In a few weeks we’ll be running our Best Strategies For Teaching Vocabulary and Spelling Workshop (see details here). Here are two things we’ll emphasise:
*A little bit of spelling instruction goes a long way
*Word study is a highly effective procedure to improve spelling
So what’s word study? Word study is any procedure you use where students dissect whole words into parts, think about the spelling patterns of those parts and create their own understanding of spelling rules. One of the simplest ways students can consider the parts of words and their spelling rules is through word sorts. Here’s an example of a simple word sort activity we might do in a unit at Year 7 with words which are relevant to ideas in a text they are studying:
1) Write the singular words in the table as plurals by adding ’-s’ or ‘-es’ to the ending
2) Sort the words into two groups – words that end in a ’-s’ plural or an ‘-es’ plural
3) What rule can you work out about when to use a ’-s’ or an ‘-es’ for a plural?
Students will be able to work out that words ending in ‘-x’ or ‘-ss’ need an ‘-es’ ending while words ending in ‘-t’ or ‘-n’ or ‘-r’ only need an ‘-s’. However, what makes this spelling procedure even more powerful is if we get students to consider why this is the case. Why do we spell the plural of ‘complex’ as ‘complexes’ and not ‘complexs’? Why do we spell the plural of ‘business’ as ‘businesses’ and not ‘businesss’? Of course, students will be able to tell you that we use an ‘-es’ at the end of these words to make them easier to pronounce.
Understanding not just ‘what’ spelling rules are but ‘why’ they operate the way they do, means students are more likely to transfer and apply spelling rules in different contexts.
For lots more simple and effective vocabulary and spelling strategies, come along to our workshop.