StarSpell 3 Spelling Guide - Two key transitions in 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

Two key transitions in the Spelling Route

We're being careful to view the Spelling Route as a series of stages with blurred edges, depicting the learner's somewhat spiralling progress towards spelling competence.

Now here's one further feature to note: along this journey there are the two key transitions, two gradual turning-points where the learner's understanding of spelling undergoes a major shift.

The first key transition comes early. It's the first full dawning of the idea that writing is speech written down. That is, it's when the learner wakes up to the concept of a written code. In other words, begins to grasp the basic idea that letters stand for sounds. Learners also begin to grasp that letters are written in a left-right order that represents their order in speech. It happens as learners work through Preparing for Phonics and begin to move into Early Phonics.

The second key transition occurs later, after learners have gained a substantial amount of phonic knowledge. It's when they come to realise that simple codification does not always apply in English spelling: the sound of a word is not the only guideline. (For instance, consider the three different sounds of 'ed' in mended, rained and jumped.)

It's worth appreciating, then, the overall shape of the journey that the Spelling Route depicts. These two major leaps in understanding are embedded within sizeable chunks of steady straightforward learning, as follows:

· The early steps that underpin spelling lead to that first leap in understanding, when the learner comes to "get" the concept of a written code.

· Next comes the completely necessary phonic learning (Listen & Build), described in this section under Early Phonics and Further Phonics, that must be in place to support the second leap in understanding; and throughout these two heavily phonic stages, the need to go beyond phonics sometimes begins to tug at the learner.

· As this awareness grows more insistent, the learner makes the second leap in understanding: that is, to the understanding that sound is not all there is to spelling.

· And so the relevance of the work in the stages Beyond Phonics and Near-Correct becomes clear, the province of Work within Words: morphemic understanding, rules, etymology, etc.

Of course there are learners who will need extra support in this development, which is discussed in Learners needing extra support.