If schools are beginning to stop sending home spellings to learn, how do children learn to spell?

(73 Posts)
Ruprekt Sat 09-Mar-13 22:33:04

I know the thought is that children learn for the test but then do not use that knowledge in literacy.

Lots of primary schools have stopped sending spellings home so there begs the question, how do they learn to spell?

Ds2 is 8 and a Very able speller......just wondering what to do to keep that going.

Fuzzymum1 Sat 09-Mar-13 23:05:20

The phonics lessons they have in school are as much about learning to spell as learning to read. Our school still sends home spellings (mostly because parents want them I think rather than because they really think it helps), 8 per week with emphasis on a particular phonic sound along with one or two high frequency words. For example this week my Y1 child has fork, sort, worn, torn, cork, born, came and their. Last week he had 'ar' words including farmyard.

cumbrialass Sun 10-Mar-13 10:08:06

dera.ioe.ac.uk/687/1/01109-2009PDF-EN_01.pdf gives you an idea of what happens from year 2 onwards once children have covered the phonic rules, we begin to teach plurals, prefixes, suffixes, verb tenses etc. Simply because spellings don't come home doesn't mean they aren't taught! But teaching and reinforcing in the class is a much more efficient and effective way of embedding the spellings.

BarbarianMum Sun 10-Mar-13 10:10:34

<<Ds2 is 8 and a Very able speller......just wondering what to do to keep that going. >>

I suspect you need do nothing, he is probably naturally able in this area and his spelling will continue to improve as his vocab expands.

My ds1 seems to learn to spell by constant usage in his writing. He is not a good speller although extremely able in other areas of literacy. His school do send home spellings each week and tbh it doesn't help at all. He learns the spellings for his test, then 2 weeks later will misspell them in a piece of writing.

My plan is to teach him to use a dictionary/spellchecker as he gets older - just like his old mother does. wink

pooka Sun 10-Mar-13 10:11:30

Reading lots and lots.

StuffezLaBouche Sun 10-Mar-13 11:58:43

I use the Support for Spelling document and focus on an area for a given amount of time, eg. Past tense verbs, comparatives and superlatives, etc.
When the children do their extended writing I home in particularly on these words, which the children must then correct themselves and write five times.
I find it helps identifying rules, but the nature of English means there will always be some exceptions. :-)

teacherwith2kids Sun 10-Mar-13 12:02:22

The short answer is 'they will learn in school, through spelling lessons and through focused teaching within other lessons'.

The 'fetishisation' of 'bringing spellings home to learn' (and how slly this is) is obvious when you slightly change the OP's question:

'My child doesn't bring home any geography [ or art, or history, or extended writing, or RE, or Design Technology, or ICT, or PE], how are they going to learn those subjects?'

noramum Sun 10-Mar-13 12:15:13

My DD, now Y1, never brought spellings home. She is incredible good, hardly makes mistakes.

The school believes in teaching through context and phonics.

We correct spelling when she does her homework though. She reads a lot and we read to her and often follow the words with our fingers.

She likes doing word searches in activity books.

PastSellByDate Sun 10-Mar-13 13:53:53

Hi teacherwith2kids and other teachers or Mums here who have ideas on extending spelling:

Although I totally take the point that at a school which is doing their job well, spelling beyond KS1 can be context-based in class, with learning about suffixes, prefixes, doubling consonants, etc... through class work and exercises...

...what do you do when that isn't working?

We've had lists and now no lists (so I know it isn't weak spelling because lists stopped - problem was there with weekly spelling lists). I think that DD1 (who is in Year 5) still only spelling thorugh plausible phonetic guesswork and I'm trying my best to expose her to some of the rules of English (i before e except after c; short vowel one syllable words tend to double consonant before -ing endings; difference between homonymns like they're, there and their.

Grammar is very shaky - I'm having to teach her what a noun, verb, pronoun, preposition, collective noun is. Although in some cases she has had some of it in class (like 'doing words' for verbs) - in other cases it's new for her.

So if you can recommend workbooks (we're using GCP literacy workbooks Year 4 & hopefully starting Y5 after Easter) or websites (we do use St Ambrose spelling website: www.saintambrosebarlow.wigan.sch.uk/spellingpage.htm) - let us know.

