StarSpell 3 Spelling Guide - Discovering Words - Stage 1 of the Spelling Route

This Guide aims to demystify how spelling is learned. It shows smart ways to help learners, both using StarSpell and with activities away from the computer. All the practice in the Guide is based on actual classroom experience

Discovering Words - Stage 1 of the Spelling Route

This is about working with learners at the first stage of the Spelling Route. At the heart lies the principle that, in these vital early stages, necessary learning for spelling begins before "real" spelling starts.

Essential experience during this early stage allows learners to get a grasp of the basic understanding that there are such things as words; and furthermore, that words are made up of sounds. Then, as learners progress through Preparing for Phonics, they begin to understand how the sounds of words can be shown as letters.

These fundamental understandings have to be in place to underpin the approaches we use to teach spelling. For instance, a learner can't begin on Look & Learn without that basic awareness of what words are. And the Listen & Build approach (phonics) is fraught with difficulties unless learners are thoroughly familiar with the idea that words are built from separate sounds.

So let's move next to the practicalities of helping learners to:

· Come to understand what we mean by "words"

· Come to understand what we mean by "sounds"

· Grasp the idea of hearing sounds-in-words

· Come to understand the concept of letter-sound matches

· Learn some simple letter-sound matches.

Reading and spelling are inseparable

The beginnings of reading and spelling are tightly linked. This Guide is not the place to deal with all aspects of beginning reading.

All the same, the well-known and universal recommendation that children be read to right from babyhood must have a place here. It has as many benefits for learning to spell as it has for learning to read. See further suggestions.

Moreover, through such book experience, children are repeatedly meeting words which crop up frequently (High Frequency Words.) Some may well be beginning to stick in the child's memory. A 'sight vocabulary' is beginning to be built.

You can add to that tendency by involving children in noticing the forest of signs in which we live and move: street and road names, bus signs, PUSH/PULL, OFF/ON, the H and C taps, 'Weety Snax', HOSPITAL, POLICE. Indeed, you can label cupboards and drawers at home, names on bedroom doors, the WELCOME mat.

In this way the foundation is laid for Look & Learn activities.

Finally, all the while make sure children have the wherewithal to draw and "write" freely; welcome their version of 'writing'. Also, include them in day-to-day writing tasks such as making the shopping list and signing a birthday card.

All these suggestions for Discovering Words and sounds have real relevance throughout all the stages of the development of phonic readiness, as you will see from Preparing for Phonics - Stage 2 of the Spelling Route.