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What order are spellings taught?

As a parent, you are probably used to receiving a weekly spelling list for your child to learn. When reaching into the depths of a school bag to find it, have you thought about what order your child is being given spellings in? Read on to find out!

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

Spelling begins in EYFS with phonics. Phonics is learning to use the sounds that a letter or group of letters make in order to read. This is done by blending the sounds together. For example, j-a-m makes ‘jam’. The reverse of this process, which is called segmenting, is a useful strategy for spelling.

Segmenting involves breaking up words into their sounds in order to spell. For example, the word ‘jam’ is segmented into the sounds j-a-m. Initially, children will spend plenty of time doing this orally. They will then be expected to also select the correct letters to represent the sounds they hear in a word. They may write letters or use magnetic letters to practise this.

The majority of spelling in EYFS focuses around simple words which can be spelt phonetically. By the end of the year, they should be able to spell words containing the following vowel/consonant patterns:

  1. VC e.g. it
  2. CVC e.g. map
  3. CVCC e.g. pond
  4. CCVC e.g. swim

They will also learn to spell high frequency words. Children in EYFS will come across high frequency words that cannot be spelt using phonics knowledge and words that contain sounds they haven’t come across yet. They learn these because they are essential for early reading and writing.

Key Stage 1 (KS1)

Year 1

In Year 1, children will continue to use phonics as their main spelling strategy and learn common exception words. Due to the complexities of the English language, they will learn that the sounds in spoken words can be written in lots of different ways. For example, the /ai/ sound can be written as ‘ai’ in ‘rain’ and as ‘ay’ in ‘day’. This is a step up from EYFS where children are only taught one way of writing each sound in the English language!

In addition, they will begin to learn words that follow particular patterns. These patterns are kept relatively simple. For example, when adding the suffix ‘ed’, they will only look at words where they don’t need to make any complicated changes to the root word (jump becomes jumped).

Here is a list of some of the spelling patterns covered in Year 1:

  1. Adding ‘ff’, ‘ss’, ‘zz’ and ‘ck’ e.g. off, miss, buzz and back
  2. ‘v’ sound at the end of words e.g. have
  3. Adding ‘s’ and ‘es’ to make plurals and third person singular of verbs e.g. dogs and catches
  4. Adding ‘ing’, ‘ed’ and ‘er’ e.g. hunting, jumped and buzzer
  5. Adding the prefix ‘un’ e.g. unhappy
  6. Common exception words e.g. said

For a full list, see pages 40-44 of the English programmes of study, Key Stages 1 & 2.

Year 2

As spellings become more difficult, children in Year 2 begin to move away from just using phonics as a spelling strategy. They begin to develop word-specific knowledge for words that just need to be learned. For example, common exception words and homophones (see and sea).

In addition, they also use spelling conventions. If a root word ends in an ‘e’, you would drop the ‘e’ before adding ‘ing’ (like becomes liking).

Here is a list of some of the spelling patterns covered in Year 2:

  1. Adding ‘ing’, ‘ed’, ‘er’, ‘est’ and ‘y’
  2. Adding ‘ment’, ‘ness’, ‘ful’, ‘less’ and ‘ly’ e.g. enjoyment, happiness, careful, hopeless and badly
  3. Words containing contractions e.g. can’t
  4. Words containing possessive apostrophes for singular nouns e.g. Dan’s Homophones and near homophones e.g. here/hear and one/won
  5. Common exception words e.g. because

For a full list, see pages 45-48 of the English programmes of study: key stages 1 & 2.

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