Most teachers know that when it comes to teaching spellings there is no magic formula, but structured and relentless practice works best, especially when delivered as part of a whole-school programme. If each year group sings their own song and does their own thing when it comes to spelling, it can create some serious gaps, and confusion can reign supreme. Imagine the staff practising the Riverdance by doing their own steps in year groups and in private, then coming together to perform a show. It would be chaotic. And hilarious.
So, buying into a spelling course makes perfect sense. It provides consistency, clarity of vision and gets everyone following the same path. Nelson Spelling is a real treat because it covers all the essential spelling patterns and rules, it’s simple to use and differentiated at three levels, but also because it comes with great resources and assessment materials.
This scheme is impressively comprehensive, but extremely flexible too, allowing you room to breathe and adapt. It has been written to support a twin-track approach to spelling by developing both memory and understanding. The Starter level is made up of two workbooks covering the main grapheme-phoneme correspondences, and is designed to use in conjunction with a synthetics teaching programme. Then, Levels 1 to 6 are each made up of 28 units of work, of of which has a Teacher’s Book page, a pupil book double-spread, and a Focus and Extension Resource sheet.
The first book I turn to in a scheme is always the Teacher’s Book because that is my crutch, my teacher on the shelf, my get-out-of-jail-free card. A good Teacher’s Book has to offer support, insight, inspiration and confidence. If it doesn’t, I’m out. This resource offers all of this and more.
There are two Teacher’s Books and both are superb examples of why you should go down the scheme route. They explain things, provide structure and do all the hard work for you. The time saved alone is worth every penny. They start off by showing you how Nelson Spelling works, with an overview of what’s on offer, including how all the resources interact with each other.
Children are taught spelling strategies including understanding morphology and etymology as well as adding to their store of tricky words, homophones and frequently misspelt words. The books come with an interesting background section on ‘Teaching Spelling’, key spelling rules and word frequency tables. The most useful part of the book will of course be the unit-by-unit pages which detail the learning targets, notes and suggestions, answers and supporting word lists.
Just as important and impressive are the accompanying Resources and Assessment Books which will prove to be invaluable at the start of the year and for key assessment periods in between. There are two types of tests contained inside, namely placement and assessment tests, which enable you to judge an appropriate entry level for each pupil. As well as the tests there are ‘Words to Learn’ lists and unit-by-unit photocopiable resource sheets at two levels, one for the less able and one for the more able. One in between these two levels would also have been useful as well.
I like the Pupil Books because they are colourful and content-heavy without being fussy and insurmountable. They provide the core spelling curriculum for the year and are pleasingly differentiated to help children progress at the level right for them. The units come in two pages with a focus activity, a fun extra activity and an extension. There are fun characters in each unit to add a bit of life, including a (spelling) bee who offers tips to help children along the way.
Systematic, organised, accessible and with children’s best interests at the heart, Nelson Spelling is a professional, well put together and flawless scheme that deserves a round of applause and a couple of curtain calls. There are lots of ways to purchase the scheme but if you are looking to get the whole thing for Reception to Year 6 then the price tag is £880, which is more than reasonable. It doesn’t come with any online extras, but that’s because it doesn’t need any. It’s fine just the way it is.