the spelling variations for the sound /ee/.

There are also many phonic exercises, cloze procedure, phonic writing-words games etc. which take up an inordinate amount of time which are all rather a waste of time. Synthetic Phonics teaching should be very direct, very focused on the direct skills of blending, segmenting and handwriting and not include what amounts to 'phonic time fillers'.

Word attack programmes which are meant to be spelling programmes start with graphemes and not the whole word. Then the focus 'unit' is just as likely to be a consonant cluster such as 'sk' words or 'sw' words rather than highlighting the complexities of code for the vowel phonemes.

Whereas I might focus on the 'igh' and/or 'ie', many phonics programmes seem to focus on the consonant clusters regardless of the complexities of the 'middle' parts of the words.

Look at the variety here: sky, skip, skirt, skeleton, skate.

Such words range from beginning words such as 'skip' to a range of complex code level vowel phonemes. Should the commonality of these words really be a consonant cluster?

One way of evaluating any phonics programmes being used for tutoring or teaching in schools is to consider how closely the teaching and activities resemble the type of skills we use for real reading and real spelling.

The way that adults need to do this is to think of how they will read an unknown word (a Latin plant name, or Greek mythology name, or technical language), and to think how they will spell an unknown word.

These are the skills that their pupils need to be able to do.

It is also perfectly possible for all teachers everywhere (including secondary teachers) to model these processes constantly to students.

This would show very clearly that 'phonics' is not ABC baby stuff but is really adult stuff.

I think it has been grossly inadequate for the government to focus only on settings with the four to seven year olds and to talk about 'time limited' phonics.

The whole country needs a heavy dose of synthetic phonics training and teaching spelling needs to become far more high profile in our key stage two and key stage three settings until we can see that our pupils spend all those years in our establishments and actually come out at the end of them able to read and spell well.

I can dream can't I.

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Post by chew8 » Fri Nov 30, 2007 9:54 am

Judy writes 'Unfortunately, I am not really in a position to know to what extent reading helps spelling as I spend so little time with my pupils. In any case, they have all been taught using mixed methods and tend to read very carelessly if left to their own devices! So I rather doubt whether their reading, apart from during their lessons with me, is even reinforcing there spelling'.

When I wrote about reading reinforcing spelling, it was specifically in the context of what I had done with my own children, starting when they were very young preschoolers. I said I had prioritised reading at first for various reasons (see the relevant message). I think that it's when it's done this way, and the teaching of reading is strongly code-based, that spelling then starts to feed off reading - particularly bulk-reading.

It seems to me that early mixed-methods teaching for reading is likely to have exactly the effect you mention, Judy - children reading very carelessly, with little chance of their reading reinforcing their spelling. Moreover, the chances are that if they read very carelessly, reading will be unrewarding for them and they will do very little of it voluntarily, so bulk-reading is not going to happen - and bulk-reading is what is needed not only to maximise the chances of spelling feeding off reading, but also for the development of vocabulary, general knowledge etc.

I come back again and again to the point that there is no substitute for really good first-time teaching. The knock-on effects of bad first-time teaching (bad habits, lost opportunities for learning vocabulary and consolidating spelling etc.) are just too serious to risk.

Jenny C.

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Post by Judy » Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:33 pm

Debbie - thank you very much for explaining about other ways to teach 'phonics'. What you describe does not seem to be based on much of an understanding of the Alphabet Code!
So, it is very good to hear of you referring to your spelling alternative chart.
If there's nothing else 'my' pupils learn, they do all have an understanding of how our writing system works! Charts present me with a bit of a challenge as I teach at home so have no real dedicated display space, but luckily the table we use for lessons is against a wall so I have a huge board on the table, propped up against the wall, which means that the Alphabet Code, in all its glory, is constantly within sight of the pupils and we refer to it often! When they and their parents first see this, they look a bit overwhelmed so I explain to them that we will start at the left-hand side and work our way across, systematically.

The children also have an A4 version on thin card at the front of their homework folders, though, whether they ever look at it, I can't be sure!

This is going rather 'off-topic' but we also spend a little bit of time at the beginning talking about why our language has so many spelling for each sound. At which point I invariaby discover that, although they have 'done' The Romans, The Tudors (which one of my little boys always refers to as The Tutors!), The Victorians etc, they have absolutely no idea of who came first - eg quite a bright little girl in Y5 told me yesterday that the Victorians came directly after the Romans! Cue for me to get out my 'timeline' which stretches the length of my large kitchen!

