Donegal teacher sees a new way to spell

A Donegal teacher has created a fun, pioneering programme for improving children’s spelling.

‘Spelling Made Fun with Visual Patterns’ helps children with spelling difficulties from the first years of primary school. The programme has been devised by Louise Finnegan, a learning support teacher at Drumoghill NS, where, according to the most recent tests, pupils are now among the best spellers in the country.

Ms Finnegan said that good reading and spelling do not always go hand in hand, and reading more books will not teach children to spell.

“I was subbing in a class at the school two years ago when I noticed that although children were learning big words, they weren’t functional words, so I decided to change things round a bit,” said Ms Finnegan.

“I taught them a few gimmicks and rules to make spelling easier and, towards the end, I found that even those children who couldn’t be bothered initially were starting to take an interest.”

For that academic year, she devised a programme on A4 sheets of paper to improve spelling.

“The feedback was really positive from the parents, so I kept at it last year, when a school inspector remarked on the high standards of literacy within the school,” she said. “She was told about the spelling programme and she came back to me before last Christmas and asked me to do a few more. Her parting word to me was that I needed to publish the spelling programme.”

The books were published last month. They are available online at justrewards.ie.

She says that spelling is best taught visually — learning what words look like — rather than phonically (the system of ‘sounding out’ words: c-a-t spells cat), which most schools use in teaching reading.

“For example, in second class a child will be given a core word like ‘ear’ and they will then see other related words like ‘clear’, ‘dear’, ‘hear’, ‘wear’, ‘fear’, ‘earn’, ‘early’, ‘nearly’, ‘heard’ and ‘earth’ — a pattern, a connection,” said Ms Finnegan.


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