If your school is looking for a comprehensive and realistic assessment system then this could be for the one for you!Let’s get one thing absolutely straight: no one likes nonsense (except, maybe, Lewis Carroll). This is why I like the sound of No Nonsense Spelling. But is the title of this new resource merely good marketing?
Thankfully, no. It’s full of practical and sensible spelling advice that will help you get to grips with teaching spelling, and could quite possibly get your children passionate about the subject too.
For a start, let’s look at the authors. They are an experienced team of English advisers who know a thing or two about KS1 and 2 and they have produced materials for schools for years. This resource is also tried and tested by teachers, and developed with teachers in the classroom, which gives me confidence that they know what children and teachers want.
Reassuringly then, this resource isn’t offered as a prescriptive programme, it’s more of a teaching guide with plenty of ideas and strategies about what children need to know and the skills they need to learn. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is an organic headless chicken. Far from it. The programme has a clear progression through blocks of teaching units across the year for Years 2-6. It’s how you pick it up and use it that matters.
The programme has been designed to meet the needs of the 2014 national curriculum and it does that in a very manageable and flexible way, explaining comprehensively how to effectively teach spelling. You get five separate teacher books and a USB stick that contains editable versions of the materials, the spelling pathway for Years 2 to 6 and videos with very helpful guidance on using the expertly crafted programme. This consists of a termly overview, guidance on assessment, and strategies for learning. It breaks the national curriculum down into strands with individual lesson plans and resources too.
The termly overviews are exactly what we teachers want, because they have been mapped across weeks as half-termly plans and follow a model of five spelling sessions across two weeks (although in Year 2 these are daily). The lesson plans are short and sweet which, for most teachers, will tick all the boxes, although some might prefer more activity help and guidance. If you’re after detailed lesson plans then this resource isn’t for you, as the lessons are really ideas and triggers. I personally like this approach, and the way in which the books are organised, as it keeps thing clear, simple and focused, and allows you to tweak accordingly. There is a lesson type (e.g. teach, practise, revise or assess), a lesson focus that records the particular emphasis for the day, a list of resources needed, and a teaching activity suggestion. The resources are clearly signposted, and you will find these on the USB and at the back of the book. These include games and quizzes as well as word lists that can be photocopied and made into flashcards or used for displays. Complementary resources are referred to throughout.
What the programme does very astutely is build on high-quality phonics teaching by supporting children in understanding morphology, spelling strategies, the orthographic nature of words, patterns, word origins, common exception words and personal spellings.
You might think that at £195 this programme isn’t cheap, but I’d ask you to apply the brakes to that train of thought. I’d say that this is worth every penny for a brand new and curriculum-matched whole-school programme.
If there is one thing we all know, that is that if you are a teacher, your spelling has to be immaculate. That’s a non-negotiable. But being a good speller doesn’t make you a good spelling teacher. I think this is where this resource could really help you raise your game and improve the way you understand and teach spelling.
The hard data isn’t pretty. In 2014, 24 per cent of children failed to leave our primary settings with Level 4 or above in their KS2 assessments in grammar, punctuation and spelling. So, could No Nonsense Spelling help? Certainly. I’d have no hesitation in picking this up and implementing it as a whole-school solution with pathway and progression in mind. It can be easily applied, effortlessly adapted and would fit the needs of any classroom. You could use it as a foundation for your own spelling curriculum and change it as a school, feeding in your own ideas.