Making Spelling Stick
The final piece of the puzzle is one that comes from years of experience in the classroom, ‘from our time at the coal face’. There is no denying that we have on several occasions sweat blood and tears as spellings that have been learnt one week are forgotten the next (on a good week, it’s usually after break! Ha, Ha!)
So, the third layer to this scheme has to be about making spelling stick!
As explained previously we avoid arbitrary spelling rules in favour of phonics, underpinned by etymology. The advanced phonics code has been made accessible and more importantly visible to children, which in turn reduces cognitive load. Enabling children to see patterns and logic in the English language boosts memory power.
What is more, at no point in this scheme do we jump into the advanced code without recapping and exploring the basic code first. Rosenshine’s principles and our own experience tells us that we need to awaken children’s prior learning for ‘new learning’ to take place. If knowledge is to seep into a child’s long term memory it needs to be used alongside what they already know. By exploring codes from the basic to the complex we can build directly on KS1 knowledge and fill any existing gaps before moving onto the advanced code.
Perhaps most importantly, that to make spelling stick there must be constant opportunity for review, practice and overlearning. Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve shows that for everybody, adults and children alike, after an hour of new learning, 44% will be forgotten unless recapping and revisiting are made a priority.
In this scheme, words that children need to master as part of The National Curriculum have been integrated into sounds, consequently most words will be explicitly taught more than once. Exposure to the same word through exploring its different sounds and codes creates golden opportunities for revision, practice and over learning.
A further way to cement learning is by ensuring that words and spellings which have been taught reappear at every opportunity. For example, a task in Apostrophe Academy might focus on using apostrophes accurately, but within those sentences will be curriculum words and homophones that have previously been taught.
Finally, we know from experience that children don’t easily recall or remember previous learning and therefore, as emphasised by Rosenshine, need retrieval guidance and practice. Contained in the teaching PowerPoints are daily reviews that take place at the start of every Scode lesson. They are varied but simple activities that should take only a few minutes. The purpose of the daily review is to improve fluency and confidence. As Sherrington explains, ‘it allows students to re-activate recently acquired knowledge, reducing cognitive load at the beginning of the lesson that is designed to build on this knowledge.’ 10
Further reviews are integrated into the scheme to ensure that learnt material is not forgotten. As well as being a form of assessment, the ‘Cracked the Code’ lessons at the end of each unit create the opportunity for review and revision before the end of unit test.