Look, say, cover, write, check

14th November 1997 at 00:00
SCHOLASTIC LITERACY SKILLS: Spelling. Key Stage 2 Pupil's Books: 1 (age 7-8), 2 (age 8-9), 3 (age 9-l0), 4 (age l0-11). Packs of 6 books Pounds 19.99. Teacher's Notes and Copymasters Pounds 19.99. Scholastic.

Sue Palmer recommends a cheerful spelling scheme imported from Australia

If an infinite number of spelling experts had spent the past 20 years at an infinite number of word processors, one of them might have come up with the same framework for teaching spelling as the National Literacy Project. Unfortunately for the primary teachers in England, none of them did. Scholastic's latest spelling course, like everything else on the market for key stage 2, doesn't match the prescription for teaching provided in the NLP framework.

Until the framework is finalised and publishers put together courses based on it, schools looking for spelling materials have two choices. They can try to follow the framework exactly, relying on time-consuming techniques of picking and choosing, mixing and matching, from various published materials (techniques which actually make nonsense of the authors' carefully structured work). Or they can use their professional judgement - check that a commercial course covers the content required by the framework and that its overall philosophy accords with that of the National Literacy Project, and then follow that author's term-by-term structure instead.

For schools deciding to take the latter course, Scholastic's key stage 2 Spelling looks a pretty good bet. The series is an import from Australia, where literacy skills have long been addressed in a sensible fashion, rejigged for the British market by Norma Mudd, whose work on spelling combines academic rigour with practical, classroom-based common sense.

Coverage of spelling points is thorough - I couldn't find any NLP topics which aren't covered at some point. It starts from a lower baseline of pupil knowledge than the NLP framework for Year 3, but most teachers would probably agree this is a bonus. Above all, it uses the NLP's Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check method of teaching spelling, including plenty of attention to syllabification and the sounds of words rather than the visual strategies of many spelling courses.

It is also a cheap and relatively cheerful way of approaching spelling. The two-colour pupil's books each cover a year's spelling work and are reusable. The activities are loosely based on themes such as "Food" and "Festivals", with six units of work per theme followed by a revision exercise.

The best part of the whole course is the teacher's book. As well as sound advice on teaching and correcting spelling, useful lists of phonemes and key spelling words, it contains about 175 photocopiable worksheets, with extra practice of all the major spelling sticking points. Whether a school decides to take on the rest of Scholastic's structured course or not, this particular book would be an asset to any key stage 2 teacher trying to ensure coverage of NLP "Word Level" work.

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