StarSpell 3 Spelling Guide - Further Phonics - Stage 4 of the Spelling Route

This Guide aims to demystify how spelling is learned. It shows smart ways to help learners, both using StarSpell and with activities away from the computer. All the practice in the Guide is based on actual classroom experience

Further Phonics - Stage 4 of the Spelling Route

What is Further Phonics?

The Spelling Route Beyond Phonics section describes what it is that learners already do and know, to qualify as having reached this stage of Further Phonics:

· They have a solid base of phonic facts, knowing all the straightforward letter-sound matches.

· In addition, they have developed good phonic skills; the word-building experiences of early phonics have enabled them to have a go at most of the words they want to write.

So, they have become 'spellers', able to encode most of the words they write; that is, through the process of Listen & Build they manage, on the whole, to represent every sound in the word.

They may still need to consolidate what they know, of course, but bearing that in mind, they are now ready to cover further ground.

In the Further Phonics stage, learners will develop in several different areas:

· They need to become acquainted with the twists and turns in the phonics story: alternative spellings and alternative pronunciations (multiple mappings).

· They need to learn about syllabification.

· Learners in this stage need Work within Words as they come to the second major turning on the road to becoming a competent speller.

· They need to refine their Look & Learn techniques, now learning that it can be effective to focus on letter strings (common sequences of letters within words), in place of whole words.

· And finally, although of course this will have begun during early phonics, learners need to become proficient in proof-reading and editing their own writings.

So here we look at each of these areas of learning.

Alternative spellings and alternative pronunciations (multiple mappings)

Let's begin with alternative spellings and alternative pronunciations.

There is no avoiding this quirk of the English spelling system; it has to be faced by all teachers and learners of spelling.

It is described in How spelling works, where it's pointed out that, largely due to the fact that English has evolved from several languages, the matches between sounds and letters are not totally consistent. (This aspect of the system is sometimes referred to as 'multiple-mapping'.) On the one hand, there are alternative spellings: some sounds can be represented by more than one letter-combination (e.g. show, chef, sure). On the other hand, there are alternative pronunciations: some letters and letter-combinations can represent more than one sound (e.g. apple, acorn; now, snow).

Now in this stage of Further Phonics, learners must grasp the nettle.

Clearly, the first unmissable step is to learn the alternative spellings and pronunciations as a body of phonic facts, using all the techniques for learning phonic facts that were used in Early Phonics. Just as in Early Phonics, this new body of phonic facts can be supported by activities, on StarSpell and away from StarSpell. Also, once again, StarSpell support comes from StarSpell's helpful structure: its lists' organisation. Finally, weave the parallel support of Look & Learn into all this Listen & Build attack.

A framework from StarSpell's organisation

The five Headings in the Phonics Lists that relate to this stage of learning cover Phases 3, 4 and 5. Their organisation and their headings do much to help you steer learners through these alternatives, while the learners themselves, too, are helped to make order out of the potential complexities.

So use that Phonics Lists structure as your framework. Alongside that framework, introduce items from the StarSpell Lists, because there you will find further lists for every letter-sound match, from which you can pick and mix a variety of complementary activities.

Use Look & Learn activities to support Listen & Build

A Look & Learn approach brings huge benefits, when put to work alongside the Listen & Build attack. For instance, a Look & Learn blitz on chef, chalet, machine and sachet helps enormously to consolidate the phonic fact of ch as sh. There is more on this below in Look & Learn in Further Phonics.


What is syllabification?

There is more about syllables in the next section, Syllables and morphemes, but here first is some explanation of their nature; and why it's useful to know about them. A syllable, informally speaking, is one 'bit' of a word; one might very well say "one beat of a word".

It's clearly a useful strategy to tackle a longer word by dealing with its smaller 'bits' one at a time, and this Further Phonics stage is where learners can begin to develop the necessary knowledge of syllables. It's very useful knowledge: without it spellers often omit chunks of a word. So learners need the skill of syllabification (also known as "syllabication"), and that involves identifying the syllables that comprise a word.

Different types of syllable

Explanations of syllables and syllabification can seem somewhat technical. It's hard to find a pupil-friendly definition! Nevertheless, it is useful for teachers of spelling to have an understanding of the topic. It's not necessary to pass on to learners all of this understanding, but it does help your teaching if you can keep it in mind. For one thing, it helps you decide just where a multi-syllabled word splits into its separate syllables.

· A syllable always has one vowel sound. That is, for every vowel sound in a word, there is a syllable.

