Monday, September 29, 2014

Dr Louisa Moats on spelling

The following is a short video of Dr Louisa Moats talking about how "spelling deserves much higher status in the attention of reading educators". We, at Sounds-Write, have always argued this, which is why we have collected so much data on children's spelling.

Below is a verbatim transcript of why Dr Moats believes spelling is so important.
"...spelling is a visible record of language processing. It is language written down. If we know how to look at a child's spelling, we can tell what a child understands about speech sounds, about how we use letters to represent those and, as it turns out, anything that is going to cause trouble with a child's reading will show up even more dramatically in the child's spelling and writing.
So, it's a wonderful diagnostic tool. It provides very detailed insight into what children need to know and it can also tell us when children are gaining insight and what improvements they are making in their understanding of language."
Dr Moats also goes on to mount a defence of the use of nonsense words, which, she says, indicate so well how much a child understands about
"the sounds in a word and the sound-symbol correspondences that are used to spell those words and, possibly, you also understand the structure of the words: whether they have a prefix, a root, and a suffix. English is very pattern-based and people who are proficient at reading and spelling nonsense words in fact are better at reading for meaning".
I would like to thank Alison Clarke of Spelfabet for bringing this video to my attention and you can read more about the work of Dr Moats here at Children of the Code.



  1. Do you have any links to a spelling policy/weekly programme that runs alongside the Sounds Write programme.

  2. Thanks for writing in, Anon.
    We don't have any links because the 'spelling policy' is as much part of the programme as teaching reading. What we do have is a programme that teaches reading and spelling simultaneously. This is because the code is reversible and we teach it as a reversible code from the moment children begin to learn to read and spell.
    We teach practitioners who attend our courses to understand how the alphabet code functions in its entirety, and we teach that the sounds of the language are the basis for the code. We teach that spellings are arbitrary symbols that represent the sounds in English and we teach them cumulatively from simple to more complex.
    We also make sure that learners (both teachers and the children they teach) understand explicitly that the spelling system is a code for the sounds in speech and we connect reading and spelling at every level of instruction.
    That way, the teaching of spelling is not taught as something separate from the teaching of reading.

  3. I get that, but do your course contain the highest frequency words when teaching various graphemes. For example when teaching the sound would you have the highest frequency /ow/ /oa/ and /o/ spellings of that sound.

  4. that should read "... teaching the oa sound", but for some reason it did not accept < oa >

  5. Hi Anon,
    The simple answer is yes. We teach all of the most frequent sound-spelling correspondences.
    We start with /ae/, as in 'play', go on to /ee/, as in 'sheep', etc.
    We also teach a limited number of sound-spelling correspondences to young children (Y1) and then go on to teach the complete list in Y2/Y3.