Spelling List Advice for Teachers

This is the second post looking at spelling lists generated by teachers.* This one comes from the Outwood Grange Academies Trust which has coined the phrase the "Dirty Thirty" spelling list. It includes many commonly misspelt words that come up regularly in TST workshops and Post-16 Phonics trainings.

The list as it stands is less than ideal because it includes words with suffixes but not the root words. I advise starting with the root then looking at the patterns for adding suffixes. By making those changes this list naturally grows to 38 words. The Dirty 30 rhyme disappears but it's easier to teach and more profitable for the students. There are several ways to group these words but the following works well with our principles of developing a spelling conversation around syllables, sounds, graphemes and morphemes then bundling by similar patterns.

The first goal of That Spelling Thing is to show our students how trustworthy much of the language is so I'd get the following words out of the way first. If you can say the word clearly and write each syllable, these words take care of themselves.

begin

quiet - Use a clear spelling voice for the second syllable.

until - Look at patterns for words ending <ill> and <il>.

Next look at split digraphs. These should be familiar from primary school. Make puzzles and physically split the vowel digraphs to put them around the consonant.

decide

extreme

minute (adjective) Then talk about the etymology of the noun, 'minute'.

persuade

quite

separate (verb) Then move to the adjective.

surprise

Next are words that require memory for one grapheme or common ending.

Remember the TST method: syllables - say them clearly - attach sounds to each syllable - identify the tricky bit for you.

because

believe

ceiling

definite

friend

immediate - pirate - senate - separate (adjective) - add others

nervous - famous - jealous - joyous - numerous - add others

opportunity

receive

sincere

Next are a couple of words that might require memory for more than one grapheme. Bundle then with similary words to help.

accommodation & embarrass - See Double Doubles

disappear & disappoint

necessary - Mnemonics are a strategy of last resort but 'one collar, two sleeves' helps a lot of students.

neighbour

Then add endings and note what you have to do.

Do you drop a letter?

decided

surprised

Do you add a letter? This should be a lesson in itself, comparing words where you double a final letter (begin, sit, wrap etc) and words where you don't (spend, instruct, talk etc). Sort a list with at least 10 of each and have students discuss and decide what feature seems to be determining the pattern. Let them pretend they're linguists in the field charting a new language.

beginning

Do you just add the suffix without changing the root word?

disappointed

queueing

I'm always surprised at how often words ending -ly end up on these lists. -ly is as trustworthy as they come. Just add it to the root word and don't change a thing. Do a comparison between words ending in <ly> and words ending in <ley>.

definitely

extremely

immediately

sincerely

Finally are the words that aren't straightforward. That means they require a spelling voice substantially different from their everyday pronunciation or another strategy altogether. Note that they are 3 of 38. The English code is limited and learnable.

beautiful - Foreign friend. Talk about the meaning of 'beau'

business - Add a syllable for spelling. Let students decide what they're doing to say.

queue - I don't mind if they just learn the letter names for this one word.

*The first post can be found here. 

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