To come back to my original question, it seems as if everyone who has posted so far teaches one or, at most, two spelling options together, while making the pupils aware that in some cases there are many more alternatives to be worked on at a later date. Is this a fair summary of 'normal' practice? I was under the impression that some RRFers introduce multiple spelling together, in line with the manual I originally bought. If so, they are keeping quiet but I would really like to hear how they manage this without causing confusion as it would move things on considerably faster.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:38 pm

Jenny C. wrote -
It seems to me that early mixed-methods teaching for reading is likely to have exactly the effect you mention, Judy - children reading very carelessly, with little chance of their reading reinforcing their spelling. Moreover, the chances are that if they read very carelessly, reading will be unrewarding for them and they will do very little of it voluntarily, so bulk-reading is not going to happen - and bulk-reading is what is needed not only to maximise the chances of spelling feeding off reading, but also for the development of vocabulary, general knowledge etc.
I think this is something I have had to accept for a long time, especially as computer games and watching television are so much 'easier' for my strugglers than reading! It's very sad but I think it's something we will have to live with for a quite a while, given that there are schools even now that are refusing to abandon their negative view of phonics of any kind.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Fri Nov 30, 2007 11:57 pm

If it's any comfort, Judy (but it probably isn't!) it was something that was borne in on me over the 20+ years I spent teaching students aged 16+. My own children were of primary-school age during my early years in that job, and their great competence in spelling made me all the more aware of the needlessness of my students' problems.

Jenny C.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sat Dec 01, 2007 11:47 am

Thank you, Jenny. It is always reassuring to hear that others have had similar experiences.

Someone has posted on the TES Primary forum about training for Phase 5 of Letters and Sounds, in which it was suggested that 4 new spellings a week should be introduced, eg 'ea' 'ie' 'ay' and 'ow' and that they were specifically told not to introduce all the spellings of one phoneme in one week.

This certainly seems to be more or less in line with the article I posted at the top of this thread and with the practice of everyone who has posted so far. I find this reassuring as I have been very worried about this issue ever since I discovered that some programmes introduce multiple spelling options together. I would still like to know how they manage it!

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Post by Anna » Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:05 pm

Hi Judy,

I should probably step in here as I am using one of the programmes which does introduce multiple spelling variations together - Fiona Nevola's Oxford Sound Reading programme. However I still consider myself as a on a steep learning curve with the programme and SP in general, and haven't taught that many pupils to date, so these are just my thoughts based on my experience to date.

I understand that the main UK programmes which do introduce spelling variations together are OSR (1:1 remedial programme) and Sounds-Write (classroom programme). These are based on Diane McGuinness' analysis and organisation of the alphabet code and her research into learning. The multiple spellings also tie into the approach of saying this is the sound /or/ or whatever and these are various ways to spell it. They are likely to use the label linguistic phonics to differentiate from SP. They also don't use terms like long/short vowels etc.

This means they share similarities in structure to 'that programme'. Diane's book Why Children Can't Read' was written after Jolly Phonics and possibly Mona's Step by Step so these programme were based on different 'architectures' as Dick has described them. I know from Mona's book, which I am currently reading, that Sue Lloyd had taught with the ITA, so that had an influence on the structure of JP.

For the OSR, the programme is divided into 2 levels, for beginners (up to RA of 8ish) and more advanced learners - often better readers than spellers. Until this term, I had only worked with pupils at stage one where the main spellings are introduced but not all spelling alternatives. What I have found is that pupils do learn the code well for reading and can usually make good progress of decoding and reading individual words for the sound we are working on. However, if they have underlying blending difficulties, they may still find reading text quite hard by the end of the programme. If a pupil is a good blender they can progress very well.

I has just finished the programme with a 7 year old who has made a gain of a year on spelling (Parallel sp test) and 3 and a half on reading (Individual Reading Analysis). However, she still needs to sound out quite a lot so isn't fluent she also makes some errors with similar sight words and occasional misreads vowels, so I am giving her BRI, which is so good for sorting these things out.

For spelling, she was able to finish th year 3 test and give a possible appropriate spelling for each word (big progress) but not nec the correct one (!)- so that is where we need to revise now. Now she has the code on board for reading, I am slowing the pace up for spelling and I may suggest her parents work on 1 sp alternative at a time for revision. I'm not sure how long I should suggest they spend though - we'll have to try it and see. She does seem to be picking up things quickly now - there is definitely self-teaching going on. Perhaps because she is younger?

If a pupil is a beginner and shows difficulties with blending (or has concentration difficulties). I will now be more likely to use the BRI reading books. I am finding these books excellent as the children constantly practise blending with old words, as new ones are gradually introduced and there is a lot of practice at CVC level, with 4 sounds words gradually introduced. In addition, this is within connected text ,which as the reading thread shows, is where all the guessing problems surface.

So now, that I am using these books with about half my pupils I am trying to produce spelling sheets to tie in with the order in the books. I am planning to do a set after each set of books. This will then reinforce the code we learned for reading (and I do informal spelling work on the whiteboard).

