Litriú / Spelling

We live in a society that expects its children to acquire a competent level of reading and writing. Despite the fact that we are now in the technological age, it is still necessary that our children will be able to write what they want, when they want. To achieve this, the acquisition of spelling skills is crucial.

The ability to spell accurately is directly related to the memory for words and the phonic letter understanding that has been acquired. When children have been taught to listen and identify the sounds in words and know the different ways of writing those sounds, then they have a good phonic understanding. From then onwards, it is necessary to revise the letter sound knowledge and develop spelling strategies to help the children remember the words.

In the infant classes a lot of time is spent on phonological awareness i.e.
– naming and identifying letters and the sounds of each letter.
- breaking words into syllables and building up the words again
- identifying word families e.g. cake, bake, make

I would recommend that children use the letter name and sound and do not over-emphasis the Letterland characters e.g. Clever Cat/Poor Peter.

There are a few things children need to know before they start a formal spelling programme in Rang I.

- The names of the 26 letters of the alphabet - The children need to know that letters have got names as well as sounds. The sounds are used to read unknown words by blending and the names are used when you want to talk about letters. Young children like to sing the alphabet and it is an easy way for them to learn it. The more familiar the children are with the letter sequence in the alphabet, the easier it becomes for them to use a dictionary at a later stage. One suggested activity to help them learn this is to muddle a set of alphabet letters up and get the children to lay them out in the correct order. When they are quite good at this, make it a timed activity and let them try and beat the clock.

The children need to know and be able to recite the vowels a-e-i-o-u and know that y can sometimes be a vowel as in words like sky and my. This knowledge is very useful when they are learning spelling patterns later on.

Children must be taught that Capital Letters only go in special places and that they should not put them all over the place when they write on their own.
N.B. It is worth mentioning that pre-school children should not write Capital letter and if children are writing before coming to school make sure it is small letters they use.

Rang I - VI
Both the parent and teacher have a vital role in ensuring children experience success with spelling.
In school we have a policy for spelling and we recognize our role is one of teaching spellings not one of giving spellings. Likewise it is necessary for parents to be actively involved with the learning process required for spelling and not just “asking” spellings and signing corrections.

1. Sa Ghaelscoil we teach the method
Look at the word – paying attention to the letters.
Say the word – emphasising proper pronunciation especially “th” at the beginning of words and “d” and “t” at the end.
Cover the word - the visual representation is removed and the child is being asked to see it in his/her mind.
Write the word – it is essential to remember any spelling activity be a written one as it is only by writing they will become familiar with word-patterns or letter-strings. As writing and spelling are so closely linked a cursive (Joined) style of handwriting is advised – the style in use in our school.
Check – it is more advantageous if the child verifies the accuracy of his/her spelling than having others (teacher or parent) check how he/she performed. A word is really not mastered until it can be written correctly from memory several days later. Therefore there is an ongoing need to learn and relearn these words and use them in their writing.
A lot of the spellings taught and learned in this way belong to the Word Families. These are words that are based on endings called Rimes, where the endings sound the same in every word with a particular Rime e.g.

- ake - ight - eel
take light feet
make sight greet

and developed and developed and developed
baker frightened meeting
shaker tightens fleeting

It is important for you to emphasise to your child that he/she does not need to learn every word on these lists if he/she can spell the Rime, e.g. if your child is having difficulty spelling frigthtenend ask him/her to spell right – then fright and then add the ending.

