In tests written spellings are usually marked simply as being right or wrong. Often children correct their own tests or those of their classmates.
However, valuable information is missed when the patterns of errors are not looked at. By looking at the errors made, a teacher can analyse what underlying knowledge children are using to spell words.
Take children in second class. They often fail to observe the following spelling patterns:
• Doubling rule (e.g.running, begging, snapped)
• Changing a y preceded by a consonant to an i when a suffix not beginning with i is added (e.g. fries, babies)
• Irregular plurals (e.g. geese, mice, fish)
• Past tense – ed (e.g. wanted, occurred)
• Words containing –er, – ir, – ar and – ur that sound similar (e.g. cooker, stir, sugar, curl)
• Vowel teams, i.e. sounds made by two letters including at least one vowel and including vowel combinations (e.g. few, pear, pair, oil, paw, bread, cheer)
• A one-syllable word ending in f, s or l sound and containing a final double letter (e.g. stuff, pass, spill)
• Words where an e following a consonant lengthens a vowel preceding the consonant (e.g. cute, dote)
• Words containing “s” blends (e.g. slip, strike)
The spelling sensitivity score helps a teacher identify what knowledge would help children spell better. It does this by analysing the plausibility of attempted spellings.
Some of the patterns listed above could be discussed with children who could make class lists of words and look for exceptions to the general patterns.