Learning to Read and Spell – Ways to Engage Children by Liz McPhail, Victoria Bass and Alix Anson

“Let me tell you a story…” Storytelling is one of the oldest traditions in human society, used not only to entertain, but also as a way to preserve a particular culture and set of values, and very often as a means of education.  Today is no different.

Among a host of wonderful benefits, storytelling can:

  • stimulate the imagination
  • develop a love of language
  • encourage creativity, as children want to make up their own stories
  • lead to lively discussions
  • act as a springboard for writing
  • broaden vocabulary

With their love of stories, what better way is there to engage children when they are learning to read and spell?

An element of storytelling is at the heart of proven study skills’ techniques designed to make learning active and memorable. When something needs to be learnt, a story can be made up to link the information and help the learning process. Giving this story a catchy title and humorous content makes it much easier to remember and more enjoyable to tell and retell. In this way, short stories and snappy memory hooks can be created to link words containing the same letter pattern, and these not only entertain children but also help them to master and retain the information.

“What have you drawn?”
The use of pictures is another key study skill technique; one which activates the power of visual memory, thus strengthening recall.  Colourful, humorous pictures will always engage children, particularly if they have created their own unique illustrations of a phonic pattern story. Moreover, they are fun to share with others in their class or take home to show to their family.

For example, the letter pattern ‘ie’ can be linked to a story, The Thief in Briefs, as in the WordBlaze scheme, with an accompanying picture such as this one by eight-year-old Harry.

The Thief in Briefs by Harry Aged 8




© Copyright WordBlaze 2015

These techniques are entertaining and a successful way of learning key letter patterns, and they help children engage with their reading and spelling.  Each letter pattern can have its own story, memory hook and illustration and, in this way, will deepen children’s phonic knowledge.

“Let me try.”
Letting children into the ‘secret’ of syllables and syllabification, and teaching them the key phonic rules, gives them ‘the tools’ needed to tackle an enormous number of previously unknown words. They feel more confident to try by themselves, and the satisfaction of being able to decode words using ‘the tools’ means they are far less likely to give up. Furthermore, giving these rules colourful little stories and pictures makes them much more appealing and more likely to ‘stick’! 

“Can I have another go?”
Practice makes perfect, and making progress is both satisfying and motivating. Just as learning a sport, dance or musical instrument takes practice and determination, reading and spelling are no different for a great many children. Fluency in reading is heavily dependent on children being able to read words with minimum effort. They need, therefore, to practise. Reading individual words all linked by one pattern develops a visual imprint of the key letter combinations and indeed of whole words. Children can be motivated to practise by seeing how many words they can read accurately in one minute. In the WordBlaze literacy scheme, these are called ‘One Minute Wonders’. They realise they are making progress when they improve their score, and most children are excited to see if they can do better. Equally, practising spelling in letter pattern groups, and setting an achievable test goal week by week, engages children in their own learning.

“Can we play…?”
A variety of entertaining literacy games reinforces learning, but in disguise!

“Well done!”
Children need as much encouragement and support with their reading and spelling as possible, both at school and at home. Engaging parents in their children’s progress is a sure fire way to gain significantly greater pleasure and success. At home, parents can enjoy the ‘spelling stories’ with their children, appreciate their fun illustrations and help them improve their reading.

“I did it!”
Success breeds success. Achieving a goal makes us feel good and makes us want to do more. Children remain engaged in their learning when they can ‘see’ they are making progress, so they need clear, achievable targets and rewards. They can then begin to experience the satisfaction of reading with greater fluency, and spelling with increasing ease. Moreover, as the different components of literacy, i.e. spelling, writing, reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, are all intertwined, progress in one area leads to progress in the others.

The Pharaoh on the Phone by William Aged 10
Using a fun, creative, multisensory approach to reading and spelling, where children can experience success, be it small or large, and be rewarded for their efforts is a way to ensure that they remain motivated and make the best progress!



© WordBlaze 2015

For more information about WordBlaze reading and spelling programme, please visit: http://www.risingstars-uk.com/series/wordblaze/



Intervention and SEN, WordBlaze

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