10 evidence-based strategies for teaching spelling

Last updated: 15/11/2023
10 evidence-based strategies for teaching spelling
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Drawing on a wide range of educational research from the last 15 years, this summary of ten evidence-based spelling strategies is designed for KS3 and KS4 English teachers to help you identify a range of approaches to try with your learners.

From exploring the etymology of words to make spellings more memorable to visualisation strategies and informal spelling tests, this downloadable guide combines leading research studies with National Curriculum guidance.   

For more support with spelling and other SPaG skills, along with lesson resources, games and printable activities, you might also like our Mastering spelling, punctuation and grammar teaching pack (which this resource has been adapted from).  

Example spelling strategies from the resource: 

Learning to learn. Research suggests that ‘learning how to learn words’ (Westwood, 2015) is critical to spelling acquisition, and there are a number of strategies we can explore with students by focusing on a word’s syllables and sounds, its auditory sequencing (phonetic strategy), and understanding the different parts of the word (morphemic strategy).  

Spelling tests can make a difference. Assessment is ‘an essential aspect’ of the teaching of spelling (Westwood, 2015). Differentiated spelling tests and lists can help with spelling skills, although the evidence is primarily for short-term gains with younger students. Try to keep any spelling tests as informal and unthreatening as possible, and remember that rote learning, repetition and practice simply don’t work for all students so mix things up with spelling games and informal assessment activities.

Be student-led. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) recommends that diagnostic assessment of students’ spelling skills should focus on the spellings that students are finding difficult (2017), rather than generic word lists, so ask students to share their own challenging spellings as your starting point. 


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