When children are able to spell well, writing becomes more enjoyable and effortless. The problem is often that there are so many words that it can seem overwhelming and it is hard to know which words to teach and where to start.

There are a number of key strategies that children need to use when learning how to spell. One of them is memorising the spelling of high frequency words, which are words they are most likely to encounter in their reading and writing. The underlying theory is that if we teach children words that they are more likely to use in their own writing, they will be better equipped to write.

The best way to teach your child to spell commonly used words is to introduce a Spelling Journal.

What is a Spelling Journal?

A Spelling Journal is a list of words that your child needs to learn at a pace appropriate to their ability. Once your child spells a word correctly three times, you can move on to the next word.

Why parents should use a Spelling Journal with their child/children

As a parent, you are in the best position to use a Spelling Journal with your child. It is an individualised learning tool that is difficult for teachers to use frequently in the classroom because they rarely get a chance to work one-on-one with students.

The five main advantages of a parent using a Spelling Journal with their child are:

– Your child is able to learn at a pace appropriate to their ability; they might learn the words quickly or they may need extra practice.

– You can add words to your child’s spelling journal that they are spelling incorrectly in their writing – which is highly individualised to your child.

– Many teachers provide spelling lists that do not include high frequency words. For example, they may be words based around a certain sound, like: oil, coin, join, spoil, noise. Teaching your child to spell high frequency words as well as these phonetically based words will help them to write confidently.

– The more words your child can spell by memory, the easier it is to learn new words. This is because they are able to make connections between words they know how to spell when learning new words. For example, if a child knows how to spell “they”, then learning how to spell the words “grey” and “prey” becomes easier.

– Your child’s writing will improve.

When do I start using a Spelling Journal with my child?

Start using a Spelling Journal with your child when they are able to put words into a sentence. Here is a free Spelling Journal to get you started. I have left space on the back to include words that your child is spelling incorrectly in their writing.

Use magnetic letters to teach your child the words from their Spelling Journal

WritingThe strategy of memorising the correct spelling of words is different from using strategies such as phonics and spelling rules. Your child needs to be able to picture the word in their mind and remember the correct spelling. This is because many high frequency words are difficult to ‘sound-out’. For example, words like “here” and “once” require more strategies than listening for the sounds in words.

I have included a section from the School Start Handbook that provides an activity to learn a list of high frequency words using magnetic letters. The activity is simple to do and requires very little time, but is highly effective because it helps children to visualise and memorise the correct spelling of a word.



I hope I have helped you to understand what high frequency words are and how to teach them to your children.


Sharona Edwards

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