Spelling out the options

When pupils arrive at Mossbourne Community Academy, they are not always good at spelling. At the same time, as image-conscious teenagers, they don't respond well to materials that have been written for a younger audience. I need to help them improve their spelling without them feeling patronised, which is why I turned to Spellzone.

Spellzone is an online spelling tool that allows pupils to go back over the rules I've taught them. So while I might focus on using 'e' to make a long sound, the program doesn't just give them one little group of words, which allows them to parrot the pattern without really taking it on board. Instead, it also brings up other long 'e' sounds including 'ei', 'ay' and 'a-e' and 'e-c', really driving them to learn.

The benefit of Spellzone is that the pupils make great strides fast. It also reduces the amount of time I have to spend on making resources, which frees me up to do work with more students. I bought Spellzone in 2008 and let it gather dust. Then one day I started using it. I only wish I had known earlier what a difference it makes.

The program is clearly enjoyable; it's games focused, and this competitive element is very good for boys. Pupils can also go back and improve their scores and, importantly, they can work at home, so their peers don't know they are practicing. I notice the difference when they have been using Spellzone – it really fits the bill for older students.

Ciara Heenan,
Specialist SpLD and dyslexia teacher,
Mossbourne Community Academy Hackney, London, UK

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