Spelling is a core aspect of literacy and at St. Joseph’s we are committed to ensure all students become competent spellers.
In our Prep, Year 1 and Year 2 classes we use Multisensory Structured Language
for the teaching of spelling. MSL aims to use two or more of the senses, auditory (hearing), visual (seeing) and kinaesthetic (movement), when teaching literacy to form stronger neural pathways in the brain. For example; when learning to write the letter ‘d’ we get the students to write the letter (kinaesthetic), say the sound the letter makes (auditory) and watch the letter being formed (visual). It is a science-based approach to teaching common spelling rules and patterns that is explicit, systematic and sequential.
In the classroom, concepts are taught in a straightforward manner using a cumulative approach. This means that each new concept builds upon the concepts that have already been taught. All students learn the simplest, most common concepts first in order to build a foundation and then gradually tackle the more complex features. Only 10% of the English Language is made up of irregular words and the other 90% are words that follow spelling rules and patterns. It is important to use the correct language, even in Prep, such as ‘consonants’ and ‘vowels’ as well as ‘closed syllables’ and ‘open syllables’ to explain each concept. Students learn the difference between words that can be sounded out using a spelling rule or pattern and words that do not follow a spelling rule.
The students in Years 3 and 4 participate in a Spelling Program called Spelling Mastery
. This complements the spelling approach used in the Junior school, where we continue to explicitly teach spelling skills. Spelling Mastery builds dependable spelling skills for students through a highly structured direct instruction method that blends the following approaches:
- Phonemic approach - Helps spellers learn the relationships between spoken sounds and written letters and then apply them to spelling.
- Morphemic approach - Exposes spellers to prefixes, bases, and suffixes.
- Whole-word approach - Gives spellers at all levels the meaning and root of a word and shows how the word's spelling is influenced.
Spelling Mastery interweaves these three approaches to teach the spelling skills students need to become proficient readers and writers. Instruction is provided in scaffolded steps to help students finish each concept before a new one is presented. Each week students participate in four Spelling Mastery sessions.
In Years 5 and 6 students continue to work on developing their word knowledge with a strong focus on morphology and etymology. Students who have an understanding of morphology have a stronger base on which to build their reading, vocabulary and comprehension skills. Knowledge of morphemes can enable students to spell more complex words. The students continue to learn more sophisticated spelling patterns, different syllable types and multi-syllable words. They learn how adding prefixes and suffixes can alter a word’s meaning. In the senior levels students learn how the spelling of some words relates to their history or origins e.g. words with ‘ph’ tend to be Greek in origin (phone, philosophy).