StarSpell 3 Spelling Guide - The Structure of StarSpell

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

The Structure of StarSpell

StarSpell is a versatile program, with a number of components. A few moments spent in familiarising yourself with its structure enables you to get the most out of it. This section presents StarSpell's features in outline, while Yr2 to KS3 Support provides more detail.

Then, with reference to the Stages of the Spelling Route for strategies to promote the development of spelling, you can match your learning needs of the moment to an appropriate approach, a relevant StarSpell section, and a satisfying StarSpell mode of working.

StarSpell's structure: an overview

Three StarSpell sections

There are three StarSpell sections:

· Phonics Lists

· Yr2 to KS3 Support

· The StarSpell Lists

StarSpell's modes of working

Within the three StarSpell sections, the StarSpell user can select from five different modes of working, comprising a selection of activities:

1. Spelling: for individual/small group work or whole class on Interactive Whiteboard

2. Phonics: segmentation and re-assembly; intended for whole class on Interactive Whiteboard

3. Onset & rime: segmentation and re-assembly (Tops & Tails); best with IWB

4. StarPick: a spelling game

5. StarGuess: "Hangman" type spelling game


The modes are to be found in the three sections as follows:

Mode

In Sections:

Spelling

The StarSpell Lists

Phonics Lists

Yr2 to KS3 Support

Phonics

Phonics Lists

Onset & Rime

Phonics Lists: Tops & Tails

StarPick (click Extra)

The StarSpell Lists

Yr2 to KS3 Support

StarGuess (click Extra)

The StarSpell Lists

Yr2 to KS3 Support

The five modes are described in detail in Yr2 to KS3 Support, where each is discussed in relation to the different approaches to learning to spell that are demanded at different points in spelling's overall development.

The three spelling approaches are distributed across StarSpell's modes and sections

In How spelling works we pointed out that three approaches underpin learning how to spell, adopting the learner-friendly terms:

· Listen & Build, for grapheme / phoneme correspondence

· Look & Learn, for approaches to spelling irregular words

· Work within Words, for morphological knowledge and etymological information.

Between them, StarSpell's three sections provide support for these three approaches.

While it would be neat to contain one single approach within each StarSpell section, that's not quite how it works out. Certainly, Phonics Lists clearly supports the Listen & Build approach. But The StarSpell Lists and Yr2 to KS3 Support provide resources for all three approaches.

Learning approach

In Sections:

Listen & Build

Phonics Lists: Tops and Tails

The StarSpell Lists

Phonics Lists

Yr2 to KS3 Support

Look & Learn

The StarSpell Lists

Yr2 to KS3 Support

Work Within Words

The StarSpell Lists

Yr2 to KS3 Support

Listen & Build

Onset & Rime

Phonics

Spelling

Look & Learn

Spelling

StarPick

StarGuess

Work WithinWords

Spelling

StarPick

StarGuess

The Phonics Lists section[†††]

This section is best used in front of a whole group using the Interactive Whiteboard.

Which spelling approach is featured?

As its name suggests, this section focuses on the Listen & Build approach.

It provides strong support for synthetic phonics.

Which StarSpell mode is used?

The mode used is Phonics (segmentation and re-assembly). For Phases Two to Five, the section presents a large resource bank of word-lists, each selected to illustrate particular letter-sound matches. That is, it provides comprehensively for the learning of "grapheme-phoneme correspondences".

But there's more here than the straightforward GPC word-bank you need. For each word you also have an opportunity to engage learners in lively experiences of segmenting and blending. With sound, pictures and supporting sentences, the activities draw learners into breaking words up into their component phonemes/graphemes, then blending them together again.

The Tops & Tails section (in Phonics)

This section is best used in front of a whole group using the Interactive Whiteboard.

How is it organised?

The selection and organisation of the word lists in Tops and Tails is StarSpell's own, and shows a progressive development

Which spelling approach is featured?

Tops & Tails supports the development of phonic readiness, learning that comes before the main work of phonics.

Which mode is used?

The mode is segmentation and re-assembly. There is an activity for each word, to demonstrate first its break-up, followed by its blending-together again; supported by sound, picture and context sentence.

However, Tops and Tails differs in that the words are segmented simply into two "chunks", for instance, bed → b + ed, drum → dr + um, mil k→ m + ilk. Chunks which comprise more than one phoneme are spoken as whole, blended segments (-ed, dr-, -ilk), not as their separate, un-blended sounds. So in this also, Tops and Tailsdiffers from the rest of Phonics Lists.

These chunks are "tops and tails", or onsets and rimes, for which there is fuller explanation in Phonic readiness grows step-by-step.

The StarSpell Lists section

This section is well-designed for individual/small group work on a workstation, yet works well in front of a whole group using the Interactive Whiteboard.

The StarSpell Lists form a comprehensive, independent spelling syllabus, a valid resource even without recourse to the other two StarSpell sections.

But of course all three sections work effectively when mixed-and-matched, each providing complementary support to the others.

How is it organised?

