ANTI SPELLING TESTS : Better ways to support struggling spellers

February 2019
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This term we have received an overwhelming number of phone calls from parents concerned that their child needs help with spelling. At Sprout, we believe spelling issues need to be addressed immediately. Spelling is not something that will generally just improve over time – it needs to be taught systematically involving a lot of teacher modelling, guided practice and then independent activities.


Children that are struggling with spelling will be best supported by a program that meets them at their current developmental level and builds upon what they already know. For a child to become ‘good’ at spelling they need to be able to successfully integrate the four forms of spelling knowledge – phonological, visual, morphemic and etymological. It is NOT a matter of just doing spelling bees every night until they can ‘remember’ how to spell words!


We use a samples of children’s writing to determine which types (if any) of spelling knowledge they draw upon when writing, and which types need to be explicitly taught.

We also observe their spelling behaviours in reading sessions – as reading and writing are reciprocal, generally both areas will improve at the same pace.

We also have the opportunity to question the children in detail about their understanding of spelling – this uncovers what they do when they get to a word that they don’t know how to spell, how they perceive learning about spelling and whether they are able to proofread their own writing.


Explicitly teaching spelling might include:

-teaching specific spelling patterns

-developing an understanding of previously known words and building upon them

-teaching in small chunks

-be taught in the context of talking, listening, reading and writing

-include dictionary skills


If you are working to support your child’s spelling at home – it can be useful to have prompts to encourage them to try to spell words themselves rather than simply giving them the correct spelling when they ask how to spell a word.


Possible Prompts

Can you think of any words that might look the same? (eg light, night, fight)

Can you stretch out the word and write down the sounds you hear?

Can you break the word into chunks (syllables) and record the parts you hear?

Where could you find that word?

Written by Sprout Tutoring

Sprout Tutoring is a small, engaging, motivating space in West Geelong created for children to focus on learning without distraction. Sprout Tutoring nurtures learning, growth and development of children aged 4 – 12 years old with customised tuition programs in Literacy and Numeracy.