5 Tips for Teaching Spelling in KS2

With thanks to Shareen Mayers, author of the Rising Stars KS2 Spelling Test books, the Implications for teaching grammar 2018 publication and co-author of the Achieve Reading revision books, as well as many other educational books for teachers and pupils. She advises at national level and is a DfE subject specialist for reading and grammar (KS1 and KS2). 

We asked Shareen Mayers to share her own tips and strategies for teaching spelling in KS2. As many schools are aware, the spelling aspect of the KS2 curriculum can be particularly demanding and challenging. Notably, many pupils at the end of KS2 were able to confidently answer the KS2 grammar test questions but struggled when it came to the spelling aspect.

Tip number 1: Spelling should be a whole school responsibility

A salient point to note here is that 70% of the spelling test rules were first introduced in years 3 and 4 with the remaining 30% focused on years 5 and 6. Explicit teaching of spelling in years 3 and 4 is essential, as well as good phonics and spelling teaching within EYFS and KS1.

2018 KS2 Spelling test words in order: thumb (93.2%), trouble (86.8%), mixture (88.6%), portable (89.3%), dough (87.1%), science (83.8%), attention (80.5%), obtained (79.1%), weightless (77%), council (69.8%), suffered (77.7%), typical (61.6%), usually (59.5%), cautious (58.2%), essential (52.4%), vague (39.3%), adventurous (42.7%), architect (31.7%), descendant(18.9%) and inconceivable (14%).

(Percentages represent the number of pupils nationally who spelled that word correctly.)

Tip number 2: Be mindful of what it tested at the end of KS2

Whilst it is important to explicitly teach spelling across the school, it is also crucial for year 6 teachers to be aware of the pitch and coverage of words tested at the end of KS2. The words below reflect the KS2 spelling curriculum and give teachers a general overview of the kind of words tested each year.


Tip number 3: Teach the statutory word lists grouped by area


In my opinion, the statutory word lists can be an onerous task to teach across the year.  However, by grouping them by area and teaching them alongside the other spelling rules, pupils have a greater understanding of the words they are learning.


Tip number 4: Explicitly teach the spelling rules

This might sound obvious to some, but I have visited many schools where spelling is still assessed (in whatever from, e.g. test/activity) but not explicitly taught to pupils. Pupils need to be clear about the rules for spelling. A good strategy to use, which was widely utilised in the DfE Spelling bank, is outlined below:


This is a great opportunity for pupils to review previous learning, either within the year group or from previous years, so that they can consolidate their learning. The review work does not have to relate to the new learning but should be linked, where appropriate.


This is an opportunity for teachers to be explicit about the spelling rules or the particular spelling strategies that they can use to spell words effectively.
It is also a chance to show the pupils the statutory word list words/common exception words, especially the words that do not follow any particular rule.


Pupils should be encouraged to work independently during this part of the lesson so that they can effectively try out their new learning.


Pupils can discuss their new learning, and apply their new learning into their spoken language, reading and writing. Pupils should be encouraged to use their new words in their ongoing writing.

Tip number 5: Explicitly teach words from across the curriculum 

Although there are many words tested at the end of KS2 linked to the spelling rules, it is also important to explicitly teach words from across the curriculum, as part of the spelling curriculum. The words highlighted below are taken from other subjects in the national curriculum and pupils should be confident about what they mean and understand how to use some of them in different contexts.

Written by Shareen Mayers (@ShareenMayers)


Key links

Achieve Implications for Teaching and Learning – Grammar, Reading and Mathematics

Achieve Reading, Grammar and Mathematics books
Further resources:

Rising Stars New Curriculum Spelling Test – this includes the spelling rules and the statutory word lists grouped by rule where possible.

Rising Stars Spelling


Revision, spelling

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