Teachers and Tutors frequently asked questions

Who will benefit from using Spellzone?
What does the spelling course cover?
What theory underpins the spelling course?
When is a student ready for Spellzone?
How should students use Spellzone?
What are the benefits of a site licence?
Advertising on Spellzone

Who will benefit from using Spellzone?

Spellzone provides a complete teaching resource for students aged seven to adult.
As Spellzone is an online course, it can be used in school, college or learning unit and also by students for private study at home and on mobile devices. This offers a significant advantage over CD based or installed software that is only available on campus. Teachers have found that the ability to use Spellzone at home makes it popular with parents who are keen to support their son or daughter's school work.

Spellzone is very suitable for supervision by teaching assistants. Previous experience in teaching spelling is not needed, as Spellzone provides a complete teaching course and all teaching points are presented clearly, in a logical progression. Many students will be able to work on Spellzone entirely by themselves. 

It is estimated that the specific learning difficulty of dyslexia affects around ten percent of the population. Spellzone can be used in Learning Support Departments and is particularly suitable for dyslexic students. Please see Spelling and Dyslexia and What theory underpins the spelling course?

Spellzone can also be used in regular English classes with other pupils needing help with spelling, for example those whose first language is not English. A translation feature enables them to see word lists in any one of 92 languages and the Spellzone dictionary allows learners to check the meaning of most unfamiliar words.

Spellzone can be adapted to the needs of any individual by uploading your own word lists; these can then be practised with our spelling games and tests.

Most teachers have to demonstrate results and provide reports on students progress. For assessment purposes all Spelling Ability Test results, course results, and level of engagement are stored securely online. These can be evaluated and reports download at any time.

What does the spelling course cover?

The Spellzone Spelling Ability Test measures a student's spelling ability, provides a baseline 'Spellzone Score' and creates a personal 'Course Pathway'. This may include units from the Spellzone Starter Course and the Spellzone Main Course.

The test is repeated at key points and the scores and pathways updated according to the progress made keeping the student on track with little intervention.

The Spellzone Starter Course
The Spellzone Starter Course is an entry level resource. It will help all learners, including Primary pupils, older students who are still struggling with basic spelling concepts, lower level users of English such as ESL and EAL students who are completely new to English spelling, and those with difficulties such as severe dyslexia.

The Spellzone Starter Course teaches the basic phonic rules of how to spell short vowel sounds and hard consonants with just one letter using multi-sensory activities and tests.* All course word lists follow a structured, cumulative approach. Each page deals first with sounds new to that page and then includes sounds from earlier lists. Only those sounds that have already been introduced are included.

At the end of the Starter Course users will understand the basics of English spelling and be ready for the Spellzone Main Course.

* Double consonants (e.g.  ll,   ss,   ff, ck) are taught in Unit 2 of the main course and  'qu' is in Unit 3. Irregular spellings of short vowels  (e.g. head, want)  are in Unit 6.  Later Units of the main course cover all other spelling rules.

The Spellzone Main Course
The Spellzone Main Course is ideal for older learners: teenage to adult. It is suitable for:

  • supporting learners who need help with Key Skills or who have spelling problems such as dyslexia.
  • use as a whole-school resource to improve spelling and learn specialist vocabulary.
  • learners of English as a foreign language (Please see Spelling as part of an English language course).

The Spellzone Main Course consists of over 450 web pages, divided into 36 units, covering all the main topics of English spelling. This is supplemented by hundreds of word lists to use in practice games and tests. The aim is not just to test spelling, as other programs do, but also to provide a comprehensive teaching course.

The Spellzone Main Course assumes that users that can spell phonically simple words with short vowel sounds and hard consonants, for example  run, sit, stand, jump. It includes:

  • underpinning instruction in the basic concepts of spelling such as consonants, long and short vowels, syllables, prefixes and suffixes.
  • the different sounds in the English language; extensive word lists showing the various ways of spelling each sound and any rules that govern the choice of spelling.
  • regular English spelling rules e.g. when (and why) we double or change letters when adding suffixes.
  • words which break spelling rules; and tips on how to remember these difficult words.
  • a special emphasis on homophones - e.g. wait/weight, herd/heard, currant/current: those words the computer spellchecker will not spot; tips on how to remember which spelling for which meaning. In addition to the 36 main units, there are twelve extra 'Beat the Spell Check' units with practice exercises and tests on homophones.
  • several sections on easily confused endings e.g. able/ible, ant/ent, ate/ite, cial/tial.
  • the differences between British and American spelling.

What theory underpins the spelling course?

The Spellzone course combines traditional methods of teaching spelling with current research into this topic. Learners are encouraged to use multi-sensory methods:

  • use ears to hear the sound.
  • use eyes to learn when words 'look' right.
  • use the hand for practice in writing and/or typing words with similar spelling patterns.

Multi-sensory methods are particularly suited to people with spelling difficulties such as dyslexia. Most of us perform better in some areas than others. Students who have strengths in visual memory but difficulties with auditory perception will benefit from the way Spellzone presents words grouped together firstly by their sound, then sub-divided according to visual spelling pattern.

By the time they reach secondary education most dyslexic learners have some knowledge of sound/symbol relationships: for example, they may know that the letters er. ur and ir make the same sound when reading but are unsure which sound to use in spelling. Using Spellzone will help them to clear up these confusions.

Normal conventions are used to help with the understanding of sound. For example, obliques are used to signify the sound (phoneme) that letters make: /sh/. Short vowels are shown by a breve: ă. Long vowels are shown by a macron: ā.

