Spelling SOS KS2 Project summary autumn

    Published: 05 March 2019

    Project aims:

    The Spelling SOS KS2 project is designed to have a swift and powerful impact on a targeted group of pupils’ spelling achievement in a short period. It aims for these pupils to be on an improved trajectory towards EXS in writing at the end of KS2; have a more positive relationship with spelling; be more enthusiastic, confident spellers with an increased understanding and knowledge.

    The project also aims to develop teachers’ subject knowledge and pedagogy in order for them to be able to identify pupils’ misconceptions accurately, prioritise and plan key learning areas for individuals and for their whole class.

    Project design:

    Our intention was to improve the standards in spelling for a group of pupils through a combination of the following approaches: the use of a gap analysis in order to prioritise key learning areas to focus on; the use of memory strategies to support pupils in storing their learning in their long-term memory; the use of simplified/repeated activities to enable children to focus on the concept being taught rather than games/ investigations; explicit reviewing of prior leaning/key concepts.

    Teachers were asked to work with four children over a 6-8 week period, offering a 1:1 session for each child per week, and 4 additional sessions where the children worked either independently, with a TA or with a peer.  The additional sessions focused solely on memory strategies. 

    The project aims to develop teachers’ subject knowledge and pedagogy through a combination of the use of a gap analysis to be able to identify high priority areas, and guidance on how to implement and manage a teaching sequence that meets the varying needs of a class.

    Teachers and project leads were supported to understand, develop and hone the project strategies during a whole day launch at the start of the project. Schools also received a half-day mid-project visit where the allocated Teaching & Learning Adviser worked with the teacher in their school setting to ensure the priority areas that had been identified for individuals were accurate.  This visit was also used to plan and deliver a 1:1 spelling session and reflect on its impact, as well as discuss and resolve any issues that had arisen as a result of the project up to that point. Teachers and project leads also attended a twilight session midway through the project to consider the importance of metacognition and how this can aid children with their independent spelling, and to consider and explore best practice in the application of spellings into independent writing.

    The project concluded with a final twilight where teachers and project leads were given time to reflect on the effective elements of the project and consider how these might be used to support progress for pupils in the class, and across the school. Further support was provided through on-going email correspondence and a closed Facebook group.

    Data set:

    90 pupils from 19 schools took part in the autumn project. The impact of the project was measured both qualitatively – through collection of teacher testimonials describing the impact on individual pupils’ spelling ability – and quantitatively – through the use of a standardised spelling test (GL – BSTS2).

    Qualitative reflections:

    The resounding feedback from teachers was that their subject knowledge and confidence had improved greatly over the 8-week project period.  Their understanding of how the spelling curriculum builds on prior learning, and the importance of tracking back and reviewing prior learning for children was significant.  Teachers reported that they were able to identify, prioritise and address gaps/misconceptions accurately and effectively.  Participating in the project had raised the profile of spelling in their classes/schools for themselves and their pupils.  Teachers reported that they were now explicitly modelling application of spellings learned during shared writing, and across the curriculum. 

    Teachers reported that the children’s memory of the conventions taught during the 8-week project period, and their ability to retrieve this, had improved greatly.  Children were more enthusiastic and motivated when it came to both spelling lessons and application in their writing.  Teachers reported that children were making greater effort with their first attempts in spelling in their independent writing, and they had seen an increase in self-correction. Children’s confidence had grown significantly, and their willingness to have a go at more adventurous vocabulary/word choices was evident in their independent writing.  Teachers also reported that children were more able to articulate what they had learned as they were armed with the terminology to talk about spelling/next steps. 

    Quantitative data:

    In addition to the qualitative data, quantitative data was collected through the GL assessment BSTS2 (British Spelling Test Series Second Edition 2009). Complete BSTS2 data sets were analysed for 78 pupils (12 data sets were incomplete). The BSTS2 was used to monitor progress from the start to the end point of the project (8 weeks).  The test assessed spelling at word, sentence and continuous writing level, and is designed to provide an accurate estimate of pupils’ spelling, expressed as a summary quantitative score.  These scores can then be converted to a spelling age equivalent.  Outcomes for the autumn round of pupils:


    Progress in months of ALL pupils

    Progress in months Number of pupils
    2 months or less 4
    3 months 3
    4-6 months 11
    7-12 months 23
    13-24 months (1-2 years) 29
    25-36 months (2-3 years) 6
    36-42 months (3-3.5 years) 2

    Average progress for all pupils:  1 year 1 month

    Average progress for PPG pupils (12/36):  +9.8 months

    What are our main findings?

    Well, we continue to stress the need to track back to review prior learning and the importance of teacher subject knowledge in doing so.  In addition to this, deepened subject knowledge for teachers enables them to prioritise key learning and address precise gaps more effectively.  Simplification of sessions and repetition of core activities enables children to focus on the concepts rather than activities. Supporting pupils to develop their memory by explicitly linking new learning to prior learning, and ensuring spaced repetition of this learning has been key. Arming children with the language of spelling is vital.  Modelling the use of this language, and providing opportunities for pupils to consciously think about and articulate what they are doing when spelling words correctly and incorrectly is crucial to their understanding and memory of what they have learned.  Being explicit about metacognitive strategies used when spelling is powerful in providing children with the tools needed to apply this independently in writing, and for self-correction.  Finally, do not underestimate how much low self-esteem and previous experiences with spelling can impact on a child’s ability to spell, and the language choices they make when writing.  With some very thoughtful and considered support, pupils who have been considered ‘struggling spellers’ for years can develop a strong spelling understanding and skills.  Enthusiasm, motivation and confidence can be nurtured to enable pupils to have a positive relationship with spelling, and even a love of the jigsaw that is the English spelling system.

    We are currently taking bookings for the summer round. For further information or to book on, please click on the image below:


    With thanks to the autumn project participants from the following schools:


    Bedwell Primary School

    Commonswood Primary School

    The Cranbourne Primary School

    Downfield Primary School

    Essendon Church of England Primary School

    Hobletts Manor Junior School

    Howe Dell School      

    Killigrew Primary and Nursery School

    Lodge Farm Primary School

    Longmeadow Primary School

    Roselands Primary School

    St Augustine’s Catholic Primary School

    St Michael’s CE VA Primary School

    St. Philip Howard Catholic Primary School

    Welwyn St Mary’s Primary School

    Wilbury Junior School

    Woodlands Primary School

    Wormley Primary School

    Further information on the Spelling SOS project


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