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Videos! Word Building versus Spelling

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Here’s an edited version of a post from the TRT for Teachers site. I’m sure it will be helpful for tutors and prospective tutors too.

In That Reading Thing, we always:

Start with BUILDING then move on to SPELLING

So what’s that all about?

Secondary teachers have told me that spelling requirements at GCSE are tougher than ever and we’re trying our best to help young people get that elusive qualification.

They’ve also told me that a common strategy for getting teens to spell curriculum based vocabulary is to hand them a list to learn for the course- usually using the “look, cover, write, check” method. This method relies on memorising strings of letter names or memorising the visual features of a word and trying to recreate them. Both these strategies fail a huge number of students. All students’ spelling can benefit from learning to use their ears.


The student is going to spell the word correctly because all the correct spellings of the sounds are on the puzzle pieces. This video demonstrates a one-to-one lesson but it’s also an excellent way to introduce subject specific terms as a whole class. Each student can figure out which, if any, is the tricky bit that requires extra memory.


The student now needs to recall the correct spelling of each sound. In this video, the student incorrectly spells both the sounds in the final syllable of hierachy. However, once she corrects the “k” sound with <ch> instead of <k>, she also corrects the “ee” sound with <y> instead of <ey>. If she had kept the <ey> spelling, the error correction would have been repeated.

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