When looking at spelling rules, the course is carefully structured so that knowledge is gradually built up. For example:

  • Before learning the 'doubling' rule for adding suffixes (Main Course Unit 9), users learn about long and short vowels (Main Course Units 6-7) and how patterns in syllables can affect a vowel sound (Main Course Unit 8). Then they can understand the logic behind the doubling rule.
  • Before teaching word endings such as calendar, monitor, computer (Main Course Unit 25), currant, current (Main Course Unit 33), the program looks at stress in syllables and introduces the weak vowel sound, or 'schwa' sound, which is often found in unstressed syllables (Main Course Unit 24). This sound causes many spelling errors - yet so many courses ignore the concept altogether.

When is a student ready for Spellzone?

Only a small amount of pre-knowledge is required before using Spellzone. It is assumed that students will be familiar with normal website usage, for example links, scroll bar and the 'back button'. Great care has been taken to make the site user-friendly.

Students who are working independently will need a reading age of about 7-8 years. This should not cause a problem as most people with spelling difficulties do find that their reading is at a rather higher level. Those with a lower reading ability can still use Spellzone with the support of a tutor.

The main course assumes that they will have a knowledge of basic sound-symbol correspondence for consonants e.g. /g/ as in golf, /r/ as in random, /t/ as in traffic and the short vowel sound e.g. /a/ as in bag, /e/ as in peg, /i/ as in lid, /o/ as in pop, /u/ as in rub.

This means they will be able to spell simple words such as run, sit, stand, jump. The consonant variations e.g. qu, ph, wh, soft c and g etc., plus all vowel sounds, are taught during the course. Those with a lower ability can start using the Starter course.

If you are unsure of where to start your students, the Spellzone Spelling Ability Test will measure their spelling ability, provide a baseline 'Spellzone Score' and create a personal 'Course Pathway' for each individual. These may include units from the Spellzone Starter Course and the Spellzone Main Course.

The test will be repeated at key points during the pathway and the score and course pathway updated according to progress made keeping them on track.

How should students use Spellzone? A typical lesson plan:

Some learners may choose NOT to use the Spelling Ability Test to create a personal 'Course Pathway'. In this case it is possible to work through the complete course or use it as a 'dip-in' resource to fill gaps in knowledge.

When working through a typical unit we suggest the following progression:

  • If there is a sound example, click on it and read the teaching text.
  • Read the word lists for all the different ways of spelling that sound; use the dictionary box on the sidebar to check meanings and hear words read aloud.
  • Click on the word list on the sidebar to access tests and games for the page. These can be repeated as often as required.
Tests:
    • Look, say, cover, write, check practice - help in learning words.
    • Listen and Spell - testing knowledge.
Games:
    • Against the Clock - Spell a list of words 'against the clock'.
    • Word Search - the classic English word game. (different levels of difficulty).
    • Bouncing Anagram - an original anagram game. Click the balls in the correct order.
    • Which Witch - hangman with a twist. Beat the witch by guessing the correct letters.
    • Asteroids - an outer-space spelling game.
    • Rain Letters - a spelling game for a rainy day.
  • Return to the course unit and click the link at the bottom of the page to go to the course test.
    This takes various forms; for example, enter the correct letters to complete a word in a sentence context.
  • Complete the test and check the score.
  • When NOT using a personal 'Course Pathway' tests can be repeated as often as required.

What are the benefits of a site licence?

A subscription entitles the staff and students of a school or college to use all of the Spellzone spelling resources on their school, college or learning centre computers, their home computers, and mobile devices. This makes it a more flexible resource than a CD based program.

In most schools the teaching of spelling skills is regarded as the responsibility of the English Department but virtually all teachers have some written work to mark. Despite the increase in computer-based work, where spellcheckers are available, many assignments and most exams are still handwritten. Many exam boards are tightening their standards and marking down for poor spelling. Therefore the teaching of spelling is still very important.

By developing and following a consistent approach across the whole school, teachers can not only contribute to their students’ spelling improvement but also ease their own marking load by reducing the number of spelling mistakes made. Teachers can upload their own subject-specific word lists for practice with our learning activities and games, set classroom or homework tasks and create spelling worksheets for off-line practice. Students can also create their own word lists for use with the Spellzone spelling games and tests.

Summary of the features of Spellzone:

  • Spellzone is online so there are no CDs or software to install.
  • Staff and students can access Spellzone on any computer with an internet connection in school or college, at home and on mobile devices.
  • Upload school usernames and passwords for students and staff.
  • Create subject-specific word lists for use in the learning activities and games or as printable worksheets.
  • Check the meaning of any word in the Spellzone dictionary to help with vocabulary.
  • Translation feature to see word lists in any one of 92 languages.
  • Set classroom and homework tasks.
  • All student activity, level of engagement and results can be monitored and evaluated.
  • Reports can be download at any time.
  • Print certificates to reward progress.

Advertising on Spellzone

Spellzone is used by schools, colleges, individuals, families and homeschoolers across the world. In order to keep prices low and to support the continued development of Spellzone, we accept some advertising via Google AdSense.

The advertising is only visible to those who are NOT logged into Spellzone.

When a Spellzone subscription is purchased (or during a school trial), NO advertising will appear when users are logged in.

Spellzone is committed to being a responsible member of the educational community. Care has been taken not to include any inappropriate material and the Spellzone resources do NOT contain content of a sexual or violent nature.

If you notice an advertisement that you feel is offensive or inappropriate, please inform us and include the name and web site address (URL) of the company that is advertising.

Spellzone would like to remind parents and teachers that children using the Internet should be supervised. For more information, be sure to read the Spellzone Terms and Conditions.


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