‘I can’t spell!’
Why do so many children today struggle with spelling. One reason is that the lists of words that they are given to learn to spell are way too difficult. Many children cannot read them, let alone comprehend them or use them in their everyday speaking and writing! Before the rewriting of the curriculum in 2014, many words that are not on the lists for year 3 and 4 children were on the lists of spellings for years 5 and 6 so, over the years, the expectations have increased and the children’s level of confidence has decreased; this is not right!
Children need to learn to spell accurately but a lot of their competencies in spelling come from seeing the word in print, so reading is the underpinning skill. Children who read widely, have more exposure to the written word and this together with an encouragement to learn new words and express themselves using these words is of great benefit in developing a wide knowledge of spelling.
For many children, the sticking point comes in as early as Year 1 with the alternative spellings of different graphemes. For example, a long ‘a’ sound can be spelt - ai/ay/a-e or ey. No wonder children get confused. Not spending sufficient time exploring these different patterns is a key to children failing in spelling. Yes, there are rules that are helpful in supporting children’s knowledge of spelling and these are valuable but not at the expense of developing and extending vocabulary and developing a love of words and their usage.
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