Posts Tagged ‘spelling’

Becoming Word Aware at Osmani Primary School

Linda Hall and Tracey Grant from the Language, Literacy and Communication Team led training on Word Aware, a structured whole school approach to promote the vocabulary development of all children. Focused on whole class learning, the resource is of particular value for those who start at a disadvantage – including children with Developmental Language Disorder, Special Educational Needs and those who speak English as an additional language, but it will extend the word learning of all students.

Practical, inspiring and fun ideas were explored that can be easily applied by busy classroom practitioners to develop both spoken and written vocabulary.

Remi Atoyebi (Headteacher), Helen Vail and Tracey Grant (Language, Literacy and Communication Team Learning Advisory Service Advisory teacher for inclusion).

Contact for further information if you are interested in booking this training for your school.

5min PPT: #Spelling (3)

Why can spelling be so hard for those with dyslexia?

Spelling can be challenging because people with dyslexia can have difficulty in:

  • Using sounds
  • Sequencing letters
  • Remembering things
  • Processing quickly and fluently
  • Motor co-ordination

Download our PowerPoint here!

If you have any comments or find our resources helpful, please leave a comment below!


The link between touch-typing and spelling

Motor-memory can often be overlooked when we are thinking of helping children and young people to spell accurately. We will work on visual activities directly intended to embed words in their memories – such as ‘look, cover, write, check,’ where pupils memorise a word, cover it up, write it out and then check their spelling – and ask questions such as, “Does it look right?” But we don’t often ask if it ‘feels’ right.

When children are first learning to read we focus on phonics for decoding, isolating the separate sounds that make up a word. We then reverse that approach to build words, often sounding out the segments and asking them how we will express that on the page. The word ‘Church,’ for instance, will become, ‘Chu, er, chu.’

So we have approaches that focus on the visual memory, and others on  the aural memory, but we often neglect to focus on the motor-memory. How a word feels as we inscribe it. It is one of the reasons for encouraging those who are struggling with spelling to use cursive – ‘joined up’ – handwriting. The theory is that instead of the word being a series of separate letters the brain needs to recollect and reproduce, it becomes one, fluent, movement. For instance, ‘heavy,’ is no longer, ‘H, E, A, V, Y’ – five elements to remember how to scribe, but ‘heavy’ one, continuous, sweep along the line.

This theory has been built in to programs that teach touch-typing, so that by employing the frequent repetition necessary to learn to use the keyboard without looking at it, learners begin to put down words on the screen without having to think about the letters in them. They spell by using the memory in their movements.

One of the earliest resources to use this was Touch, Type, Read and Spell (TTRS). Originally it was a standard touch-typing course involving copying from books that differed from offerings such as those from City and Guilds, by using real words in its exercises instead of drills focused on letter groupings on the keyboard.

Then along came personal computers and approaches like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Whilst it took its time, TTRS eventually went online to become . Now available for individuals to use at home, or for whole tranches of pupils to use at school, it still uses as its core vocabulary list the ever influential ‘Alpha to Omega’ spelling course, originally devised to teach dyslexic learners in the 1980s.

It is not the only program to do this. Kaz (  is a system structured i   n a similar way. Although originally targeted at general learners, it has adapted to include more specialist elements, with features such as the ability to change the font and its size, and or to select a colour scheme that a user might find easier to read on screen.

The important element of this approach to spelling, however, is keyboard fluency. As Kaz point out on their website, “Typing with 2 fingers uses the conscious mind but when you touch type with all your fingers and thumbs, the skill is transferred to the subconscious – leaving the conscious mind free for creative writing and the task at hand.”

There are compelling arguments for all children and young people to learn to touch-type. Removing barriers to their creativity, and helping them too become more productive, is just one more.

Wordshark online – an online update of an SEND perennial

What is it?

It’s hard to remember a time before Wordshark was available. If you don’t know it, it is primarily used for practice and reinforcement of spellings, particularly for those struggling with these skills, such as pupils who are dyslexic. Although it could be used by learners of all ages for the acquisition of key vocabulary.

It comes with a database of 10,000 words, all with pre-recorded speech, which can be sorted to be used in several different ways. One is the National Curriculum wordlists that pupils are expected to know as they progress through primary school. Another is Alpha to Omega, a scheme designed for those with dyslexia, and then there is the popular Letters and Sounds, or the subject specific words aimed at secondary students. You can also add your own lists if there are words you can’t find, perhaps for a particular topic.

