Spellings, particularly the retention of spellings, are a particular issue in our school - it has been holding many children back from achieving Expected Standard in their writing. We are trying to combat this!
I have made 9 step challenges that would span from years 1-6. Each step has its own ‘sub-steps’ – this is because there are a lot of words to get through, but each sub-step isn’t necessarily more difficult than the previous one as all the words from one step are the same level of difficulty (just split into lists of 20). I've attached a file called "Step Challenges - word origins" which explains where I got the words from (clue: the National Curriculum!) and how I'd expect the children to work through them (KS1 = steps 1-4, KS2 = steps 5-9).
Every list has 20 words in it, so each step (apart from Steps 4 and 9) consists of 100 words in total. Ideally, SCs would take place weekly. In my experience, children may often get high marks in the usual weekly spelling tests (where all words follow a certain rule) but then, a few weeks later, forget how to spell them, as retention is such an issue. It would still be beneficial to teach a spelling rule a week, which may apply to some of the words in their step challenge, but not all. The 20 words in each list do not follow a rule for this reason.
Children need to get 20/20 before moving on to the next sub-step. A reward for passing a ‘sub-step’ could be house points, or something relevant to that age group/your school. Once they’ve passed all sub-steps (a-e), they then need to pass a ‘Challenge’ to have passed the whole step. The challenge would be 20 words randomly picked from the whole 100 on that step – if the children achieve 18 or above out of 20 on these, they then pass that whole step and are awarded a certificate! (We have created one personalised for our school.)
Children’s progress could be tracked on Excel – I’ve made a grid that could be useful for this (see attached). This could either be updated on the computer or printed off.