Any ideas gratefully received.

Welovegrapes Sun 10-Mar-13 13:56:14

We never had any - slightly hippy dippy primary and me and both of us are above average at spelling.

MTSgroupie Sun 10-Mar-13 14:21:53

I think that schools should regularly hand out spellings. Having said, its bit silly to go - how is my child going to learn spelling now that the school doesn't do it? It's a list of 10 words or so, handed out each week ffs.

Putting together your own spelling list is not rocket science. What I use to do was go through the children's reading books and make a list of the more difficult words and I would run through them while doing the school run.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Sun 10-Mar-13 14:25:15

When I was a teacher I found the only reason I continued to send spellings home was because certain parents demanded I should.

However these were the parents of children who were having no problems learning to spell anyway.

The ones who could really have benefited from some time spent learning spellings with an adult were invariably the ones who never, ever learned their spellings, and it was through no fault of theirs.

It was very frustrating.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Sun 10-Mar-13 14:25:57

(which of course did not mean that I didn't spend time teaching spelling in class. I did)

difficultpickle Sun 10-Mar-13 14:26:27

Ds (year 4) has spelling tests. The lists stay in his desk drawer and never come home. Doesn't stop him getting them all correct so he must be learning them somewhere (although he says they are easy and don't require learning at all). I'm grateful as it lessens the homework battle!

Happymum22 Sun 10-Mar-13 14:40:52

At my DDs school (10 years ago now) they had one lesson a week where the whole of Key stage 2 were split into 8 sets, so classes had pupils from all year groups depending on spelling ability. They did spelling and dictation in alternating weeks.
They carried forward spellings so 'dictation' week had spellings from all previous weeks, not just 'the list'.
It somehow worked well for DDs, none were fab at spelling but by year 6 they had reasonable spelling.
Do agree depends on the school and parents- we were at a school with keen parents who made sure spellings were learnt- hence keen pupils wanting to do well.

They also had every single week Grammar, Comprehension, Creative Writing and Poetry lessons.

teacherwith2kids Sun 10-Mar-13 14:58:37

MTS - why? Why do you think that rote-learning a list of words, in isolation, is an effective mechanism for learning to spell effectively in everyday writing?

Learning a 'rule', and having homework that involves researching the words that follow that rule and also finding some exceptions to it - now that's entirely sensible [or at least, as sensible as primary homework gets] - followed by some kind of writing that asks children to use words which follow or do not follow the rule in context... that is proper 'learning to spell', and is what I do in spelling lessons.

PastSellBy - find copies of 'Support for Spelling' and 'Grammar for Writing' online. They are both divided up into units for each year group - though it sounds as if with Grammar you will have to backtrack a bit - and investigate exactly the types of rules that you describe. They are aimed at teachers, but tbh could be followed by anyone prepared to be a little imaginative with activities [as written, they are very dry, and I know no-one who teaches them 'straight from the book', but to dip into as a 'what should they know at this age' they are good resources.

gaelicsheep Sun 10-Mar-13 15:02:22

DS hasn't had any this term. Didn't realise it was a new policy but I don't miss them one bit.

ByTheWay1 Sun 10-Mar-13 15:13:11

my dd is still getting them in Y6 - they have to write out the words in their book, and make a sentence with the word - which becomes a dictionary exercise -

but apparently I'm a "meany" because I tell her she has to do them, and don't allow "I don't know how else to use "disconsolate" in a sentence, so I used it this way"

They are learning from a sheet which states at the top: spellings for Y6 SATs - so I'm guessing they are important..

noramum Sun 10-Mar-13 15:49:29

MTS - why do you think the school is not teaching it just because they don't hand out pointless lists?

What is the point in learning "leaf" if a child doesn't learn in context that the multiple of it is "leaves".

I read somewhere that most children will happily learn words but their spelling is still not better as they have no idea how to apply multiples or past tense or "do" and "does".

MTSgroupie Sun 10-Mar-13 17:08:00

Nora - the OP is asking how do children learn spelling if the schools don't set spellings homework. If the schools are still teaching them spelling at school then the OP's question is still silly because it assumes that a child's ability to spell lives and dies with homework and that a parent has no input.

