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Spelling Mastery: A Simple NQT Guide on Year 1 to 6 Spelling.

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Spelling is a large and vast subject. Unsure where to start with your class? Keep reading our guide that matches the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum.

Table of Contents

Spelling Mastery

When do pupils learn how to spell?

Technically, pupils start learning how to spell as soon as they start encountering words. However, when students begin primary school, they will start to learn the basics. Starting in reception where they will be able to explore the alphabet, as well as books, videos etc.

There are many ways young pupils are introduced to spelling, whether it is through interactive games, in-classroom activities or at-home –  spelling is an everyday habit pupils will have to get into if they want to master spelling.

spelling mastery

Why is spelling important?

Spelling is more than important, it’s a skill that is essential for human understanding. Without basic spelling knowledge, students may find it hard to read and write. Thus, causing problems later on in life. Knowing how to spell will allow future opportunities that could help students’ careers. 

Additionally, in higher education, exam marks could be deducted from pupils’ overall grades due to answers containing spelling mistakes. Therefore, it is important to prioritise spelling as well as other subjects.

Who teaches spelling?

Learning to spell is an everyday job. Students will come across writing, almost, everywhere. Students will get taught spelling by their teachers, teacher assistants, parents, grandparents, youth workers – the list goes on.  

Teachers will help students to learn how to spell by giving them daily activities that engage them with their weekly spelling lists. At home, parents might use magazines, books as well as shopping lists. Throughout their education, students will be encouraged to spell words out to make sure they fully understand words. 

Reception Spelling Mastery

Introduction to spelling. Students in reception will not dive too deep into the world of spelling. However, they will “dabble” in subjects such as listening to stories, learning the alphabet, and getting to know how each letter sounds.

How to support Reception with their spelling:

  • Reading stories
  • Reading stories together is a great way to talk about the meaning of different words and how they are used in sentences. You could ask students what each word means, and help them to pronounce it properly. 
  • Explaining words
  • Learning the context of each word that students come across is a great way to get them into the habit of looking over their work. Additionally, it will teach them to be observant. 
  • Learning the sounds vowels make. 

This will come naturally in speech whilst discussing stories or things they have learnt. Pupils will also be introduced to the ABC Song and the Vowel Song, which is always a fun experience for them. 

Year 1 Spelling Mastery

Think of a house, and the steps you must take to build it. First, you need your foundation, this keeps the house steady and firm, in place. Additionally, it also helps you to be able to expand! This is similar to learning how to spell. Pupils need to know the basics, and from there they can expand their knowledge. 

teacher workload

What Year 1 focuses on:

By the end of Year 1, pupils are expected to be able to read many words, whether they have seen them before or not –  according to the National Curriculum.

But how do teachers achieve this? They focus on the following:

  • Sound groups such as:: ‘ow’ and ‘oe’, ‘ue’, ‘ew’, ‘ie’, ‘igh’ etc.
  • Spelling patterns
  • Tricky Words
  • Split digraphs

How Year 1 Spelling is taught:

In Year 1, pupils will be introduced to spelling lists or mats. These serve a purpose! The goal is to help pupils familiarise themselves with words they will need to know how to spell. By giving young pupils weekly spelling lists, you are increasing their chances of becoming better writers. However, pupils don’t just look and copy these lists, they must interact with them. Whether that may be in classroom activities/lessons or at home. 

Year 2 Spelling Mastery

In Year 2, pupils will take a step-up and explore phonics and spelling in more detail. Going back to our “house” metaphor with regard to spelling, you could say that in Year 2, we are placing the first bricks and setting a foundation.

What Year 2 focuses on:

As well as revising what they have previously learnt in Year 1, they will also learn new terminology and methods that will help them understand spelling even more. Year 2 will focus on the following to boost their spelling:

  • Segments
  • Homophones
  • Common exception words
  • Contractions
  • Apostrophe 
  • Suffixes

How Year 2 spelling is taught:

In year 2, pupils will engage in activities that will help them practise their spelling as well as their handwriting and pronunciation. Pupils will also have spelling lists to practise in the classroom and at home, they will be encouraged to look at these lists every day to ensure maximum retention. 

For more on Year 2 Spelling Mastery, click here

Year 3 Spelling Mastery

With our foundation, and the first layer of bricks set up, it is time to keep building pupils’ spelling. Year 3 prepare pupils to enter KS2. Interestingly enough, Year 3 and 4 share the same statutory requirements according to England’s National Curriculum. This means that gathering resources is much easier, as well as reducing teacher and pupil workload. 

