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Spellings - Parents Page

Positive Ways To Support Spelling At Home 

(for learners under 8 years old)

Reading and spelling go hand in hand if you can spell it you can read it.  There is no need for a separate, unrelated spelling list when teaching spellings in a home schooling environment. If you are using the Magic Key Biff and Chip series of books you will find at the back useful advice on the sounds and high frequency words used. These are the words to learn to spell that week.


  • Only introduce the letter names once the sounds have become completely automatic. At this stage letter names become a harmless and useful short cut for relaying multi-letter spellings.

  • For those learners with dyslexia give them the correct spellings as single list.  For those learners without dyslexia some studies have shown that copying words by hand is the best way to learn them.

  • Ask your child to write down the words that they need to remember how to spell. The physical act of writing helps to fix words into their memory. 

The act of writing the words out helps in three ways:

  1. The physical act of forming the letters forces the child to look closely at the features that make one letter different from another. 

  2. Writing letters (left to right) trains the ability to read left to right.

  3. Saying each sound as the letter(s) are written helps anchor the sound-to-letter(s) connection in the memory for example saying “ch” and not “c”, “h” will join the two letters in to the one sound.


  • Encourage help learners to devise, write and illustrate their own 'silly sentence' as each spelling family as you teach it, to aid their memory of common spellings in everyday words - for example:


                The thirsty bird wore a swirly skirt

     and a dirty shirt' to the girl's third birthday party.

  • Encourage the learner to read the whole sentence and highlight the focus spelling in the words and to routinely write simple dictated sentences that consist of words with the spellings learnt so far.

  • Help your child to memorise predictable patterns with minimum effort.  

Point our and model patterns in books and when speaking. It is easier to see the spellings when doing this, for example:

                       The boy has a toy.

Have you noticed “oy’ comes at the end of words whereas “oi” is in the middle.

Point out and model the past tense “ed” verb ending. Explain that although it is spelled “ed”, when we say the word you could hear either as a  "t" or “d” sound depending on your local accent.

  • High Frequency Words which have unusual spellings should be learnt directly and systematically. Find fun and colourful ways to remember them and try not to see them as words that need just need to be learnt. In school these would have been called “sight” words meaning you need to memorised as whole shapes. This is something we dyslexic are not good at.

  • Use the same letter formation and handwriting method for all your letters when spelling and writing. Try not to get too hung up about joined up handwriting, teach your dyslexic to type.

  • Model ways of breaking the work up in to chunks and learn them church by chunk Do use a 'spelling voice' for spelling practice: for example:

                               pr    act   ice    

Positive Ways To Support Spelling At Home

(for learners over 8 years old) 

When practicing new words ensure that mis-spellings are always erased and corrected as quickly as possible. I always use friction pens known as “rubby-out pens.”


Don’t leave crossed out words on the page. The more you see the mistakes you make the more off putting it is, so simply erase them.


If they are feeling their way through a word, support with suggestions such are as


"There is that “er” sound in the middle of that word, 

which “er” could we use “ir” “ur” or “er”."


You can be most useful with the problem of “s”, “c” “ss” and “sc” spellings. There is an inconsistency in English spelling and it is hard to hear, particularly around this sound. The choice of which to use is at times baffling and so you need to build in to the example sentence the clue.

For example.

"If the police arrest you for possession,

it is because you have in your possession

two sets of “ss”."

The first couple of time say the whole thing, later leave the end off for the learner to finish in their mind. 

Take time to notice patterns like common Latin suffixes.


  • For example, the usual spellings for the sound "shun" are “-tion” or “-sion” looking at the root word will give you a clue to which one. Foe example: action - the root word 'act' end with a 't' so add "tion".

  • However, if the word is for a person or occupation        “-cian” is added as in “A magician” meaning 'a magic job.'

  • The ''-tian” spellings indicate the place from which the person or thing come from, therefore a person from Mars is a Martian”

  • and the “-cean” spellings are related to the sea gives us words like ocean, crustacean, cetacean.


  • Understanding these rules helps spell these words.

Only describe letters as 'silent' when they are not sounded. For example, the b in debt. Why we have the letter “b” in the word, at all, is a mystery.


A reasonable guess why we still have these letters dotted around in our words would be that the pronunciation has shifted over time, that in the Greek or Latin root word the letter was there to identify the meaning of the word, these spellings have passed through the Old French or Middle English languages and have not kept up with the times.  Regardless, it is a rule from another era that has lost its meaning to us now, we just have to learn to put the silent letters into the words.

When practicing the spelling it will help if you emphasise the letter. 

"We say nit but we mean is Kernitt

- we spell it K n i t."

Marking spellings is a very tricky business and can do more damage than help.


Do give a tick above each correctly written grapheme when marking spelling tests rather than a tick or a cross for the whole word. Provide plenty of support to help produce correct spellings. For example, when testing on words containing a particular phoneme, before the test tell them the sound.

“So today I am going to test you on all the “ea” saying the short “e” sounds.

Give a tick for every “ea” used.

Teens & Library

Learning To Spell With Dyslexia

If you have dyslexic then learning to spell is going to an issue. I am not going to dress it up and say it will be easy because it's not. It will require some hard work and some personal fortitude on the part of the learner and a wealth of patiences and understanding on behalf of the parent. An acceptance on both sides that the spelling rules of the English language are unhelpful to say the least.

Some words do not follow a standard pattern of spelling, so we call these "not decodable" meaning you can not break the code. That is why knowing the Greek and Latin root along with the prefixes and suffixes is helpful. Learning the exceptions in context is invaluable. 


Dyslexic learners will need extra time and help to notice all the details in a new word. Research has now shown that the Look, Read, Cover and Write method will not help the dyslexic learner learnt to spell. The best it achieves is getting them through that week's spelling test.  I remember when I was at secondary school, I spent Friday break time learning that weeks spelling list. I would be able to spell about 50% of the words in the English session just after break and by lunch time the whole spelling list would have evaporated.  

If you are not a good speller yourself, or lack the confidence to teach your dyslexic learner spellings at home, or if you are not sure of the best way forward - then employing a specialist teacher may be the way to go for this part of the home schooling education you deliver.

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