MTSgroupie Sun 10-Mar-13 17:11:51

teacher - where do I say that learning spelling in isolation is a good thing? As I said in my post, I would take words from their reading books as opposed to arbitrarily picking words from a dictionary.

StuffezLaBouche Sun 10-Mar-13 17:17:02

Not easy if you've got 30kids all with a different book though...
Also, how can you prove what learning's taken place? How can you know which kids can put a verb into the past tense correctly and which can't?
If spelling is taught and assessed correctly in schools, there is no need to send spellings home.

Ruprekt Sun 10-Mar-13 17:21:13

MTS - I object to it being said that my question is silly!

How dare you? angry

One minute they get 10 words per week then it stops! I was just asking the question.

teacherwith2kids Sun 10-Mar-13 17:39:46

MTS, I currently have 32 children in my class. Every one has a different reading book, most read several books per week.

So instead of working out 320 individual words, I teach the class a spelling rule which is a) age and stage appropriate and b) is based on general patterns o mis-spellings picked up from recent writing by the class.

And then they investigate that spelling rule for homework, and I assess the success of the teaching over time through their independent writing.

Arisbottle Sun 10-Mar-13 17:41:26

I have two at primary and they seem to be getting more spellings rather than less.

Dromedary Sun 10-Mar-13 18:05:39

I heard that there'd been research which showed that spelling lists don't make a difference?
My DC gets one, and a test, every week, but doesn't bother with it. I don't push her, as I don't think it's a good way to learn to spell. Much better to do lots of reading and writing. I also do fun spelling quizzes with my DCs in the car sometimes. They can both spell really challenging words (the
younger one is 8 and has never been given any spelling lists).
It has a private school feel to it, so attracts that type of parent (at or would like to be at private school).

ponyandpotatopie Sun 10-Mar-13 18:10:06

Most teachers have known that spelling lists don't work for a long time from their own professional experience.
Parents like it because of the Gove factor - it's how they were taught.

MTSgroupie Sun 10-Mar-13 21:03:40

OP - it is a silly question. I mean, how are kids suppose to learn spelling if the school don't set them 10 words a week?

Well, teacherwith's professional opinion is that there are better ways to teach spelling. If you don't agree then you can always set the list yourself. You don't need a teaching qualification for that.

And if being called 'silly' is enough to make you angry then I suggest that you confine yourself to the Breastfeeding forum and the like.

teacherwith2kids Sun 10-Mar-13 21:10:07

However, MTS, I presume from your earlier post (saying that schools should regularly hand out spellings) that you disagree with my professional opinion and that of other teachers on this thread and elsewhere.

Few children are actively harmed by learning random spelling words (though the implication that spellings are a 'thing that you learn in this random way' is perhaps marginally unhelpful to some) though on average it is not helpful. So if you feel it is doing your children no harm (I do not prevent my daughter learning the spellings that her school sets each week, I just don't worry if she doesn't have time, as i know she has a good knowledge of phonics and spelling rules because we talk about those all the time when reading to and with each other), then carry on.

Ruprekt Sun 10-Mar-13 21:18:58

Well i think it is a great qu and has opened up discussion.

Interesting to know what others are doing.

And breastfeeding was so long ago I wont be heading there again!

I don't believe learning spellings at home is of any benefit to children as young as 7. My DS is 6 and brings home lots of spellings which sometimes take us over an hour a week to master. Last week it was: rich, much, catch, witch, future, adventure. In a class of 17, only one child got them all correct. It was not my son. Yes, he knows how to spell certain words, for example 'some' but when he writes he then uses 'sum'. So no, I don't think it helps. I will celebrate the day they stop sending these spellings home.

MTSgroupie Mon 11-Mar-13 01:32:42

Teacher - Some teachers think that homework is a waste of time in their professional opinion. Soime teachers disagree. In their professional opinion they think that homework reinforces what was covered in class and speeds up the learning process.

If you professionals can't agree among yourselves then you can't really blame me.for going hmm when you ask me to trust your professional judgement.

