Helping your child with spelling

Use a spelling record

This involves you, your child and/or your child's teacher choosing approximately five words to learn to spell. The words should be the same length, have the same number of syllables and have similar patterns to other words your child can spell. If your child wants to learn to spell a longer word, be encouraging. Each school has a preferred method for learning to spell, which will be explained to you by your child's teacher. Your child's school may provide you with a spelling record. Ask if you're not sure.

Alternatively, you can print out a spelling record (PDF). Sit with your child and list the five words on the record but do not show it to your child.

  • Say each word to your child asking them to write it down on a separate piece of paper.
  • Ask your child to check the spelling against the words written on the spelling record sheet.
  • Praise your child for each correct word and ask them to write the date in the first column.
  • For each incorrect word, ask your child to point out the parts that are correct and also the parts they will need to remember. Avoid referring to these as wrong and pointing them out, as children will do this themselves. Leave the first column blank.
  • Ask your child to use one of these ideas for learning new words.

Go through this same process the next time you and your child sit down to practice spelling. Once all five spellings have three dates next to them on the spelling record, choose five more words or ask your child to share the record with a teacher who can add new spellings to be learnt.

Ideas for learning how to spell words

1. Look, cover, write, check, look

Write the word clearly at the top of a piece of paper. Ask your child to:

  • Look at the word, say it and then spell it, using the letter names or sounds (follow your child's school's preferred method). Ask your child to close their eyes and spell the word. Then ask them to open their eyes and check the spelling. If it's not the same, repeat the exercise.
  • Cover - fold the top of the piece of paper over so the word is hidden.
  • Write - ask your child to write the word from memory and then check that each word can be read, that the 'i's have been dotted, the 't's crossed and the 'o's closed.
  • Check - uncover the word and ask your child to check if the spelling is right and if not, which bits are right.
  • Look - look at the top word again.

Carry on with these steps until your child has written the word correctly three times.

2. Tracing

Write the word in large joined up writing on a piece of paper. Ask your child to trace over the word and at the same time saying each letter name or sound in the word. Then ask your child to write the word twice without looking at the word.

3. Saying the letters/sounds aloud

Ask your child to write the word twice whilst saying the letters or sounds in it. Then ask them to do this again but without looking at the word. If you can easily spell a word by saying the letter sounds easily, you can encourage your child to sound the word when spelling it. Many three-letter words can be sounded out. Use the pure sound  - c/a/t – rather than cuh-a-tuh, which can confuse a child. To help your child with hard-to-remember spellings, devise ways to help. Ask your child's teacher for guidance, ideas and any spelling rules or games that will work with the school's preferred method of teaching.

4. Reading and writing

Reading helps children to spell better. See 'helping your child to read' for some useful tips.

Legible handwriting with the right letter formation helps children to spell better. If your child's handwriting skills need improving, ask your child's teacher for advice.