· A syllable with a short vowel is called a closed syllable; because it's closed off on either side of the vowel by consonants (e.g. bas-ket) or consonant blends (e.g. spot spend-ing).

· A syllable with a long vowel is called an open syllable; it has no final consonant/s closing it off (e.g. ho-tel la-bel).

· There is one other type of open syllable: when a word begins with a vowel; the opening syllable comprises the vowel, pure and simple (a-corn).

· A syllable may be part of a word (e.g. pat-tern-ed three syllables); words like these are known as multi-syllabled. But of course a syllable may comprise a whole word (e.g. pat); such words are one-syllabled.

Syllables and morphemes

Syllables and morphemes: the distinction

An understanding of morphemes underpins much of Work within Words. But, before we get there, it's probably very useful to point out the differences between a syllable and a morpheme.

A syllable, informally speaking, is one "bit" of a word. A morpheme is also a bit of a word, it can also be a whole word, but unlike a syllable it has a distinct meaning: it is a "meaning-bit".

So let's list the differences between syllables and morphemes:

Syllables, first:

· A syllable belongs to the sound system. It is a unit of sound, a measure of rhythm.

· A syllable does not have to have meaning (e.g. Zeb-ra: zeb has no meaning by itself).

· A syllable always contains one single vowel sound.

· Sometimes, a syllable can be a morpheme (as ing in jump-ing), or part of a morpheme (zebra is a morpheme, single unit of meaning made up of two syllables).

Now compare those characteristics with morphemes:

· A morpheme belongs to the meaning system it is a unit of meaning.

· A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in the language.

· A morpheme added to the base word or stem morpheme changes the meaning of the base-word to which it is added (e.g. Un + do = undo; jump + ing = jumping; de + frost = defrost).

· A morpheme need not contain a vowel, so need not be a syllable (e.g. the plural -s).

However, it is important to realise that the speller's chief interest in morphemes is in those which get added to a base word in order to change its meaning

The next section: Morphemes and Working Within Words explains more about morphemes, and why they matter.

Why syllable knowledge and morpheme knowledge matter

We can see, therefore, that knowledge of syllables and knowledge of morphemes are going to help people to spell:

· Knowledge of syllables helps you to make sure you've counted-out all the bits you can hear in the spoken word.

· Knowledge of morphemes helps you understand some of the ways words behave; for instance, so-called spelling rules (e.g. baby →babies), and why some words have double letters where they do (e.g. dissatisfy).

Morphemes and Working within Words

As we've already noted, this stage of Further Phonics sees the second major leap in the journey towards a competent spelling, when learners become aware that a simple code is not the whole of the story. They need explanations to help them understand those spellings for which sound alone is not enough.

The next two sections describe the role morphemic understanding plays in supporting that growing awareness. Of course, morphemic understanding is not the whole answer, but it does go a long way. (An exploration of the origins of words complements it. This is described in Beyond Phonics.)

Morphemes or "meaning-bits"

Because a morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in the language, every word consists of at least one morpheme: for instance dog, gobble, picnic, greed. And many, many words consist of more than one morpheme. Examples of two-morpheme words would include dog + s, gobbl + ed, beef + steak, greed + y, sleep + ing. The following have three morphemes: grey + hound + s, un + pack + ed, pre + cook + ed, greed + i + ly. We can even find examples of four-morpheme words: dis + trust +ing + ly, un + friend + li +ness, un + de +cod + able. (Any advance on four, anyone?)

Two types of morpheme

The base word, which is the morpheme or meaning-bit onto which other morphemes, or meaning-bits, are strung is known as the stem. (That is, a stem is itself a morpheme.) Additional meaning-bits may be strung onto the stem, either to its beginning or its end; and these are known as affixes. Those at the stem's beginning are prefixes; those at the end are suffixes. And so, there are two types of morpheme: stems and affixes (prefixes and suffixes).

The word dog, for instance, is simply a morpheme that can be used as a stem. Add an s, and we have the word dogs, with two meaning-bits, or morphemes: the stem dog and the suffix s. Unfriendly is made up of three meaning-bits: the prefix un, the stem friend and the suffix ly.

And there we've reached an important reason as to why morphemic knowledge matters. The spot in the word at which an affix joins the stem (the junction, if you like) is very often very tricky! Junctions between stems and affixes are crucial spelling hot-spots. But their trickiness is lessened if we know about morphemes.

