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Spelling aids

Q How do you deal with poor spellers in key stage 2 and beyond? The gap between children of average ability and those with difficulties is often wide and the NLS yearly objectives are not applicable.

A Covering complex spelling rules with children who are struggling at a basic level will confuse them even more. You could point out important common words following particular spelling patterns (e.g. common "wa" words, taught in Year 5, include was and want), but they'd gain more from a personalised spelling course during lessons - interactive computerised software such as Wordshark or Starspell is useful.

In day-to-day writing, all children should be taught to proof-read and correct errors at the end. Over-emphasis on spelling while writing often means content and composition suffer. Support them with spelling aids such as a "spelling mat" to lean on, with key words provided in alphabetical lists: "Have a go, unless it's on the mat. In which case, copy it."

By Year 5, when spelling problems have become embedded and difficult to eradicate, provide hand-held electronic spellcheckers. Since spellcheckers are available on computers, worrying about spelling (as opposed to composition) beyond Year 5 seems pointless - except for homophones. We should concentrate on homophones much more.

* Please email questions to or write to TES Extra for Special Needs, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London ElW lBX.

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