StuffezLaBouche Mon 11-Mar-13 06:05:11

Good morning MTS,
Your post at 21:03 makes you sound like a snotty, unpleasant person and your post at 01:32 makes you sound really, really stupid.
Have a good day!

seeker Mon 11-Mar-13 06:28:38

Parents seem to like homework. At a primary level, there is no evidence that homework, apart from reading practice, has any effect at all on children's learning. But because parents and the government (because they want parents' votes) like it, schools set it. Learning spellings, in particular, teaches children how to spell 10 words for the duration of a test. Nothing more. I can hardly think of a more pointless exercise!

MTSgroupie Mon 11-Mar-13 07:14:33

Stuffez - I'll try not to be too destroyed over your opinion of me.

MTSgroupie Mon 11-Mar-13 07:41:54

'Parents seem to like homework' ???

Some parents like it. Some dislike it. I haven't seen anything that would allow me to quantify which is the majority opinion. Obviously you are privy to knowledge that I don't have.

As for homework being handed out against teachers professional opinion only because of parents grin.

Yup. Schools and governments have repeatedly demonstrated that they do what parents want [sarcasm emoticon]

JakeBullet Mon 11-Mar-13 07:45:10

I hate homework, my autistic son gets in a right tiz doing it and I'd be so happy if it didn't exist. Am dreading secondary level.

ponyandpotatopie Mon 11-Mar-13 08:40:09

seeker is spot on about homework in primary school

FriendlyLadybird Mon 11-Mar-13 09:01:25

Er ... just reading?

And, um, more reading?

MTSgroupie Mon 11-Mar-13 09:46:49

Jake - At secondary the amount of homework varies from school to school. As you have probably figured out, a lot of teachers in the non selective sector aren't into homework. So, depending, your DC won't necessarily have loads of homework to deal with.

MTSgroupie Mon 11-Mar-13 09:51:38

Friendly - I can read the Mary Poppins supercali.... word when I see it. But it doesn't mean that I can spell it.

Similarly with day to day words, my kids can read fluently but its a different matter when they have to write what they read.

seeker Mon 11-Mar-13 10:01:35

I have a child in a selective secondary school. The line from the school has always been that the children work at full tilt during the day, so homework is kept to a minimum, particularly in the early years.

lainiekazan Mon 11-Mar-13 10:09:03

Practise makes perfect.

So if you read a lot, you see a lot, you take in a lot.

And so you learn to spell.

Just the same as if you play a lot of football, you get better at football, or XBox, or sewing, or cooking, or or or or or...

noramum Mon 11-Mar-13 12:00:53

Seeker: I like homework because it gives me a chance to see what a) my child does, b) if my child is understanding what they do in school and c) gives my child the chance to deepen what she learned in school. Or it can be a chance to get into a subject they will start in the next term.

Homework is not about teaching topics the school had not the time to do.

I only see DD's work 3 times a year, at two parent evenings and one open evening where DD can show me around. That is just not enough for me. I am interested in knowing about DD's learning so I like that she brings little things home.

We normally spend 1/2 to 1 hour at home per week and last weekend she said "homework is not boring".

FriendlyLadybird Mon 11-Mar-13 12:01:39

MTSgroupie Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I think that's right. I worked backwards from what I know about reading. And if I have an inkling that it's wrong, I check it in the dictionary. Not that that particular word is in any dictionary that I own, but it's a good principle.

CecilyP Mon 11-Mar-13 12:47:52

^Practise makes perfect.

So if you read a lot, you see a lot, you take in a lot.

And so you learn to spell.^

Sorry, but that isn't really true, many people who read a lot are very poor spellers. I am sure that with very young children, as they read more their spelling will improve because, before that, they will be trying to write words that they have never even seen written down. But beyond a certain level, reading a lot does not improve spelling. It is only by focusing on spelling that spelling can be improved, and I agree with others that it is more important to teach phonics, spelling patterns and the grammatical knowledge that underpins good spelling, rather than send home lists of random words. BTW, it should be 'practice' in the context used above.

lainiekazan Mon 11-Mar-13 12:54:06

Whoops - I thought about that whilst I was at the shops. blush

But piffle, anyway. If our spelling began and ended with the words we learnt from lists at primary school then we'd have a very small repertoire indeed.