What Year 3 focuses on:

These are some topics Year 3 pupils will look at:

  • Suffixes
  • Prefixes
  • Possessive apostrophes
  • Homophones
  • Introduction to the dictionary
  • Words that are often misspelt

How Year 3 Spelling is taught:

Now that pupils are more confident with their spelling, it is time to introduce new ways to identify and make words. Teachers will prepare worksheets and activities that are highly engaging, as well as perform assessments to identify their pupil’s level and areas they may need support in. 

For a more in-depth look at Year 3 spelling, click here

Year 4 Spelling Mastery

As mentioned above, Years 3 and 4 share the same statutory requirements and lists on the National Curriculum. This makes things easier to split up into two years –  meaning teachers won’t be overloaded with work, and pupils won’t be overwhelmed with material.

What Year 4 focuses on:

Moving up a level, pupils will have to learn more terminology that will aid them during their spelling journey. Here are a few things they focus on:

  • More homophones
  • High-frequency words
  • Words that are often misspelt
  • More suffixes
  • More prefixes
  • Checking to spell in dictionaries 
year 6 spelling

How Year 4 Spelling is taught:

In Year4, pupils begin to include a more in-depth approach to spelling. They are encouraged to double read sentences, check their work and check for spelling mistakes using a dictionary.

Students will also have spelling lists to focus on, which, as always, can be done in the classroom or at home. 

Year 5 Spelling Mastery

Let’s go back to our house metaphor, by this point we should be building our second floor, and setting up our ceiling for the roof. In Year 5, pupils will be revising EVERYTHING they have previously learned in other years, as well as moving up a level in subjects they were practising in Year 3 & 4.

  • Pupils will also be introduced to new content that they will carry on into Year 6.

What Year 5 focuses on:

Besides revising subjects and topics from past years, pupils will also have to create new habits that will help them along their education and spelling journey.

  • More suffixes
  • More prefixes
  • Spelling words with silent letters
  • More homophones and confusing words
  • Introduction morphology
  • Introduction to the thesaurus

How Year 5 Spelling is taught:

Much like the pupils in KS1, Year5’s will also get spelling lists with at least 10-20 words to learn weekly. Exactly like Year 3 &4, Year 5 pupils share the same statutory requirements and spelling lists as Year 6 students. This means that students have at least two years to soak up new content and fully understand it. 

More on Year 5 Spelling

Year 6 Spelling Mastery

Finally, we have reached our roof. As pupils come to the end of their spelling journey, many might realise that it doesn’t stop there.

That’s the thing about houses, you can expand them and the more you look after it, the stronger they will be. This is the same for spelling! As pupils come to the end of their primary school spelling journey, many will realise that spelling doesn’t stop there. 

Year 6 students will prepare for SATs and revisit EVERYTHING they have learned during their time at primary school. Year 6 pupils should have also get into the habit of checking their work and spelling by using a dictionary or a thesaurus.

What Year 6 focuses on:

It is important to note, that we should not overwhelm Year 6 pupils with work, but to get them more excited about their progress and new beginnings. Celebrating achievements boosts morale and self-esteem, allowing young pupils to enter high school with a confident mentality.

Here are a few things Year 6 focus on before they move on to high school:

  • Suffixes
  • Prefixes
  • Spelling words with silent letters
  • More homophones 
  • Morphology and etymology
  • Using a thesaurus

How Year 6 Spelling is taught:

In Year 6, pupils are encouraged to do a lot of independent learning. This will teach them how to prioritise their work and also stick to a schedule.

Pupils will also have spelling lists and homework which they are expected to complete to identify any areas pupils might require support in. 

Year 6 Spelling Blog

Dyslexia & Spelling Mastery

In the UK, 6.3 million people have dyslexia, that’s 10% of the British population. 

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves the difficulty of reading due to problems with identifying sounds and also decoding words. 

Studies have found that people who have dyslexia can often have visual difficulties as well as getting overstimulated and overwhelmed. 

Pupils with dyslexia are neurodiverse. Neurodiversity is a term that refers to all specific learning difficulties. 

Diagnosing dyslexia is done by a certified professional assessor. In UK primary schools, there are sometimes teachers who are specialists in dyslexia as well as educational psychologists.

Parents are also encouraged to communicate with the school if they believe their child might be struggling with dyslexia for proper support and diagnosis to be carried out.

It is important to diagnose students early for them to receive the support they rightfully deserve.

How to support dyslexic pupils?

There are many ways we can help students who struggle with dyslexia, and one of those things is being patient and validating pupils’ experiences. 

Learning how to spell can sometimes be overwhelming, therefore setting up a plan is a great way to start. 

By setting up a learning plan, we can create happy and confident learners. Additionally, helping pupils to find healthy coping mechanisms can make them have a sense of pride and self-worth.

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