How do you spell the word ‘fish’? I bet you are wondering why I’ve asked su ch a simple question aren’t you? I bet that some of you are scratching your heads at my question whilst internally saying: ‘everyone knows that you spell fish like this: f-i-s-h and, we all know that ‘sh’ is a digraph of the Latin alphabet – a combination of s and h. But, what if I told you that we can also spell ‘fish’ like this: ‘ghoti’:
- The gh pronounced as ‘f’ as in enough or tough,
- The ‘o’ pronounced as the short vowel sound ‘i’ as in women,
- The ‘ti’ pronounced as we would in the ending of nation and motion.
With this unusual, creative but plausible spelling of fish as we know it we have to ask if it is any wonder why spelling accurately can be so difficult for some and the outcomes of writing a word so varied?
Although there are just twenty-six letters in the English alphabet these twenty-six letters can create approximately forty-four unique sounds that we call phonemes. These forty-four unique phonemes help us to distinguish one word from another It isn’t enough for us to know these phonemes to be good at spelling, we have to understand which graphemes represent each phoneme so that we can effectively and efficiently communicate out thoughts, wishes and ideas in a conventional sense in order for others to make meaning so that they understand our message. A simple ‘m’ can be recorded as ‘m’, ‘mm’, ‘mb’, ‘mn’, ‘lm’ as in ‘man’, ‘summer’, ‘comb’, ‘column’ and ‘palm’. We have more of a buffet of spelling choices as opposed to a set menu!
Here are some top tips that can help our children make the best possible choices from the spelling choice buffet:
- Secure the names and sounds of the twenty-six letters using multi-sensory teaching and learning opportunities.
- Treat reading and writing as reciprocal – read the words you are learning to spell and spell the words that you are learning to read.
- Provide meaningful purpose and opportunities to spell words for others to read. Look at environmental print, write and display labels.
- Focus on the parts of a word that your learner finds difficult. For example, if they spell ‘spoil’ as ‘spoyl’ focus on the fact that there is only one letter to learn. The child can already spell the majority of the word!
- Learn spelling conventions and rules.
- Explore word families.
- Play with syllables. Explore how the word sounds.
- Make mnemonics, visuals and spelling rhymes.
Written by Beccie Hawes – Head of Service at Cadmus Inclusive