Morphemic knowledge clarifies spelling rules

To explain: the junction where affix and stem meet often demands special attention. Consider: when the morpheme s is added to dog, there's no problem; but when the morpheme s gets added to baby, or leaf, that's another story. Adding ly to friend is straightforward; adding ly to greedy calls for more thought. So, understanding of morphemes helps a learner to think through junctions in words, and guides decisions on points such as the double n in keenness or the double s in dissatisfaction. That is, it is useful knowledge in the whole area of affixes (prefixes and suffixes), and certainly with regard to suffixes.

Think how it helps with that constant bother, the -ed ending, so often sounding just as t or d.

In this way, the link to "spelling rules" now becomes clear. Morphemic understanding of tricky junctions gives us a handle on their simpler presentation.

Consider when to lose an e (e.g. as in div-ing), when to double (e.g. as in pot-ted) or when to replace the y with i (friendli-ness). Morphemic understanding of these tricky junctions enables us to package the majority of our spelling rules into three manageable bundles.

These three bundles are the rules governing:

· Dropping a word's final e = e-deletion

· Doubling a word's final consonant = Consonant doubling

· Replacing a final y with i = y-replacement.

For more detail, see An aside about spelling rules.

More reasons why morphemic knowledge matters

A stem never loses its first letter. This fact helps in spelling a word with a prefix. For instance, it helps learners understand the spellings of words like disobey (one s) and disservice (double s), unhappy (one n) and unneeded (double n).

Morphemic knowledge helps link up word families, and these can have a strong positive impact on spelling. For instance, the c in magician is more easily remembered if linked with magic, just as medicine is helped by a link to medical, climb to clamber, bomb to bombard, sign to signal (and design, consignment, signatory and more).

Morphemic knowledge helps a learner think through alternative spellings, spellings when one same sound is spelled differently; in clocks and box, for instance, or production and electrician (because the -cian suffix applies to people, e.g. musician, technician).

As well as helping with alternative spellings, morphemic knowledge also helps a learner think through alternative pronunciations; spellings when more than one sound is represented by the one spelling. Think of that constant bother, the -ed ending, with its three sounds of ed, t and d; or the plural s which can sound as z: hats, dogs (dogz).

Teaching morphemes and Working within Words

Morphemic knowledge is vital to a teacher as background to helping learners acquire morphemic understanding. But not all of this knowledge needs to be directly passed on to your learners. You'll be able to make a judgement according to your learners' maturity. For instance, some older learners with specific learning difficulties are more than capable of understanding the concepts, and not only find them fascinating, but also of great help. See Work within Words: Prefixes, suffixes, roots.

An aside about spelling rules

Here is an expansion of those three bundles mentioned above in Morphemic knowledge clarifies spelling rules, included here for information.

Warning: Not to be used "neat"! It is important to realise that this summary is not intended for handing out to learners before they've reached these concepts for themselves, once they've spent time exploring the way words behave. After such a process of discovery, then these "rules-in-brief" may serve as an aide memoire.

E deletion

· When the suffix begins with e and the stem ends in e, the stem drops its e: e.g. dance → danced; nice → nicer→ nicest.

· When the suffix begins with i and the stem ends in e, the stem drops its e: e.g. dance → dancing.

Consonant doubling

· When the first letter of the stem is the same as the last letter of a prefix, they both stay in place e.g. dissatisfy, unnecessary.

· When the last letter of a stem and the first letter of a suffix are the same, they both stay in place e.g. keen → keenness.

· When the stem ends with a single consonant, that consonant doubles when a suffix is added e.g. hop→ hopping. The suffix ful comes into this group: when it adds y (to make an adverb), it claims its l back again. e.g. playful → playfully.

Consonant 'un-doubling'

· When full is used as a suffix, it drops its final l e.g. playful.

· When all is used as a prefix, it drops its final l e.g. almighty.

Y replacement

· When a suffix is added to a word ending in a consonant-plus-y, that y changes to i; e.g. happy → happiness, baby → babies.

· When a suffix is added to a word ending in a vowel-plus-y, the y stays put e.g. play → plays.

A bundle of rules concerning various ends of words:

· English words never end in j.

· Very few words end in v (only spiv?).

· We double l, f and s at the end of most one-syllable words e.g. call, moss, fluff.

· There are also a number of plurals to be learned: plurals like knife → knives; plurals like potatoes and plurals like kilos; plurals like kiss → kisses.

Look & Learn in Further Phonics

Look & Learn, that constant tool, continues to flourish in Further Phonics.

Reasons for Look & Learn in Further Phonics

There are two reasons for its effectiveness in this stage, and both arise from the need to cope with the growing complexity of the spellings that learners now face:

1. Learners are now dealing with longer words.

2. It's difficult to find any rationale in the system of alternative spellings and pronunciations.

So, in more detail:

1. Dealing with longer words:

o In many words, there will be a particular tricky bit, the hard spot (or "hot spot"). Look & Learn helps learners focus on such strings of letters within words.

o In this connection, the insight that "spelling is in the finger-tips" comes into its own, certainly for those spellers with visual strengths. That insight refers to the strength of the movement-memory that can be built up through the repeated writing of words. (Try writing your name with your eyes shut: no problem!) Harnessing this, learners can be shown how to learn words in small groups of words that share a string of letters.

o And, yes, this works even where the letters are making different letter-sound matches, as, say, in ache, stomach and machine, which all house an ach string; or with the ome string in some, home and women; the ear string in hear, pearl and bear. It works because the way we spell when writing at times over-rides the letter-sound match and focuses on the visual appearance of the word.

o And it works as a further consolidating stream of revision to follow the straightforward Listen & Build work that has been employed to learn, as a body of phonic facts, all the new and alternative letter-sound matches of this stage.

2. Because it's difficult to find any rationale in the system of alternative spellings and pronunciations:

o Much of the learning simply calls for memorising groups (or lists) of words sharing the same letter-sound match. Indeed, the list of words matters here as much as the isolated letter-sound match. For instance, learning them as two lists helps you to secure which words use ow to make the ow sound as in cow, and which words use ou. Look & Learn lends itself admirably to meeting that need.

Spelling for real: drafting, proof-reading and editing in Further Phonics

At the very beginning of the Guide we noted that learning to spell has many components, some broad, and some carefully focused on detail. Very much the greater part of the Guide does focus on all the fine-grained knowledge and skills that learners must build up.

However, it's useful at this point in our learners' journey to broaden out a little, and consider how they can be supported while they are in the actual process of writing.

In the first place, there must be an understanding shared by teacher and learner that there are steps in the writing process:

· Drafting

· Proof-reading

· Editing.

Sticking to these steps has the important effect of separating attention to the ideas one wants to write from attention to spelling.

Activities for Stage 4 expands on how to make this work.

Activities in Further Phonics

See ideas for off-computer activities.

On computer, StarSpell's five modes continue to provide a solid basis.

StarSpell activities on interactive whiteboard are demonstrated in the sessions:

· Alternative spellings in Sessions 15, 17 and 19

· Syllabification in Sessions 20 and 21

· Morphemic knowledge and generalising "rules" in Sessions 25 to 27

· Look & Learn for this stage in Sessions 22 to 24.

Useful StarSpell lists for Further Phonics

Here are the StarSpell lists which broadly speaking, apply to Further Phonics. As has been noted, StarSpell approaches learning from a "Stage not Age" perspective. No two learners are alike. Progress differs. These lists are given as guidelines only.

Listen & Build

The level of knowledge described on the Spelling Route as Further Phonics is catered for in the following lists.

(You may usefully mix and match across the two routes. For example, you could choose Phonics Lists: Phase 5: Other sounds of y > ch, c, g, ey > y as in fly, to match up with StarSpell Lists: Further explorations > More vowel sounds > y as in cycle.)

To complete acquisition of full phonic code

· Phonics Lists: Phase 5: Introducing more graphemes

· StarSpell Lists: Further explorations: Groups 2 to 5.

To work on alternative pronunciations and spellings

· Phonics Lists: Phase 5: Alternative pronunciations

· Phonics Lists: Phase 5: Alternative spellings.

Work within Words

· StarSpell Lists: Further explorations: Syllables and spelling

· StarSpell Lists: Prefixes, suffixes, roots (This includes formation of plurals, tenses and comparatives.)

Look & Learn

The lists dedicated to High Frequency Words may well remain important:

· Phonics Lists: 100 high frequency words

· StarSpell Lists: Important 'sight' words.

· Yr2 to KS3 Support: 100 and next 200 most common words.

However, other lists make useful Look & Learn resources:

· StarSpell Lists: Curriculum subject lists

· StarSpell Lists: Make your own custom lists.

Lists useful for word study alongside Look & Learn:

· StarSpell Lists: Further explorations Groups 6 to 9.

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