The StarSpell Staircase illustrates this section's six "steps" that provide a solid phonic resource bank, containing word-lists organised according to StarSpell's own phonic progression. This carefully graded phonic sequence ensures that each word-list introduces only the one new letter-sound match belonging to that list. For example, church can't be in the ur list, because, with the ur list coming before the list introducing ch, the learner hasn't yet met ch.

The sixth "step", Prefixes, Suffixes and Roots, introduces material for the study of morphemes.

These phonic "steps" are surrounded by others providing High Frequency Words, lists that provide material for etymological study, and curriculum-related lists.

Which spelling approach is featured?

The section provides support for all three approaches to spelling: Look & Learn, Listen & Build and Work within Words:

· The Look & Learn approach: the StarSpell List's Spelling mode is based upon the proven Look-Cover-Write-Check routine, enhancing it with sound and pictures and a supporting sentence. So, this mode is a powerful audio-visual memorisation activity. Read more about the versatility of its support.

· The Listen & Build approach: the well-ordered six-step progression of word-lists supports systematic learning of letter-sound matches, while the Spelling mode itself consistently holds the learner in a "listen and build" framework.

· The Work within Words approach: a good proportion of the whole word-bank is designed to support the exploration of spelling rules, word origins and word families. What's more, there's also a sizeable curriculum-themed section.

Importantly, you can add your own word-lists, a fact that increases its usefulness for any of the three approaches.

Which mode is used?

The StarSpell Lists employ three modes: Spelling, StarPick and StarGuess.

Further features

In addition, worksheets can be produced for off-screen work. See The importance of Context and, for example, Sessions 13, 14, 17, 18, 21, 22, 24 and 28.

Furthermore, at the end of each Spelling session, a sheet of results can be printed, showing which words were done at the first attempt, and how long the learner took. It is a useful learning aid for the pupil, supporting the setting of own targets, and helping build self-esteem and motivation. Then, there's a useful task of consolidation as the learner reads through his results. Each sheet can be printed and filed by the pupils as part of their own observation of their personal progress. The results sheets can be put to a number of purposes in group sessions in the classroom. See Session 21, Session 24 and Session 27, for instance.

Finally, a record is kept of every pupil's results (in Management: Pupil records). It records each list spelled and whether all spellings are correct. But much more subtly, it also records the detail of all wrong attempts a pupil has made in spelling any specific word. This is invaluable diagnostic evidence.

Yr2 to KS3 Support

How is it organised?

Yr2 to KS3 Support consists of a set of termly objectives for Key Stage 2[‡‡‡], together with sets of useful words for individual subjects in Key Stage 3.

Which spelling approach is featured?

Yr2 to KS3 Support shares the features of The StarSpell Lists.

So, as in that section, this one also provides support for all three approaches to spelling: Look & Learn, Listen & Build and Work within Words:

· The Look & Learn approach: the section's Spelling mode is based upon the proven Look-Cover-Write-Check routine, enhancing it with sound and pictures and a supporting sentence. So, this mode is a powerful audio-visual memorisation activity. Read more about the versatility of its support.

· The Listen & Build approach: the progression of the word lists supports systematic learning of letter-sound matches, following as it does the progression recommended by the DfE. Alongside that, the Spelling mode itself consistently holds the learner in a "listen and build" framework.

· The Work within Words approach: the DfE recommendations of Support for Spelling are incorporated into this section's word lists, under their termly headings.

Which mode is used?

Like The StarSpell Lists, this section employs three modes: Spelling, StarPick and StarGuess.

Further features (See 11.4)

Again, like The StarSpell Lists, worksheets may be printed, as may the results sheet each time the pupil attempts spelling a list. A record of all lists tried and all wrong spellings is maintained for the teacher's use.

Separate or together?

Each StarSpell section works independently as a separate course of study.

But of course all three sections work effectively when mixed-and-matched, each providing complementary support to the others. See StarSpell word-lists for each stage of the Spelling Route.

Teacher-led or independent?

All five modes prove admirable for shared learning around an interactive whiteboard. Beyond that, the degree and type of StarSpell follow-up to IWB experience differs with each mode.

The Phonics Mode is specifically designed to illustrate letter-sound matches, therefore is well-placed to become an almost indispensable group-teaching aid. Following on from teacher-led instruction, individual learners can continue to work in Phonics Mode to reinforce their newly-gained knowledge.

The Spelling Mode is extremely useful for demonstrating a spelling point to a class or group on interactive whiteboard, but also, being very simple in concept and execution, it really comes into its own in individual learning and over-learning of spellings. Worksheets provide a further avenue of reinforcement.

Tops and Tails, aimed as it is at beginners, most definitely works best as a teacher-led activity; teachers may judge for themselves whether certain learners are capable of further independent consolidating play.

StarPick and StarGuess enjoy a game-like format naturally suited to play by more than one person, so the interactive whiteboard again proves ideal. At the same time, they also provide an individual player (after induction to how they work) with enjoyable, puzzle-solving learning experience.



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