2. When we write, there are certain words that we use very often. These words do not always follow patterns or rules and they need to be learned and not sounded out. These high frequency words are used about 50% of the time. Therefore, if the children learn these “frequently used” words well, they will be at least assured of getting approximately 50% of their words spelt correctly! As these words tend to be irregular in the way they are spelt, they need to be taught and practiced in their writing

List of frequently used words – mostly irregular

He she me we be of
To was all are for have
One said so they you about
Back been before by my call
Ball came come some could would
Should do go no first her
Here into like little look book
Made make more down new now
Off only our over other mother
Brother any away because bird black
Blue boy day every eat very
Fast father fell find five fly
Four found gave girl give going
Green head home house how keep
Know last live many May Mr.
Mrs. Once next open own play
Put read round saw say school
Take tell these think three time
Too tree under walk white why
Work woman year bush apple children
Cow dinner doll door egg hill
Horse letter milk money morning name
Night nothing place rabbit road picture
Sea sister street table tea today
Toy train water cousin Grandad another

3. A very useful technique for learning certain irregular words is to teach all children to say the word in the way it should “sound”. For example with the word “mother”…instead of saying it as “muther” the children say “mother” with the short “o” being used (to rhyme with “bother”). It goes like this

Teacher/Parent says Children respond
Mother Mother (to rhyme with bother)
Put put ( to rhyme with but)
Was was ( to rhyme with gas)

Monday Mon day ) breaking up the words in the
Wednesday Wed nes day ) way they need to be said to
February Feb ru ary ) be spelt.

The children quickly understand that they are saying words incorrectly, in order to help them remember the irregular spellings. It does not affect the use of these words in their normal conversation.

By the time children are eight years old, they should be able to spell correctly most of the everyday words they meet in their reading and require in their writing. They should be using the word families and irregular words list and mentioned previously combined with spelling rules that apply to the English language. These rules (and their exceptions) are dealt with in their spelling books, but require constant revision.

Some Spelling Rules examples:

• The sound “f” is spelt with “ph” in some words e.g., photo, graph alphabet.
• The letter “Q” is always followed by “u” and then another vowel e.g. quick, quarrel, queen.
• Purals – a vowel before “y” – add “s” e.g. monkey – monkeys. A consonant (a letter that is not a vowel) before “y” – change the “y” to “i” and add es. E.g. lady – ladies.
• “I” before “e” except after “c” e.g. thief, receive.
• “ai” – in words – Rule : when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking. i.e. the first vowel “a” is the sound we hear and it does the “talking” or says its own name and the second vowel keeps quite.
• Le – when the le comes at the end of a word it has the sound of il.
• Silent Letters
b – is silent when it comes after m or before t e.g. written wren
w – is silent when it is followed by r e.g. written wren
g - is silent when it comes before n e.g. gnarl, design
t - is silent when it follows s or f e.g. thistle, often
n - is silent when it follows m e.g. autumn, column

Tips for Spelling
• Remember not all spellings are “caught” they need to be “taught”
• All spelling activity should be a written one
• The meaning of confusing words e.g. their/there must be taught and put into a sentence when asking a child to write it so they know what word you require
• Do not tell the child the word should be known just because you think it easy
• Play alphabet games such as “I spy with my little eye something beginning with….” – Go through the alphabet in turns : you being with /a,/ a child says /b/ you say /c/ etc – Go through the alphabet in turns, you being with /a,b/ child says /c,d/ etc
• Invest in a set of plastic/magnetic letters for young children
• Concentrate on common words your child needs in reading and writing
• Your child may keep a dictionary of troublesome words with a page given to each letter of the alphabet
• If your child requires a spelling when writing, write the word for him/her and do not call it out
• Encourage your child to participate in word games/activities e.g. Junior Scrabble, Hangman, Crosswords/Word searches, Word snap, word bingo, inding small words within a big word.

Use Mnemonics – these are our memory in the spelling of words we find difficult. The more bizarre the mnemonic, the greater the chance of the child remembering it e.g. – Who – Wally Hates Onions,
- ight – I Gave Him Tea,
- horse - Hairy Old Rats See Everything

• Stepword Puzzle – Turn the top word into the bottom word by changing one letter at each step to make a different word e.g. change “oil” to “cap”

If your child tells you that he has no spellings to learn, revise some of the troublesome words from his/her dictionary or play a spelling game. Finally, please remember: Keep supporting and praising your child. Remember that your role is that of helper. A fun approach to spelling is essential for young children.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

Lúsaí Ní Mheara



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