Young spellers struggling to tell you why you add an s to key or toy but change the y in baby to ies clearly need a helping hand - so why not enlist the help of Old MacDonald?
Pupils can have great fun setting nouns ending in y to the tune of "Old MacDonald had a farm".
A shop makes more sense than a farm - "And in that shop he had some toys", for example. The class then sing the question Y or I-E-S? instead of the chorus ee-ay-ee-ay-oh, and each time a different pupil completes the verse "with an A-Y-S" or "with an I-E-S", as appropriate.
Give them a couple of moments' thinking time to consider their options and remember the rule (vowel before the y, just add s; if there is a consonant before the y, change to ies).
Then on cue, each pupil should - hopefully - have reinforced the spelling rule and set it memorably to music for an increasingly varied and imaginative set of words John Gallagher is head of English at Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls