Letters and Sounds: Phase 6

Page Spellzone resources



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"By the beginning of Phase Six, children should know most of the common grapheme– phoneme correspondences (GPCs). They should be able to read hundreds of words…"

"Children's spelling should be phonemically accurate, although it may still be a little unconventional at times. Spelling usually lags behind reading, as it is harder. (See Appendix 3: Assessment.)

During this phase, children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers…"

"... The work on spelling, which continues throughout this phase and beyond, will help children to understand more about the structure of words and consolidate their knowledge of GPCs. For example, children who are not yet reliably recognising digraphs and are still reading them as individual letters will get extra reinforcement when they learn to spell words containing the digraphs such as road, leaf, town, cloud, shop.

As children find that they can decode words quickly and independently, they will read more and more so that the number of words they can read automatically builds up. There is a list of the 300 high-frequency words in Appendix 1 on pages 193–195. Increasing the pace of reading is an important objective…"

The Spellzone course is based on phonics.

Set the Spelling Ability Test as a task. On completion of the test, your students will be provided with a baseline Spellzone score and a personal 'Course Pathway' which shows the Spellzone units to be completed. The test are repeated at key points and the score and pathway updated according to progress made.


Investigating and learning how to add suffixes


Phoneme frame
Word cards placed in a bag: rounded, helped, turned, begged, hissed, wanted, sorted, hummed, waded, washed, hated, greased, lived, robbed, rocked, laughed, called, roasted (pdf)


Word sort

  • To categorise words according to their spelling pattern

Use this activity to investigate:

  • the rules for adding -ing, -ed, -er, -est, -ful, -ly and -y, plurals (see pages 189–190)
  • how to differentiate spelling patterns (e.g. different representations of the same phoneme; the 'w special' – see page 187).

For whole-class work

  • Set of word cards exemplifying the spelling patterns you are investigating (see 'Practice examples', on page 191, for suggestions)

For independent work

  • Different set of word cards, with words tailored to the children's ability, one per pair or group of three children

Whole-class work
When the words have been sorted, ask the children to suggest spelling rules based on what they can see. Note their suggestions so that they can refer to them in independent work.

Set Spellzone Units and Word Lists as homework tasks.


Independent work

  • Provide more word cards for the children to sort, working in pairs or groups of three.
  • The children use the same categories as before and take it in turns to place a word in one of the columns. The other group members must agree.
  • Words that they cannot place can go into a 'problem' pile.
  • The group compose a label for each column that explains what the words have in common.


  • Look back at the rules that were suggested earlier and ask the children whether they were able to apply them when they sorted their own words.
  • Look at the 'problem' words and help the children to categorise them. Talk about exceptions to the general rules and ways to remember these spellings.

Add race

  • To practise adding -ing

Use this activity to revisit the rules for: adding -ing, adding -ed, adding -s and adding suffixes -er, -est, -ful, -ly and -y. (see pages 189–190)
The activity is described as if the focus were adding -ing. Modify appropriately for -ed, -er, -est, -y, -s.


  • The children must have investigated and learned the appropriate spelling rules and be able to distinguish long and short vowel phonemes e.g. /a/ and /ai/, /o/ and /oa/.

For whole-class work

  • 18 cards: three sets of six cards – each set gives six verbs that fit one of the three rules of what we have to do to the verb when adding -ing:
    1. Nothing, 2. Double the final consonant, 3. Drop the e (see 'Practice examples' on page 191)

For independent work

  • Set of verb cards, three for each rule as described above

Print the required word lists on page 191 as a flash cards.


Whole-class work

  • Revise the rules for adding -ing to a verb.


  • If you have looked at adding other endings e.g. -ed, -y, -est, discuss whether there are similarities or differences between the rules.


Teaching spelling long words


Words in words

  • To investigate how adding suffixes and prefixes changes words

Use this activity to teach and reinforce prefixes and suffixes.

  • When you are selecting words for this activity, consider the vocabulary used by the children in your class and select words that they are likely to know. (See also 'Practice examples', page 191.) Explore the function of the prefix or suffix using familiar words, then help to expand the children's vocabulary by asking them to predict meanings of other words with the same prefix or suffix.


  • Prepare lists of the words you want to discuss with children and differentiated sets of words for the children to work within the independent session


  • Lists of words

Print Spellzone Main Course units 8, 9 and 23 word lists as flash cards.


  • Show the children two related words, with and without the prefix or suffix. Ask them what they both mean and what has been added to the base word to make the other word. Do the same with three more pairs of words using the same prefix or suffix.
  • Ask the children, in pairs, to make up a sentence for each of two words to share with the class. Draw their attention to the different uses of each of the words.
  • Ask the children to think of other words with the same prefix or suffix and to write the words on their whiteboards. Ask the children to share the words with the class.
  • If it is relevant, show an example in which the spelling of the base word is altered when the suffix is added. Discuss the implications for spelling.