The lists themselves are broken down into appropriate groups, such as CVC, or magic-e, and to aid learning further, words can be viewed with their phonetic make up marked, or they can be split into user-defined chunks.

Along with the wordlists are around 40 games. Once the words to be practised have been selected a number of games are recommended to use, which  can be worked through, or you can open a tab for one of the specific groups: Blend, Segment, Read, Spell, and Patterns. You can also choose specific games you want pupils to use, and assign work for them for  when they log on.

As it is web-based learners can access it from anywhere there is an internet connection, allowing for home and parent/carer involvement, too. The words can also be printed out for study away from the screen.

The whole system comes with a placement test, if you are not sure where is the best place for the pupils to get started, and a monitoring and tracking facility to see how they are getting on.

Who is it for?

The original conception was for dyslexic pupils, but it could be used by just about anyone, with primary pupils following the National Curriculum, or Letters and Sounds, lists, and secondary working on the subject specific vocabulary. With the capacity to add lists it could even become a learning resource for A Level students doing Classics who want to learn Latin or Ancient Greek.

The various approaches to spelling taken, include seeing it then typing it, finding the correct outline shape, bringing chunks together, and even speaking it aloud, all come with  a range of activities. This means that drill and practice becomes less of a chore, and even a bit of  fun.

How do I use it?

Mainly for reinforcement. To provide a range of activities presented in an interactive, varied, fun, way, that makes over-learning acceptable, rather than a drudge. Whilst it will largely be used by individuals, there is the potential to use it with a small group around the interactive whiteboard.

What else is there?

There are quite a lot of apps, programs and websites that provide different approaches to spelling. Where Wordshark differs is in the variety of approaches available, along with the flexibility to choose which wordlists to work from, or to create your own. All with the ubiquitous access the internet offers.  Flexibility, reliability, and availability, are the keywords here.

Clicker 7 – a properly ‘Inclusive’ resource

What is it?

Clicker 7 is a combination of a word-processor and a range of very adaptable, on-screen, grids, sometimes used separately, sometimes in combination, that is installed on desktop computers and laptops.

For learners struggling with literacy, for whatever reason, there are a number of aids to writing, including text to speech, a word-predictor, images or symbols inserted automatically, voice prompts, and word banks. There is also a built-in on-screen keyboard for those who are using switches or eye-gaze.

Further supports for those with SEND include changing the font, font size and colour, background colour and voice of the text to speech.

The same coding underpinning the word banks is also used separately to create on-screen books – both to read and to write – matching exercises, labelling activities, and even speaking and listening activities.

Clicker 7 also includes the Clicker Board, an integral planning tool that can be used to structure work, which can be used with multi-media as well as text.

Who is it for?

Whilst intended for primary aged children, even older students with a range of challenges to learning can use it, as well as those with none. As a word-processor it operates in a similar way to industry standard applications, such as MSWord, but with many of the superfluous functions – such as the mail-merge and the page styles – stripped out.

Pupils who are beginning to write independently will benefit from word grids to build sentences, or to provide key vocabulary, whilst those who are becoming more independent can use the predictor to help with word-finding and spelling, and the screen-reader to let them know if their writing makes sense.

Those with physical disabilities might also benefit from using the predictor to reduce keystrokes, as well as its switch access resource, or its integrated eye-gaze capability.

It offers as much, or as little, support as is needed.

The grids facility can be used separately to create myriad activities, from matching involving text, images and sound, to labelling diagrams, sorting into groups, finding pairs, and writing books.

There are over 3,000 grids that are provided online covering the whole primary curriculum, and more, at . The software comes with templates to create your own, along with several thousand images, although you can add your own, too.

How do I use it?

You can find uses for it in all aspects of the curriculum, but especially where pupils need to write. Beyond that you might use it to create a matching activity for young learners to find words and images, or maybe a multi-media mindmap on the interactive whiteboard with everyone involved when starting a new topic. It can be used with the whole class, small groups and targeted individuals.

There are a short training videos for you to learn every aspect of the software  at the Crick  online training videos.

What else is there?

There is very little like it. You can find some of its functionality in other programs, but few that combine them. MSWord, for example, has text to speech. Widgitonline will associate images or symbols with text, and WordQSpeakQ can provide an inline predictor. Powerpoint might let you multi-media to make books and demonstrate understanding, but without the supportive features of Clicker.

Older learners could use DocsPlus which works in a very similar way, but with added features that make it eligible for access in exams, as well as several iPad and Chrome apps.