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Spelling at Whiteheath Junior School


Learning how to spell is important. Children must be taught how to spell correctly; however, there is still debate among parents, educators, and the public as well as ongoing research as to how spelling should be taught in schools.


The teaching of spelling has historically been based upon the belief that English spelling is highly irregular and students do not use (or can’t use) prior knowledge of previously-learned words to help spell new words. As a result of these beliefs, spelling instruction in most classrooms was based on rote memorisation of a list of words. Based on this view of an irregular spelling system and rote learning, most teachers and researchers relied on memorisation of spelling words.

Midway through the last century, spelling research showed that English spelling was more predictable and rule-based than first thought. Research in 1966 found that 84% of spellings were indeed predictable. Because of this research, teachers began to choose lists of spelling words based on common spelling rules, but they continued to use the memorisation of the rules and the words.


During this time and still today, mastery of the words was typically measured through an isolated weekly spelling test. The success of this approach has been mixed because children usually learned to spell the words correctly for the tests but failed to retain the information if they were tested some weeks later. Children were also not able to retain the correct spelling for written work.


Newer research, has shown that spelling is not an exclusive process of rote learning. Research has shown that “Learning to spell is a complex, intricate cognitive and linguistic process rather than one of rote memorisation” The latest research supports the view that spelling related to language, reading, and writing and that learning to spell and learning to read rely on much of the same underlying knowledge— the relationships between letters and sounds…phonics.

With this in mind, we have decided to follow a programme of study that allows children to use their understanding of phonics to develop their spelling skills.


Sounds & Syllables is a spelling programme that ditches the nonsense and teaches all children in a simple but logical way how English spelling actually works. It has been designed with three simple, principles in mind: that it is universal, simple and logical.



First, it works with children across the primary age range (and beyond) from EYFS through to Year 6. It works with spellers of all abilities, from those who are just starting out on their spelling journey to those who are confident, sophisticated spellers. Second, the Sounds & Syllables spelling approach helps children to spell any word in the English Language from hip to hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.



Because the Sounds & Syllables approach works with all children of all abilities to spell any word, it’s an approach that only needs to be learned once and pays back in improved spelling for years to come.  And because the Sounds & Syllables is so simple to learn and apply, children use it where they need it most – at the point of writing.



Sounds & Syllables teaches children how English spelling actually works. This unlocks the logic of English spelling (it is not a chaotic mess with countless rules and countless exceptions) and shows children how a few simple principles can improve their spelling.


The founding concept behind spelling in Sounds & Syllables is the understanding that every word in the English language, from the simplest to the most complex are constructed in the exactly the same way. Each word is a collection of spellings, each of which represents a speech sound. And these sound-spelling matches are clustered into syllables. It is from this founding concept that the logic of English spelling unfolds. When, for example, spelling the word keeve, (a vat using in the brewing or bleaching process), a speller must select a spelling for each speech sound /k/, /ee/ and /v/. But is not simply a case of matching a spelling to each sound, children need to match the correct spelling to each sound. And Sounds & Syllables helps children to understand English orthography, the set of conventions for writing a language of which spelling is a key component.


But English spelling is not just phonemic (spellings represent sounds), it is morphonemic; the meaning of words and word parts, the study of which we call morphology, also affects spellings. And Sounds & Syllables teaches children the spelling of common morphemes – prefixes, suffixes and roots – helping children to understand why, for example, the penultimate spellings of the same sound in circus and famous are different (the former ends with the suffix <us> meaning ‘one’ and the latter the suffix <ous> denoting an adjective). And Sounds & Syllables teaches children the conventions for combining these morphemes.


Below you can look at how our new spelling system will work so that you can support your children at home.