Grow Your Own Words

It sounds about as dull as any KS2 English lesson can be – “Today we’re going to learn about prefixes and suffixes.”  Actually, though, these unassuming little snippets of words are the key to creating (and correctly spelling!) a wonderful range of deliciously long and complicated words.

I showed one of my ‘Grow Your Own Words’ sheets to Slightly Bigger (my 8-year-old grandson) this week and asked for his opinion.

“Yes, it’s pretty good,” he told me.  “It looks quite short and kids love short worksheets – trust me on that.  I think you need to make some of the targets lower – 5 instead of 7 words for the bronze award and 8 for silver, but I guess 15 is about right for gold.

“I think you need some little comments after the awards to, like, encourage them a bit, you know?”

He proceeded to dictate the constructive comments for each – which I have used verbatim.  I pushed him up to 9 words for the silver award and we put together the new-improved version on my computer.

“Okay,” I told him, “Now you have to try it out for me.  I used to use it for Years 5 and 6, so let’s see what a Year 3 person can do.”

He started to build words, adding prefixes and suffixes to the ‘root’.  At first he had a ‘let’s get this out of the way quickly’ attitude, but when he reached the bronze target of five words he didn’t want to stop until he managed gold.

“Is ‘disform’ a word?  Hey, ‘formal’ – I’ve heard of that, but I don’t remember what it means.”

“What might you wear to a wedding?” I hinted.

“Oh, right, yeah!  Formal clothes.  So I could do ‘informal’, too!”

Eventually, with much fist pumping, he reached the gold award level.


As a freebie, I’m adding one of the new activity sheets (suitable for ages 7- adult) to this post.  Go to this link, though, and you will find all four Grow Your Own Words sheets to download for a very modest price from Inspiralingo, along with a crib sheet for the adults!

Download your free sheet here: grow word FORM 


End of an Era?

Smallest – my five-year-old granddaughter – is heading back to school on Monday.  I’ve been laughing, stressing and sometimes battling my way through our daily ‘lessons’ since mid-March.

Teachers who manage whole groups of little ones on Zoom or similar platforms have my undying admiration.  While her eight-year-old brother has been relatively easy to engage with, Smallest often has her own curriculum to follow.  I’ll video call her on WhatsApp with all my resources at the ready, and as often as not be told that she is being the teacher today and has a Spell School story to tell me, or I get taken on an extended visit to the rabbit run or the stick insects’ tank, or I get told – very dramatically – that it’s all too much and she just can’t do any more learning!

Family or School Reading Activity Ages 5-11  Kids Book-making image 4Of course there have been wonderful days, too.  We did the final Spell School story today, introducing er  – the last of the Phase 3 phonic sounds.  I even wrote her into it, as the very clever girl who could read ‘disappear’.  That, after all, was the highlight of our lessons.  It appears on the final page of the mini book Bad Bug in three soap bubbles and when she realised that she had read such a huge word by herself, her shrieks of delight reverberated around the house.  Her mummy had to temporarily give up her precious work time to hear this new skill.

When she hear that part of the Spell School story today, a slow smile spread across her face and a stubby little finger pointed at herself.

“That was ME!” she breathed joyfully.

Still brimming with pride, she took on the challenge and managed to read all of the loooong words at the end of today’s story.


I’m sadly aware that I’ve neglected this blog recently, while being so caught up in preparing lessons and teaching the little ones.

So printed below is the last of the Spell School Lessons, for anyone who would like to use it and, in celebration of this ‘era ending’ in my family, I’m having a special sale in my Inspiralingo shop, with 50% off all the lockdown-themed mini-book kits.  They are supplied as digital downloads and come with a free blank-paged keepsake book, with a choice of two covers, for an older child to write in and construct.

Please go to this link to find the almost free mini-books and other games, puzzles, quizzes and activities for children.

So wishing all things good to Smallest (and her teachers!) as she returns to school, and here is the story of ‘er’.


