NAPLAN Spelling is one of the tests that is conducted in Australia’s National testing regime. It measures the ability of children in spelling in Years 3, 5 & 9. Some of the questions are repeated in consecutive years, obviously, to see the change in the spelling behaviours.

Spelling is a rule based, alphabetic principled exercise that is easy to learn if taught explicitly in a spiralling curriculum. If children are taught within the four areas of spelling, phonetic, (sounds of words),   visual,(what words look like) morphemic (prefixes and suffixes) and etymological ( Greek & Latin roots) there shouldn’t be many errors. What I have come to notice is that children are given spelling for homework and are expected to memorise the words by the following Friday. This is an archaic method that is thwart with disaster. By about Year Four, these children’s memories are over taxed and collapse under the pressure.

We have all seen this sort of spelling errors:

prowful (powerful), titer (tighter), tomatos (tomatoes) imagen (imagine). Some of these errors are related to pronunciation as well as reliance on memory instead of the four areas of spelling.

Here is a simple lesson format:

Each spelling session begins with phonological awareness in ways that relate to spelling. In the first step children clap out the syllables in the word they have to spell.

The second step is to place on the desk the number of syllable cards that matched the number of claps.Let’s use the word manly as an example. Manly has two syllables so I need two syllable cards.

Third Step:Then the child stretches out the sounds in each syllable and places that number of rocks on the individual syllable cards.

  Notice that I have used a red block for each vowel sound. The child knows that if there is no syllable without a red block/a vowel sound.

Step Four is matching the letter combinations that make the sounds.

Step Five is looking at what has been written and visually checking what is correct and incorrect.

Start at the beginning of the word and check if it looks correct, then check the end of the word and finally the middle of the word.If there is an error, the child simply marks the error that is incorrect and tries another combination that could look right.

An incorrect word 

The child looks at the word from the front to the back and then in the middle to SEE what looks correct. He can either use a cross or a dot to identify where the word looks wrong.Then, if he has a cheat chart of all the letter combinations that say the sound, /k/, he can trial those letters and choose the ones that look correct.

Step Five: the child then trials other letter combinations until the word looks correct.

Here are the combinations checked-



ck is only present on the end of a one syllable word, so the child would know this combination wouldn’t look correct.  He would choose the second example.

If children are having difficulty it is best to start a program of one syllable words using the sequence of sounds related to that age level. If children don’t know sounds they won’t be able to write the matching letter to make a word.

It is important that children have a relevant chart beside them to use as a cheat sheet when learning to spell. It doesn’t need to be a complicated sheet it just has to be one that displays the information that the child needs at his spelling level. This means if the child is making words with the level three sounds he would have the level three letters beside him until he was able to recall them automatically.

Additionally I provide, visual cards for each level that the child is working on e.g. a child I am teaching is working on the rules around the /k/ sound so a detailed /k/ sheet is provided as a cheat sheet.

This is an elaborate card because the child is only at the initial stage of learning about the /k/ sound.Once the child has mastered this information the card is simplified into a reminder sheet that only shows the letter combinations that are needed for the particular sound.

Once the child can spell phonetically, the next step is to use the eyes to see if the letter combinations look correct. This week, I have been analysing a lot of previous NAPLAN spelling errors. The overall mistakes, once analysed, were related to the visual area of spelling. Once children move forward with spelling the visual area of spelling is extremely important and needs to be taught well.  Allow children to move at their own pace as they are learning to spell. Once they are confident with the skills and knowledge they will move faster to automaticity.

Ann Foster tutors children who have difficulties in reading, writing and spelling.

Contact Ann 0n 0414340883 or email


Ann holds the following qualifications:

Diploma of Teaching

Bachelor of Educational Studies

Master of Education ( Special Needs)

Master of Education (Counselling & Guidance)