Print the required word lists on page 191 as a flash cards or create your own word lists.


Clap and count

  • To provide a routine for spelling long words

Use this activity for spelling compound words, words with prefixes and other multisyllabic words.
For whole-class work

  • Differentiated sets of multi-syllable word cards, each card showing one word

For independent work

  • Prepare differentiated sets of word cards (4–12 per group, depending on the children's ability)

Print Spellzone Main Course units 8, 9 and 23 word lists as flash cards.


Finding and learning the difficult bits in words


Take it apart and put it back together

  • To help children learn high-frequency and topic words by developing their ability to identify the potentially difficult element or elements in a word (e.g the double tt in getting, the unusual spelling of /oo/, and the unaccented vowel i in beautiful).


  • Set of large word cards and blank strips of card (for writing explanation sentences)

For independent work

  • List of high-frequency or topic words and a list of word descriptions with a blank box beside each description.

Create your own word lists and print word lists as flash cards.


Learning and practising spellings


Memory strategies

  • To develop familiarity with different strategies for memorising high-frequency or topic words


Create your own word lists

See the Spellzone blogs:
10 Mnemonics to Help with Spelling Tricky Words
Eight Tips For Creating Mnemonics


  • Display the poster of four memory strategies (pdf) and tell the children that it contains three good ideas for helping them to remember spellings, and a final emergency idea (in case nothing else works).


Learning words
The best way of giving children words to memorise is to provide a sentence for children to learn so that they get used to using the target words in context. The sentences could be practised at home (or in time allocated during the school day) and then children can show what they have learned by writing the sentences at the beginning of spelling sessions.


  • Sentence for dictation
  • List of words

Create your own word lists with sentences.

Set your word lists as homework or classroom tasks for additional practice before this session.

Students can also create custom word lists using Spellzone.


  • Write the sentence. Dictate a sentence that includes several target words. Break it into meaningful chunks, repeating each string of words several times. Give children time to check what they have written and remind them of the target features (e.g. -ed endings; different spellings of the long vowel phoneme, strategy for remembering a difficult bit).
  • What have I learned? Display the list of words for children to use when they are checking their own work. They work in pairs supporting one another in identifying correct spellings and underlining any errors.

Set Spellzone units or word lists as homework or classroom tasks for additional practice before this session.

Create your own word lists with sentences and as homework or classroom tasks for additional practice before the session.

Print your word lists as flash cards (pdf)

See the Spellzone blogs:
10 Mnemonics to Help with Spelling Tricky Words
Eight Tips For Creating Mnemonics


3. What have I learned? Display the sentences from the earlier dictation and word cards for the new sentences. Ask children to check their work in pairs. They support one another in identifying correct spellings and underlining any errors.

Possible questions are: Were there words in this dictation that you have mis-spelt before? Did you get them right this time? What strategy did you use to remember the difficult bit? Did you spell the target words correctly in your sentence? Give thechildren the opportunity to select one or two words to add to their spelling logs.

These are likely to be words that they use regularly and find difficult to spell.

View Spellzone word lists on screen or print as flash cards (pdf)

Set Spellzone word lists as homework or classroom tasks.

Students can also create custom word lists in Spellzone


Application of spelling in writing


Children's growing understanding of why words are spelt in a particular way is valuable only if they go on to apply it in their independent writing. Children should be able to spell an ever-increasing number of words accurately and to check and correct their own work. This process is supported through:

  • shared writing: the teacher demonstrates how to apply spelling strategies while writing and teaches proofreading skills;
  • guided and independent writing: the children apply what they have been taught. This is the opportunity to think about the whole writing process: composition as well as spelling, handwriting and punctuation;
  • marking the children's work: the teacher can assess their progress and their ability to understand and apply what has been taught, then identify targets for further improvement;

Monitor activity and progress in Spellzone.

Set the Spelling Ability Test as a task to establish an up-to-date Spellzone Scores and Course Pathways.

Set Spellzone units and word lists as homework or classroom tasks for additional practice in areas identified for improvement.


Marking provides the opportunity to see how well individual children understand and apply what has been taught and should always relate to the specific focus for teaching.

