Why do some children find spelling more difficult than other children, and what can we do about it?

It is natural for some children to grasp the concepts and quirks of the English language more readily than others. But, for those who haven’t grasped these the first time around, it is important to identify why before teaching goes any further.

Author of The Spelling Blog, Johanna Stirling, explores five reasons why English spelling is so difficult (one or more of which could apply to your pupils).

Firstly, she notes that “English is ‘deep’”. So, whereas Finnish, Italian and Arabic are spelled the way that the language is spoken, English is not always written as it sounds.

Secondly, Johanna describes the English language as “a mixing bowl” due to the fact that England has been ‘invaded’ several times by different groups of people, each of which has influenced the language in one way or another.

Another reason why English spelling is difficult is because throughout the years we have taken words from other languages without changing their spelling to reflect the way that we pronounce them. We pronounce ‘chef’ as ‘shef’, for example, yet the original spelling remains.

Carrying on with this notion that the spelling of English words doesn’t change to reflect the way that they are pronounced, there is also the fact that pronunciation of the English language differs, not just from (English speaking) country to country, but also from county to county.

And the final reason given for the difficulty of English spelling goes back to the 16th century when the printing press made it their job to standardise English spelling, making some decisions on how difficult words are to read in terms of the proximity of the up and down strokes. (Women instead of Wimin, for example.)

Once the reason why your pupils find it difficult to grasp the concepts and idiosyncrasies of the English language has been identified, it is then possible to identify the exact areas where they require spelling support.

Topical Resources has developed an extensive range of spelling resources for primary school teachers, including the Spelling Practice Activity Books: Spelling Practice Activity Books for key stage one and Spelling Practice Activity Books for key stage two.

The activity books have been designed to support pupils in gaining a comprehensive understanding of how different words are formed, which will in turn improve your pupils’ attainment in spelling.

As always, you can order any of our resources in the following ways:

You can find The Spelling Blog’s article, “Five reasons why English spelling is difficult”, here.

Published by Topical Resources on Friday, November 20, 2015 in Topical Resources Blog

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