Teaching spelling long words

This activity can help provide children with a routine for spelling long words. Learn how you can use word cards and clapping exercises to teach children to spell compound words, words with prefixes and other multi-syllabic words.

Clap and count (whole-class variation)

What you'll need

  • Differentiated sets of multi-syllable word cards, each card showing one word
  • Whiteboards and pens, one per child

What to do

  1. Say a two-syllable word, clapping the syllables.
  2. Do the same using words with three and more syllables. Include some of the children's names.
  3. Point to two children who have names containing a different number of syllables. Clap one of their names and ask the children which one you are clapping.
  4. Clap a two-syllable word and draw two lines or boxes on the whiteboard for each syllable.
  5. Ask the children to write down the letters for the phonemes in the first syllable and show you.
  6. If they are not all correct, take different versions from the children and discuss them.
  7. Repeat with the second syllable.
  8. Say another word and ask the children to clap it and draw boxes for the number of syllables on their whiteboards and show you.
  9. Discuss deviations in the responses.
  10. Ask the children to write down the letters for the phonemes in the first syllable and show you.
  11. If they are not all correct, take different versions from the children and discuss them.
  12. Repeat with the second and subsequent syllables.
  13. Summarise the routine, with the children joining in, to help them to remember it: clap and count the syllables, draw the lines, and write the letters.

Independent work variation

What you'll need

  • Differentiated sets of word cards (4–12 per group, depending on the children's ability)
  • Whiteboards and pens, one per child

What to do

  1. The children work in groups of up to four to play 'clap and count, draw, write' (as above).
  2. Shuffle the word cards and put them in a pile, face down in the centre of the table.
  3. When it is their turn, each child should take the top word from the pile, read it aloud and put it face down in front of them.
  4. The children go through the same routine: clap and count the syllables, draw the lines, write the letters.
  5. The card is then revealed and everybody checks the accuracy of their spelling, awarding themselves 1 point for the correct number of syllables and 1 point for each syllable spelt correctly.
  6. Repeat until each child has had at least one turn and then add up the scores to determine the winner.

Plenaries

  • Focus on children applying this strategy 'silently' (i.e. without stopping and clapping when trying to work out a spelling).
  • Read out five new words for the children to try and write 'secretly' using the routine: clap and count the syllables, draw the lines, write the letters – but they must not give away the number of syllables. You could show them how to tap very quietly with their fingers.
  • Write up the words and support children in checking their words. What are the difficult bits in each of the words? How does this routine help?