  • Set clear expectations when the children start to write. Remind them of the strategies, rules and conventions that they can apply. Expectations and marking will reflect the children's cumulative knowledge but the marking should not go beyond what has been taught about spelling. Ensure that the children know what the criteria for success are in this particular piece of work. For example: Now that you understand the rules for adding -ed to regular verbs I will expect you to spell these words correctly.
  • Analyse children's errors. Look closely at the strategies the children are using. What does this tell you about their understanding? For example, a child using jumpt instead of jumped is using phonological knowledge but does not yet understand about adding -ed to verbs in the past tense.
  • Provide feedback and time to respond. In your comments to the children, focus on a limited number of spelling errors that relate to a particular letter string or spelling convention. Ensure that the children have had time to read or discuss your feedback and clarify expectations about what they should do next.
  • Set mini-targets. Present expectations for independent spelling in terms of simple targets that will apply to all the writing the children do. These targets would generally be differentiated for groups, but it may be appropriate to tailor a target to include specific 'problem' words for an individual e.g. I expect to spell these words correctly in all my writing: said, they.

Targets can be written into spelling logs for the children to refer to regularly.

Monitor activity and progress of each student in Spellzone.

View the results of each test and the answers given to identify errors.

Download progress reports.

Set the Spelling Ability Test as a task to establish an up-to-date Spellzone Scores and Course Pathways.

Set Spellzone units as homework or classroom tasks to reinforce understanding.

Create your own word lists for individual student (you can organise these into folders). Set word lists as homework or classroom tasks for additional practice.


Children gaining independence


Strategies for spelling during writing. Children need strategies to help them attempt spellings they are not sure of as they are writing, without interrupting the flow of their composition. Aim to build up routines where the children will try different strategies before asking for help. See the poster 'Things to do before asking someone' (pdf) on page 192).

  • Using spelling logs. Children can each have a log – ideally in the form of a looseleaf folder that can be added to – to record the particular spellings they need to focus on in their work. The spelling log can be used in the following two main ways.
  • As part of the spelling programme: a regular part of the spelling activities involves the children identifying specific words that they need to continue to work on. These could be words exemplifying a particular pattern or convention or high-frequency words. These words are put into the children's logs with tips on how to remember the spelling.
  • To record spellings arising from each child's independent writing: these words will be specific to the individual child and will be those that frequently trip them up as they are writing. These words can be identified as part of the proofreading process and children can be involved in devising strategies for learning them and monitoring whether they spell the target words correctly in subsequent work.

The children should have no more than five target words at a time and these should be reviewed at intervals (e.g. each half-term). The children can look for evidence of correct spellings in their independent writing and remove the word from the list once it has been spelt correctly five times in a row. The teacher can write the child's spelling target into the log so that the child can refer to it regularly.

Students can create custom word lists in Spellzone

Create a word list of  target words and set the list as a classroom or homework task.

Monitor activity and progress in via the students results.


Ask yourself whether it looks right.

  • Check from another source (e.g. words around the room, another child, spelling log, dictionary).
  • Write in the correct spelling.

Repeat this until the target words have been corrected. Are there any patterns in these errors? Is there a strategy that would help the children to avoid the same errors in the future (e.g. consonant doubling after short vowels)?

  • Independent and guided writing. The children repeat the same process for their own writing across the curriculum. Less confident writers can be supported in this process with guided writing sessions.

Using dictionaries and spelling checkers
Children should be taught to use a dictionary to check their spelling. By Phase Six, the repeated singing of an alphabet song at earlier phases should have familiarised them with alphabetical order. Their first dictionary practice should be with words starting with different letters, but once they are competent at this, they should learn how to look at second and subsequent letters when necessary, learning, for example, that words starting al- come before words starting an- and as-, and words starting ben- come before words starting ber-. Knowledge gained in Phase Five of different ways of spelling particular sounds is also relevant in dictionary use: for example a child who tries to look up believe under belee- needs to be reminded to look under other possible spellings of the /ee/ sound. Having found the correct spelling of a word, children should be encouraged to memorise it.

Unless a first attempt at spelling a word is logical and reasonably close to the target, a spelling checker may suggest words which are not the one required. Children need to be taught not just to accept these suggestions, but to sound them out carefully to double-check whether the pronunciation matches that of the word they are trying to spell.

Students can use the Spellzone dictionary to check the spelling of words.

Students can also search for the word in the Spellzone word lists and practice the words using the Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check or Listen and Spell activities.

Many word lists are linked to Spellzone units which cover the appropriate sound or spelling rule.

Set the relevant word list or Spellzone unit as a classroom or homework task to reinforce learning.


Knowledge of the spelling system


In Phase Six children need to acquire more word-specific knowledge. They still need to segment words into phonemes to spell them, but they also learn that good spelling involves not only doing this and representing all the phonemes plausibly but also, where necessary, choosing the right grapheme from several possibilities.