CecilyP Mon 11-Mar-13 13:03:37

Yes, I would agree with that, so the answer to OP's post might be 'the same way they learn to spell all the other words that have never been featured on their spelling lists.'

teacherwith2kids Mon 11-Mar-13 18:57:43

MTS, it isn't just my professional opinion - as seeker has pointed out, research in the area indicates that there is very little, if any, positive correlation between primary homework and academic progress.

Have work to do - a spelling lesson to plan, funnily enough - so I will leave you to do the googling.

As it happens, I believe that homework does have benefits - the communication with parents thing noramum mentions is an important one, and as secondary approaches, the idea that 'learning'/ school work does not just happen in school, along with the discipline of the child finding time and space to do it - but accelerating academic progress is not one of them. Reading, however, is the honorable exception - being read to, reading to someone, solo reading is the kind fo homework that is never wasted.

teacherwith2kids Mon 11-Mar-13 19:01:00

Sutton Trust, as one example:
Sutton Trust Research

MTSgroupie Mon 11-Mar-13 20:08:41

This is the contradiction that I don't get. Learning a list of German/French/etc words is the cornerstone of teaching MFLs. Yet it doesn't work if the language is English??? confused

seeker Mon 11-Mar-13 20:14:14

Learning 10 new words in a new language to increase your vocabulary is completely different from learning spellings!

noramum Mon 11-Mar-13 20:36:44

MTS - I learned English as a language in school, I am German. Learning vocabulary isn't about spelling alone, it is about increasing your vocabulary as well as Seeker said.

When we got lists of words to learn they were always in context to the story or topics we read, not just pointless lists.

The only thing we had to learn as lists were the not-regular verbs like "take, took, taken".

teacherwith2kids Mon 11-Mar-13 20:58:31

MTS if all spelling words were words new to a child's vocabulary, and learning them also involved learning their meanings and using them correctly in context (which is what happens in MFL), then there might indeed be some value in learning words 10 at a time.....

blueberryupsidedown Mon 11-Mar-13 21:13:35

I have read most of the posts here, it's very interesting as DH (a primary school teacher) and I have different views on this. I think that having a list of words is useful, DH thinks it's not. But my question is, how do you improve a child's spelling? I have two DSs, one in year 2 and one in y1. The youngest is very good at spelling, I don't know why, he just has a very good visual memory I suppose. DS1 is the opposite - he really struggles with spelling. So can anyone give me tips on how to improve spelling - if not a list of new words to learn, how do I do it at home (please don't say 'read', he reads lots, every day, for school and for pleasure...)

For example, today he wrote a story and wrote 'showted' instead of shouted, 'urly' instead of early, and 'quikly' instead of quickly. If he doesn't learn to spell these words 'by heart', how is going to improve? He wrote them in a phonetically correct way...

teacherwith2kids Mon 11-Mar-13 21:32:35

Blueberry, if it were me - DD is my poor speller, DS is my good one - I would focus on a spelling rule or pattern.

e.g.. words in which the phoneme <er> is encoded by the grapheme 'ur'

Make a collection of such words from his reading, from his general vocabulary, by him trying out the sound, you looking up the word and finding out that it DOESN'T have 'ur' in it. Can you formulate any rules - or not?

This kind of exploration is much more valuable than a 'here are 10 words with 'ur' in them' approach, as the word he is interested in may not be in his 10 words and he never gets to see which words MIGHT contain ur but on research turn out not to.

Also try getting him to write down - or type, sometimes, as children may spot errors more easily in 'words that look as if they are in books' all the phonetically plausible options that he can think of for a word. Often, faced with all the options, a child who reads will spot 'the right one' even if it's not the first one they try when writing them down first time IYSWIM.

Others will be along with more suggestions soon, I am sure, but those aretwo I have used for DD with success.

seeker Mon 11-Mar-13 21:47:53

If you learn how to spell 10 words a week in school time, and remember half of them, you'll learn how to spell about 150 words in a school year. How many words are there in the English language?

I would listen to the trained professional if I were you!

