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03 September 2018

Learning to Spell with AIS

Published by Rachel Bennett
Renovation-and-refit-projects

The English language is one of the most widely spoken and written languages in the world, but for young children who are learning to spell it can be challenging to navigate the complex minefield of silent letters, rules and anomalies. As adults, we all remember learning to spell at school – memorising word formations in preparation for the dreaded Friday afternoon spelling test. “I before E except after C” was drilled into us, along with many other baffling rules that still make little sense to us.

At the Australian International School, we take a more collaborative approach to spelling, by evaluating each child’s individual learning style and providing differentiated teaching methods to ensure they learn in a way that is best suited to them. Our Assistant Head of Elementary School  – Amy Paul, talks us through the spelling teaching methods used in our classrooms…

Tailored learning to meet the needs of every child

Spelling is taught in stages and each child works through these stages at a different pace. Becoming a competent speller takes time and it’s important that we don’t place too much expectation on children to reach certain milestones at certain ages. At AIS we understand that every child is unique, which is why we assess all of our students individually to determine their competency, and we tailor spelling exercises that are appropriate to their skill level.

In the early stages of learning to spell, we focus on phonics and mastering the different sounds of the English language. There are 44 different sounds in the English language and it can take time to become familiar with all of them, particularly for those students who are transitioning from a non-English speaking environment. Children are encouraged to repeat what they hear, and we use songs and rhymes to build phonemic awareness.

Once the phonics have been mastered, we move on to looking at how letters and sounds can be combined to make words. Using their knowledge of phonics, we break words down into sounds, prompting children to identify the sounds they hear at the beginning, middle and end of a word.  We encourage them to look for patterns and identify combinations of letters that make one sound (e.g. ch, sh, all, ate, tion.) and to sort and categorise individual words based on the letter and sound patterns they observe.

An inquiry-based approach to build confidence and curiosity

The AIS Elementary School curriculum follows the framework of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP) which encourages inquiry and student-led thinking. We apply these principals when teaching spelling, by encouraging children to ‘have a go’ at spelling unknown words and exploring alternatives rather than pointing out errors when they get it wrong. This builds confidence and ensures children do not develop a fear of making mistakes.

We avoid teaching rules when it comes to spelling – we understand that children need explicit instruction in some instances, but we always try and balance this with an authentic application of the skills learnt. Children are given the opportunity to sort words according to their own observations, and they are encouraged to discuss the patterns they have identified with their teachers and fellow students. We develop children’s curiosity by talking about new words and their meaning, leading to discussions on how these words might be spelled.

Developing spelling skills at home

There are many ways that parents can support children with their spellings at home, and none of these involve spelling tests! Spelling and reading go hand in hand, so it’s important to read with your child regularly at home and discuss words you notice that have the same patterns. Use old newspapers and magazines for word finding games, for example highlighting every word that ends with ‘ing’ or starts with ‘ph’. It’s also helpful to keep a dictionary in the house, or make use of an online dictionary to confirm the spelling or definition of unknown words.

Word games such as Boggle, Scrabble and Hangman can be great for developing vocabulary and spelling skills – try building these into your family nights as a way of having fun together and learning along the way. Another fun way to teach spelling is through the use of letter fridge magnets, which can be picked up in almost any toy store. Form a word with the magnets, then either take some letters out or scramble them around and ask your child to unscramble it. 

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Australian International School, Singapore

The Australian International School is the only southern-hemisphere school in Singapore that offers an Australian curriculum-based global education for students from the age of 2 months to 18 years.

This truly international education begins with the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) from Preschool to Year 5, Australia Curriculum for Years 6 to 8, Cambridge IGCSE in Years 9 and 10, and the Higher School Certificate (HSC) or International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP) for Years 11 and 12.

Australian International School has a vision to be known internationally as an institution which represents educational excellence in all aspects of its operation. Our school philosophy commits us fully to the notion of a holistic, rounded education, which cherishes the arts and sports as well as academics as essential dimensions of each student’s education. We are equally committed to teaching our students to have a moral commitment to making our world a better place as reflective, caring, knowledgeable and principled people. At AIS, each child is special, each is important.

Where to find us

AIS on the map of Singapore

Contact

1 Lorong Chuan Singapore 556 818
Tel: +65 6653 2958 (admissions)
Tel: +65 6664 8127 (general enquiries)
E: admissions@ais.com.sg