The set I have been working on does have a few spelling variations within a set but certainly not all. These have been based on the order of use in the language I believe. So I believe this more in line with other Direct Instruction remedial programmes like Step-by-Step and the Sound Foundations materials. I am finding this more appropriate for the weakest learners. It also means that it is easy to give parents materials to use in between lessons.

I have just started using OSR this term with 3 more advanced pupils at Stage 2 who read at a level beyond ARI. I have found it excellent for working with a yr 8 pupil who is a pretty good reader but was guessing unknown m-s wrds. He is a good speller but in his own writing tended to reverse letters (he is dyspraxic) and missed out syllables. I have focussed on the most important sounds and he has coped fine with multiple spellings. We have done lots of m-s work and no-words for reading which has helped him hugely. I used your non-words Judy - many thanks. :grin:

My other St 2 pupil is in yr 5 and reads at about age level but his SA is about 2 years behind. I feel he has made definite progress in his confidence, in saying sounds instead of names, and understanding how the code works but the sticking point is getting the word-specific learning into his long-term memory. It has been hard for him to keep up with the sheets, as he has a higher workload from school.

So I have decided to give to spend 2 weeks on each sound, giving him the Stage 1 sheets first, so at least hopefully he will become more secure on the basic words and the most common spelling variations. I think the key is writing the words often, so hopefully this slightly slower approach will help here. So I suspect that for many pupils it may take say twice as long for spelling gains to match reading gains. Whichever approach is used, structured repetition will be needed.

One more point, Judy which hopefully will be comforting ;-) , is that however slow the pace might seem to you, it will be faster and much more logical and effective than the traditional dyslexia programmes. These take forever as they include consonant blends (and often rimes now), vowels are taught one at a time etc and when you finally get to m-s works you have the syllable types etc!

All with no decodable text to really reinforce the blending skill and code taught - which I believe is vital esp with the reading scheme books which children will be getting at school. These rogrammes are v good on dictation though. I actually feel they all come more from a spelling perspective, which is why so many rules are included.

Sorry, this ended up being so long!

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sat Dec 01, 2007 3:23 pm

Sorry, this ended up being so long!
Please don't apologise, Anna! This has been a very illuminating post and in a way, reassuring. My experiences so far are very similar to yours, except that, unfortunately, I have rarely had pupils below Y4 or possibly the end of Y3.

I have two Y6 pupils who have now acquired a lot of code knowledge, which has brought their reading ages up to or beyond their chronological ages, but their spelling remains well behind. With them I have been introducing multiple spelling options together since September (for spelling) and they are coping reasonably well, particularly the one whose parents are very supportive. But we are constantly doubling back and revising and, as you say, there is a need for them to write the words often and I don't have as much control over this as I would like. A difficulty with both of them is that they speak very fast and 'swallow' whole syllables and this leads to them missing out syllables when they spell. I am hoping to remedy this by reminding them to listen very carefull to the word I am dictating and to keep repeating it to themselves, exactly as I said it, until it is secure in their minds and only then to start counting the phonemes and writing them down. Of course, this will not work when they are writing independently and this is where word-specific learning has to come in again.

With my Y7 girl, who was really out of her depth with multiple spelling choices, I have slowed right down as Susan S suggested on another thread. She is much more comfortable and so far she is doing better but I am resigned to progress being very slow, particularly as she has no support at home.

This has made me think a lot about my younger pupils, some of whom are approaching the stage where their reading is much improved (though I don't think I will ever eradicate the guessing habit altogether now) and I have begun to take this slower, tiny-step approach with them and will focus more on their spelling from now on. By now they are very aware of the many spelling options for some of the phonemes (/ee/ /s/ /oo/ and /er/ in particular!) so it seems wisest to work on just one of the options at the time, with much revision as we move on to alternatives, no matter how long it takes! I think the main difficulty will arise when there are no clear patterns (as in the case of 'ee' and 'ea') and it is simply a case of word-specific learning. But maybe if I make it clear to their parents that we will not move on until the words are well and truly learnt (and retained!) I may get more cooperation from them. That remains to be seen!

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Post by Kelly » Sat Dec 01, 2007 8:41 pm

I noticed with my then five year old that whilst she could remember which alternative spelling to use (if she had the options in front of her) she couldn't quite remember which one to use especially with the 'ear' alternatives. After all every five year old wants to write a story about fairies! ;-)

Anyway, I ended up designing this chart which works well. Bearing in mind that this is designed in line with Mona's programme and with Kiwi accents.

I hope uploading this image works. I have followed the instructions from the Decodables Forum................

Image

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Post by Kelly » Sat Dec 01, 2007 8:42 pm

YAY!!! :lol: It worked!! :lol:

That was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. :smile:

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sat Dec 01, 2007 8:47 pm

Well done, Kelly! Both for the chart and the uploading!

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