CecilyP Mon 11-Mar-13 22:07:14

For example, today he wrote a story and wrote 'showted' instead of shouted, 'urly' instead of early, and 'quikly' instead of quickly. If he doesn't learn to spell these words 'by heart', how is going to improve? He wrote them in a phonetically correct way...

The obvious one to help with 'quikly' which may be phonically plausible but is not phonically correct in English. With almost all English words ending in a 'k' sound, eg quick before adding the suffix 'ly', it is spelt 'ck' - very few exceptions - learn that and you can spell hundreds of words, learn to spell 'quickly' in a random list and you have learned to spell one.

teacherwith2kids Mon 11-Mar-13 22:19:31

Cecily, that's exactly what I mean by creating word collections and formulating rules - as from such a collection rules like this can be deduced easily - and what we work out for ourselves we often remember much better than what we are just told.

MTSgroupie Tue 12-Mar-13 07:31:54

seeker - Listen to the trained professional? Isn't that selective advice? imeab

MTSgroupie Tue 12-Mar-13 07:41:34

seeker - Listen to the trained professional??? Isn't that selective advice? I mean, presumably a panel of 'professionals' is advising the government. A panel that is presumably made up of highly qualified experts in the field of education.

Yet there are regular threads slamming government policies. So when it comes to the government it's a bunch of ill conceived ideas that pander to the electorate. But when it comes to primary school teachers it's listen to the professionals. hmm

seeker Tue 12-Mar-13 09:39:57

So, find me some research, or a teacher who is actually teaching children who says that learning 10 spelling words a week is a valuable use of time and has a significant impact on children's spelling. The government picks its advisers with care, and it knows what parents want. Frequently parents want things which go against educational best practice- but as they are the voters..........

MTSgroupie Tue 12-Mar-13 10:52:04

grin at your conceit. You don't agree with the experts advising the government. You can't be wrong. Therefore the 'experts' were picked because they will tell the government what they wanted to hear.

seeker Tue 12-Mar-13 11:08:05

Find some research that says that learning spellings is a useful thing to do. As opposed to all the research that says it isn't.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Tue 12-Mar-13 11:12:09

MTS, surely you're not suggesting those in government driving education are actually experts in education???? We all know that's bollocks and that education is used as a political football to detriment of children, schools and teachers. Gove knows nothing about learning. Absolutely nothing.

MTSgroupie Tue 12-Mar-13 14:54:19

seeker - It took me 5mins, while doing the school run, to go through DC's spellings. Do I really want to spend additional time going backwards and forwards over its effectiveness on MN with a bunch of anonymous strangers? Not really. Do/don't do spellings with your DCs. It doesn't impact on me if you don't.

seeker Tue 12-Mar-13 14:56:41

So what are you doing on a thread discussing spelling tests then?

Ruprekt Tue 12-Mar-13 16:20:28

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

teacherwith2kids Tue 12-Mar-13 17:36:27

MTS, I often spend odd 5 or 10 minute periods discussing spellings with my DD - the difference is that I talk about rules that will help her to spell 100s of words, rathr than getting her to spell 10 random words that she may never need to use.

You are, of course, welcome to spend time on school runs however you wish - recent subjects on ours have included the eradication of polio and multiplication of negative numbers - and if you are enjoying doing spellings that is fine. Just be aware that it isn't necessarily something that everyone should do, because research shows it has no discernable benefit. Not does discussing negative numbers, of course - we do that because it's fun and interesting.

Ruprekt Tue 12-Mar-13 21:18:11

Ooo-er!! I have never been deleted before!! I was just agreeing with seeker!

Seeker - you led me astray!smilesmile

seeker Tue 12-Mar-13 21:21:12

grin I suspect "obnoxious" was considered a personal attack!

Never been deleted? Call yourself a mumsnetter! You wait til you've been suspended..............!

deleted203 Tue 12-Mar-13 21:23:17

They read. People who read a lot learn to spell. It's that simple, honestly. We never had 'spellings' when I was at school - but we read books and picked it up.

Ruprekt Tue 12-Mar-13 22:48:09

ooh I would blush if I was suspended!!

<have you been suspended?> <<in awe of seeker>>

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