In some cases, word-specific spellings e.g. sea/see; >goal/pole/bowl/soul; zoo/ clue/flew/you simply have to be learned. It is important to devote time in this phase to learning common words with rare or irregular spellings e.g. they, there, said as the quantity children write increases and without correction they may practise incorrect spellings that are later difficult to put right.

However, there are spelling conventions or guidelines that generalise across many words and that children should understand. Where there are exceptions these can usually be dealt with as they arise in children's reading and writing.


Some useful spelling guidelines


  1. The position of a phoneme in a word may rule out certain graphemes for that phoneme. The ai and oi spellings do not occur at the end of English words or immediately before suffixes; instead, the ay and oy spellings are used in these positions e.g. play, played, playing, playful, joy, joyful, enjoying, enjoyment. In other positions, the /ai/ sound is most often spelled ai or a consonant- vowel, as in rain, date and bacon. The same principle applies in choosing between oi and oy: oy is used at the end of a word or immediately before a suffix, and oi is used elsewhere. There is no other spelling for this phoneme.

Note that it is recommended that teachers should (at least at first) simply pronounce the relevant vowel sounds for the children – /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/; /ai/, /ee/, /igh/, /oa/ and /oo/. Later the terms 'long' and 'short' can be useful when children need to form more general concepts about spelling patterns.

  1. When an /o/ sound follows a /w/ sound, it is frequently spelt with the letter a e.g. was, wallet, want, wash, watch, wander – often known as the 'w special'. This extends to many words where the /w/ sound comes from the qu grapheme e.g. quarrel, quantity, squad, squash.

  2. When an /ur/ sound follows the letter w (but not qu) it is usually spelt or e.g. word, worm, work, worship, worth). The important exception is were.

  3. An /or/ sound before an /l/ sound is frequently spelled with the letter /a/ e.g. all, ball, call, always.

  4. English words do not end in the letter v unless they are abbreviations (e.g. rev).

    If a word ends in a /v/ sound, e must be added after the v in the spelling e.g. give, have, live, love, above). This may seem confusing, because it suggests that the vowels should have their 'long' sounds (as in alive, save and stove) but in fact there are very few words in the give/have category i.e. words with 'short' vowels – they are mostly common words and are quickly learned.

    An additional problem with the word their is its unusual letter order. However, if children know that they, them and their share the same first three letters, they are less likely to misspell their as thier.

  5. Giving vowel graphemes their full value in reading can help with the spelling of the schwa sound. For example, if children at first sound out the word important in their reading with a clear /a/ sound in the last syllable, this will help them to remember to spell the schwa sound in that syllable with the letter a rather than with any other vowel letter. The Spellzone Main Course Unit 24 covers the schwa sound.

  6. In deciding whether to use ant or ent, ance or ence at the end of a word, it is often helpful to consider whether there is a related word where the vowel sound is more clearly pronounced. When deciding, for example, between occupant or occupent the related word occupation shows that the vowel letter must be a. Similarly, if one is unsure about residance or residence, the word residential shows that the letter must be e.

Note: The i before e except after c rule is not worth teaching. It applies only to words in which the ie or ei stands for a clear /ee/ sound and unless this is known, words such as sufficient, veil and their look like exceptions. There are so few words where the ei spelling for the /ee/ sound follows the letter c that it is easier to learn the specific words: receive, conceive, deceive (+ the related words receipt, conceit, deceit), perceive and ceiling. See the Spellzone Main Course Unit 21: The 'i' before 'e' rule - does it work?


Adding suffixes to words


During Phase Six, children should also start to learn spelling conventions for adding common endings (suffixes) to words.
These are examples of common suffixes suitable for Phase Six:

Adding -s and -es to nouns and verbs
Generally, -s is simply added to the base word. The suffix -es is used after words ending in s(s), ch, sh and z(z), and when y is replaced by i. Examples include: buses, passes, benches, catches, rushes, buzzes, babies. (In words such as buses, passes, benches and catches, the extra syllable is easy to hear and helps with the spelling.) Words such as knife, leaf and loaf become knives, leaves and loaves and again the change in spelling is obvious from the change in the pronunciation of the words.


Adding other suffixes


Other suffixes have just one spelling. As with -s and -es, many can be added to base words without affecting the spelling of the base word. Adding a suffix may sometimes mean, however, that the last letter of the base word needs to be dropped, changed or doubled, and there are guidelines for this. Once children know the guidelines, they can apply them to many different words. Only three kinds of base words may need their last letters to be changed – those ending in:

  • an -e that is part of a split digraph (e.g. hope, safe, use);
  • a -y preceded by a consonant (e.g. happy, baby, carry);
  • a single consonant letter preceded by a single vowel letter (e.g. hop, red, run).

