Students who experience difficulties with spelling may struggle to accurately represent all the precise sounds within words, confuse the sequence of letters, have difficulty retaining learnt spelling patterns over the long term, and have problems transferring this knowledge to their writing. They often use inefficient visual strategies, such as relying on visual memory to recall spellings, and this often results in incorrectly sequenced or missing letters. Just like reading, improving spelling is not something that “just happens”.

It is important that any literacy intervention undertaken focuses on the development of both reading and spelling skills.

A structured, systematic, and intensive program is needed, focussing on the acquisition of skills in six core areas.

Phonological Awareness - Students need to be able to hear and break up sentences into words, words into syllables and syllables into individual speech sounds. 

Phonics - Students need to develop an understanding that English speech sounds (phonemes) are represented by one or more letters (graphemes) and that when we spell, we chose the most likely representation (the Alphabetic Principle).

Spelling conventions and patterns - Students need to learn rules about letter combinations, letter sequences, the use of certain letters and how the position of a sound in a word relates to the spelling pattern.

Metacognitive and memory skills - Students need direct teaching of problem solving strategies and memory "tricks" to remember irregular words.

Grammar (Morphology and Syntax) - Spelling instruction should also develop a student's understanding that we write (and read) words as a combination of meaningful parts (morphemes) and these can include suffixes (grammatical function) to change tense, degree or number and prefixes (semantic function) to change meaning.

Semantic Knowledge (Morphemic) - Students need to learn that many words contain the same letter sequence or spelling pattern (word families), that many words are built up from a base word (particularly Latin and Greek) and that understanding the meaning of the word assists with spelling homophones.

There are a number of resources available to assist with spelling instruction and intervention.

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