READ, SOUND, WRITE, CHECK – a better way to teach spelling

This year I have a number of students in Years 5 and 6 who are fluent readers. Their problem is spelling. Typically they may spell a word with all the correct letters that are in the wrong order, e.g., ‘nitgh’ for ‘night’. Children in Years 5 and 6 in the UK are expected to be able to spell multisyllabic words from word lists in the national curriculum. Every week the teacher sends home a list of words. Every week some will either fail to learn them or learn them for the test and immediately forget them. The method encouraged is ‘Look, cover, write, check’. Children are expected to look at the word, cover it and remember it by shape and write it repeatedly. This doesn’t work for my students as they have poor visual memory. They just can’t remember the shape of the word. Children with poor visual memory have no other strategies to use. What to do?

Go back to using phonics

Fundamentally, the ‘Look, cover, write, check’ method is a ‘whole word’ way to teach spelling. Why don’t we use the phonics we have already taught the children to read with to help their spelling?  Here is another way:  READ, SOUND, WRITE, CHECK.

Here is what they need to do:


Student reads the word and splits it into syllables (they can also mark the phonemes if helpful).


Student writes the word in syllables saying the syllables as he/she does.


Student covers the word by folding the left hand column along the dotted line.


Student writes the word, sounding out the syllables.


Student checks the spelling and ticks if correct.





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