This simplified version of the guideline applies reliably to single-syllable words.

Later, children will need to learn that in words of more than one syllable, stress also needs to be taken into account.

General guidelines for adding other suffixes

Children should be taught to think in terms of base words and suffixes whenever appropriate. Suffixes are easily learned and many base words will already be familiar from Phases Two to Five.

  1. If a base word ends in an e which is part of a split digraph, drop the e if the suffix begins with a vowel (e.g. hope – hoping; like – liked: the e before the d is part of the suffix, not part of the base word). Keep the e if the suffix begins with a consonant (e.g. hope – hopeful; safe – safely).
  2. If a base word ends in y preceded by a consonant, change the y to i before all suffixes except those beginning with i (e.g. happy – happiness, happier; baby – babies; carry – carried). Keep the y if the suffix begins with i, not permissible in English (e.g. baby – babyish; carry – carrying), as ii is not permissible in English except in taxiing and skiing.
  3. If a base word ends in a single consonant letter preceded by a single vowel letter and the suffix begins with a vowel, double the consonant letter.

Another way of stating this guideline is that there needs to be two consonant letters between a 'short' vowel (vowel sounds learned in Phase Two – see also the note on page 187) and a suffix beginning with a vowel (e.g. hop – hopped, hopping; red – redder, reddest; run – running, runner).

In all other cases, the suffix can simply be added without any change being made to the spelling of the base word. This means that for words in 1 and 3 above, the spelling of the base word does not change if a suffix beginning with a consonant is added (e.g. lame + ness = lameness; glad + ly = gladly). Similarly, no change occurs if the base word ends in any way other than those mentioned in 1, 2 and 3 above.

The rules for adding suffixes to longer words are covered in the Spellzone Main Course Unit 34.


Practice examples


Examples for practising adding the suffixes -s or -es
stop,  park, bunch, mend, dish, thank, crash, match, bark, night
stops,  parks, bunches, mends, dishes, thanks, crashes, matches, barks, nights
fizz, circus, room, fuss, goal, cross, boat, buzz, melt, stitch

fizzes, circuses, rooms, fusses, goals, crosses, boats, buzzes, melts, stitches
hurry, fly, bunny, marry, dry, curry, cry, puppy, try, fry
hurries, flies, bunnies, marries, dries, curries, cries, puppies, tries, fries

Examples for practising adding the suffixes -
ing, -ed, -s, -er, -est, -y, -en
All the base words need changes made before the suffixes are added.

Words ending in -e

like, ride, tame, bone, bake, hike, fine, wave, rule, rude
liking, rider, tamest, boney, baked, hiking, finest, waved, ruler, rudest

Words ending in -y

marry, funny, worry, copy, hurry, messy, lucky,  ferry, carry, pony, married, funnier, worried, copier, hurried, messiest, luckier, ferries, carried, ponies

Words ending in a single consonant
stop, mad, skip, run, hop, nod, pad, hid, hot, rip, stopping, madder, skipped,  running,  hopper, nodded, padding, hidden, hottest, ripped

Examples for practising adding the suffixes -
ing, -ed, -ful, -ly, -est, -er, -ment, -ness, -en
Practice list 1
Practice list 2
Practice list 3

Some of the base words need to be changed before the suffixes are added but some do not.

Remember: a final e in the base word may or may not need to be dropped.
spite, rude, white, bite, lame, safe, amuse, rise, time, use, spiteful, rudely, whiter, biting, lameness, safely, amusement, rising, timed, useful

Remember: a final y in the base word may or may not need to be changed to i
merry, employ, play, enjoy, silly, funny, obey, sunny, happy, stay, merrily, employment, played, enjoyment , silliness, funniest, obeying, sunnier, happily , stayed

Remember: a final consonant in the base word may or may not need to be double.
bad, flap, send, slim, fan, sad, put, flat, bat, dark
badly, flapped, sending, slimmest, fanned, sadness, putting, flatten, batting, darkest

Print out worksheets for offline practice.


Things to do before asking someone


Things to do before asking poster (pdf)

Ask students to log into Spelzone and look at My Word Lists, the Spellzone word lists home page and also to try searching Spellzone word lists and to use the Spellzone dictionary.

Search word lists

Try Spellzone for free

One of the students has put in a huge amount of effort in completing Spellzone at least 3 times a week since his arrival with us in January. Looking at his scores after the latest GL testing, his standardised score has risen from 99 to 131. This is a truly phenomenal result. I just wanted to share the best result I have ever seen.

Terrie Penrose-Toms, Casterton College