Category Archives: teaching strategies

English spelling has five kinds of logic

This Wednesday at 6pm AEST I’m presenting Learning Difficulties Australia’s free Weekly Wednesday Webinar (yikes, but I’m back on LDA’s Council so thought I’d better contribute. Also, here in Melbourne we’re going into Stage 4 lockdown, our Jacinda The Warrior Princess hammers ready to smash the virus, so I don’t have an awful lot else on).

Here’s a bit of a preview, to help you decide whether to attend live and ask me Hard Questions in the chat (register here) , or perhaps watch it later on Youtube.

The title of the webinar is “English spelling has five kinds of logic”, and I’m hoping it helps teachers and parents better understand and explain our superficially bizarre spelling system. Much of what I’ll say won’t be news to LDAers or other experts, but I hope they find some useful ideas, angles and resources, and maybe a few laughs, and will want to send the link to others. Continue reading

Phonics and morphology go together

Years ago I gave a talk about spelling for Learning Difficulties Australia, focussing on how phonemes (speech sounds) are represented by graphemes (the spellings of these sounds).

At question time, someone asked me whether morphemes matter for spelling. Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in language. Short words (e.g. cat, red, help) often contain only one morpheme, but longer words (e.g. catflap, reddish, unhelpfulness) usually contain more than one meaningful part (e.g. cat + flap, red + ish, un + help + ful + ness). Continue reading

Teaching vowel spellings with a moveable alphabet

Late last year we made some videos with the help of a couple of amazing kids. Heroic Harrison, then aged four, has already starred in a couple of blog posts about early literacy apps and Embedded Picture Mnemonics.

His sister Amazing Amelie, then aged seven, here helps me demonstrate an approach I use to teach about vowel spellings with the Spelfabet moveable alphabet. Sorry it’s taken me so long to put this video up, was already snowed under before we had to switch to online therapy.

You don’t have to use my download-and-print moveable alphabet for this activity if you have a similar one, including an online one, or prefer to make your own. You can also devise your own teaching sequences, or try my Level 3 sequences. If getting anything from my shop before 30 June 2020, don’t forget to use the COVID-19 coupon code to get 30% off.

Thanks to Amelie for her amazing help, and to Caitlin Stephenson for organising this.

More phonics playing cards

We have a new set of download-and-print decks of phonics playing cards, this time targeting more advanced spelling patterns. The cards are still child-sized (5 X 6.5cm) with words facing both up and down, making them easy to read from either side of a table.

The first few decks each target one sound (phoneme) spelt multiple ways:

Continue reading

New moveable alphabet word sequences

I’ve just written 30 pages of new word sequences/word chains for learners to build using my moveable alphabet. These cover the sound-spelling relationships that lend themselves to this type of word-building from my Workbook 3.

They cost $1.40 now everything in the Spelfabet shop is 30% off (use the COVID-19 coupon code. Sorry I can’t make everything free).

Sequences/word chains like these build phonemic awareness and sound-spelling knowledge, and are especially useful with kids who find handwriting difficult. They are hard to make up on the fly without tripping over words that don’t follow the pattern you’re trying to target.

First you make a word using the moveable alphabet, read it aloud, and then ask your learner to change it into a different word. They must consider the identity, order and number of sounds in the words, work out how and where the words differ, and make the relevant spelling change.

Having ready-made sequences allows you to present this activity at a fast pace, get through a lot of words in a short time, and not inadvertently confuse anyone with too many patterns at once.

Many of the readers of this blog probably already use the earlier, free sequences, so these ones probably don’t need lots of further explanation. I’ll just put a snippet here of what they look like, to give you the idea:

If you are getting them, don’t forget to put in the code “COVID-19” to get the 30% discount.

These sequences took me absolutely ages to make, so I hope you like them, and please send me any feedback you have on them. Stay well!

30% discount on all Spelfabet materials

As part of the sector-wide effort to help parents teach their children at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, all phonemic awareness and phonics resources in the Spelfabet online shop are now 30% off.

These materials are digital downloads, so you don’t need to leave home to get them.  You just need a computer, internet, printer and paper/light card, plus a laminator is useful for some items. There’s lots of information in the shop about each item, usually including a video link.

Type “COVID-19” in the “Coupon” field at the online checkout to get the discount. This coupon will be valid till June 30th 2020. Sorry it’s not indefinite, and not everything is free, but like most people working in small businesses, we’re a little uncertain about the future, while counting our many blessings, like homes with space, internet access, food supplies and running water.

I’ve also made a new video for the website’s home page, to help parents get their heads around how children learn to read, and quickly show them some of our resources:

COVID-19 put all of us at Spelfabet on an near-vertical telehealth learning curve, but happily our online therapy sessions have been going well, and our clients are booking in for more.

In between online sessions, this week I’ll be catching up on reading and working on the website: refreshing information, adding more playing cards and videos, and otherwise trying to make the site as useful as possible throughout this difficult time.

If you have any suggestions of ways to make the Spelfabet site more useful to you, I’d be very happy to hear them.

Stay well and keep being a soapy hero!

Arrowsmith: the triumph of marketing over science

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young is back touring Australia, promoting her controversial Arrowsmith program to parents and teachers of children with learning difficulties.

Oxford Psychology Professor and all-round legend Dorothy Bishop succinctly summarised  informed professional thought on this program a couple of years ago in this tweet:

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young got famous by writing a book called The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. But as Macquarie University Professor Anne Castles has pointed out, we all change our brains every day. It’s called learning. Continue reading