Tricky Long Vowel Phonemes

Vowel diagraphs or long vowel phonemes can get quite tricky for some students (beep, cloak, bread). The idea that two vowels, when combined, can make a different sound can be a confusing concept.Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 9.45.23 am

This concept can be particularly confusing for students who haven’t quite grasped the concept of CVC words (pin, hat, bat) and are moved on too quickly. As Sylvia Edwards says, “If we want children to generalize their skills and to use them in other contexts, then those skills need to be thoroughly mastered.” She also specifically states that if a child is struggling to spell at CVC level (hat, pin, rub), we should try to secure these before teaching the long vowel sounds (beep, spoil, cloak). This of course can be a great challenge for teachers with large classes and with students at varying levels.

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When students are ready to learn about long vowel phonemes, Edwards suggests this be made as interesting and motivating as possible. I have found some motivating ideas that you can find on my Pinterest Spelling Board and of course the long vowel phonemes feature on my website! I love students discovering long phoneme patterns through stories and then putting those words into practice; you can read how I do this on the Teachers Page.
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I hope you find some of the stories and activities useful and please contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Kids love personalised books. Who wouldn’t?

I’ve been thinking a lot about books lately mainly because I read about 20 a day to my son and he is starting to make particular requests (demands!). Some of his favourites seem like odd choices to me, which has got me thinking about my own favourites from childhood. ‘Bed time for Francis’ and ‘Ping’ are two that spring to mind.

My all time favourite story was one my sister Penny would read to me as she tucked me in (she was 8 years older than me). It was a story about a girl called Kelly Rooster who drew texta all over herself and then got in big trouble. The story was funny (always funny when someone else is getting in trouble) but most importantly, it was a story created just for me.

Penny also wrote me a story about my teddy bear (he was named the Red Dobber because I earned the money to buy him by putting red marks on all the sheep after they were dipped). Penny hand wrote the story and made a cover out of cardboard (it was the early 80s). As you can still see, I still have it and it is one of my treasures.


The book my sister made just for me!


What child wouldn’t love a book about them and their teddy bear? This has inspired me to start making photo books for my son with him as the star. Of course, he shows everyone proudly. It is so easy. You just need photos and cardboard; you can get them laminated and bound which is pretty inexpensive, considering the mileage you’ll get out of the book!

I’d love to hear any other ideas you have about personalised books for kids.

Use it or lose it

practice spelling by using words in context and not spelling lists

I have never been a fan of getting kids to learn lists of spelling words (especially when those lists are just random words with no apparent patterns). I think it’s far more important to teach children to become spelling detectives and to be more analytical about words.

As a child, I found spelling difficult but I was very good at ‘spelling tests’ because I was conscientious enough to go home and rote learn the words. However, after a few days, I often couldn’t remember how to spell them in context. 

Using words in context is the premise behind my Task 3 ‘Write Your Own Story’ activity. As Sylvia Edwards says “children can not be expected to learn the tricky words from spelling lists and to retain them unless they have plenty of opportunity for using them in their writing”. Edwards uses the cliché ‘use it or lose it’ and from years of teaching and my own personal experiences, I know that to be totally true!


‘Supporting Spelling’ is a spelling resource written by Sylvia Edwards


“Having a go”


Spelling resource called 'Supporting Spelling' has lots of spelling strategies


One of my favourite spelling books is called ‘Supporting Spelling’ by Sylvia Edwards. I like it because she clearly outlines the skills and knowledge associated with spelling and describes each learning stage in detail.

I love what Edwards says about avoiding spelling anxiety. Edwards writes that it’s important children perceive spelling as a developmental process over the course of their schooling and that those children who expect to spell perfectly from the beginning will probably be anxious. She clearly states, “Spelling work should never breed anxiety” and I couldn’t agree more. So many times I have observed students in class just stopping writing because they don’t know how to spell a word and rather than ‘having a go’ and continuing writing, they sit and wait for help. I often wonder why some children develop a fear of spelling words incorrectly even from such a young age? Do we adults convey a message (perhaps even subconsciously) that spelling words correctly the first time is more important than the creation and expression of ideas?

Edwards says to ensure children become confident in their writing, we should strongly encourage ‘having a go’ and that students who do this “almost expect to get it partly wrong in order to get it right later. It’s the consistency of ‘trying’ that eventually achieves success”.

Edwards also says that we should get rid of our idea of ‘right and wrong’ during the learning to spell process. I totally agree that the worst thing an adult can do is to correct every attempt. She used the example of a child spelling ‘magic’ as ‘machik’. While the spelling isn’t correct, the child should be congratulated for recognising all the syllables.  

The last point that I would like to write about is the importance of promoting success. Edwards says a child who considers him or herself as a failure will quickly lose motivation. I also love her point that students should only be competing against themselves and that they should measure their success on their improvement from the previous weeks or terms. They should never feel like they are being compared to other children.


Supporting Spelling by Sylvia Edwards

David Fulton Publishers UK

Introducing Spell By Patterns

This is my first Blog for Spell By Patterns and so I’d like to introduce the website and the motivation behind it.

I know from my own personal experience that having trouble with spelling as a child can have an enormous impact on self- perception as a learner. Looking back on some of my work (my mum kept lots of my stories and essays from throughout my schooling), my writing skills were actually quite good. However,  at the time, I would  have told you I was ‘bad’ at writing all because I knew I had a problem with spelling. 

I don’t know exactly why I found spelling so difficult, but I do know that it has made me passionate about teaching spelling skills and strategies to my own students because I never want a student to feel like they are ‘bad’ at writing just because they find spelling difficult. This was my main motivation for the Spell By Patterns website. 

I am very interested in empowering students by helping them recognise the different spelling patterns in English, thus enabling them make  ‘good’ spelling choices. Just understanding that a sound such as the Long A sound can be spelt with a_e, ai, a, ay, ey, or eigh, helps students to start looking for patterns and making connections. In turn, they become  more aware of spelling choices and develop analytical skills. There is nothing better than having a student rush into class in the morning telling you about a spelling pattern they noticed in their home reading or an exception to the rule they had discovered. 

Spell By Patterns is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spelling strategies but I hope your students enjoy it!