Note for parents/carers: the er sound should be read as the tiny grunt-like sound at the end of ‘butter‘, ‘shower‘ etc.

Final Spell School Story

The children in Orange Class and Purple Class were looking at the last empty chair.

“Just one more person to come,” said igh.  “I wonder what their sound will be.”

“I hope it’s someone who helps us to make big words,” ear said.  “I heard about this really clever girl who could read the word disappear!  It would be so cool to be able to make big words like that!”

“What, with just one new sound?” laughed zz. “That won’t happen!”

“As a matter of fact,” said e, I think it might.  If you all help us, I can do a spell with r to make just the sort of sound you want, ear.”

Now everyone was looking excited.  It would be cool to make longer words.

“Come on then, e,” said r.  “You stand in front of me and everyone can help us make the spell.”

They closed their eyes and made the shapes of e, then r and when they opened their eyes again, the last person in Purple Class was standing there giggling.

“Hello,” said everyone eagerly.  “What’s your sound?”

er,” she said.

“That’s a TINY sound!” exclaimed oi. “How can you help us make big words?”

er giggled again.  “Let me show you.  I’m going to give you a test!  Can you make the word buzz?”

“Easy!” said the others.  b went first, then u, then zz.  er came up and stood after them.

“Look,” she said.  “Now we’ve made the word buzzer.”

“Wow!” shouted everyone.  “That’s a big word, but it’s easy to make.  Can we do some more?”

er worked with all the other sounds and you will be amazed when you see all the words they made.  You’ll be even more amazed when you see how many of their long words you can read.


butter    letter     rubber     

matter   pepper    better

tower     shower   dinner

shiver     river      summer

Introducing Inspiralingo

As followers will know, I’ve been handing out free home-learning resources on this blog for several years now.

Since the beginning of lockdown – and the home-learning situation so many families have been thrust into – I’ve tried to ramp up my efforts.  I teach my grandchildren via video link each morning, so that their mum has some time to get on with her work.  Many of the resources I’ve made for them have been published here (check previous posts) but some were a bit more time-consuming and complicated, so I’ve decided to open up a little online shop to offer them to a wider audience.

Please head over to take a look.  This is the link to the Inspiralingo Shop.  All the games, books and resources are digital downloads, available as soon as you have ordered them, so not too late for today’s lesson!  I’ve kept the prices as low as possible and for the time being I’m offering a free ‘bubble licence’ to hard-pressed teachers – pay for one and you can reproduce it for all the kids in your school bubble.

My current favourites are the little book-making kits.

I’ve tried a few times in my long teaching career to create beginner reading books that children would enjoy.  ‘Phonics’ narrows down the word choices still further, but over the last few weeks I’ve picked up a few ideas.

I decided to make cute, tiny books small children could read and share with their teddies (perfect for playing schools!)

Kids' Book Kit Bundle  3 Tiny Phonic Reading Books  Mini image 1I decided to make them as craft kits an older child can put together for the younger sibling.  (There’s also a keepsake mini-journal for the older child to use.)

I decided to make a special set to reflect the current situation.  There’s a story of a female scientist, working to create a cure so that she can hug her aged parents again, one about a young boy who makes a special gift for his isolated grandmother and a simple guide to safety measures children must take as they return to school.  They are available separately or as a bargain bundle here: Reading Book Bundle.


Spell School 21 – Home learning primary age literacy activities

The new sound to add in today is igh.  It’s the one of the triple letter sounds taught in phase 3 phonics, so we will take it slowly.

Spell School  Purple Class Story 8

Hello.  Remember me?  I’m the vowel i.  Today I’m going to tell you one of my secrets.  I just hope the other Spell School people don’t all find out, because some of them might laugh at me and call me a baby.  You won’t tell them, will you?

Like all the vowels, I have to make more than one sound.  There is the little i sound I make in pin.  I can make my longer name sound when I turn into a capital letter and make the word I.  Being a capital letter makes me feel big and brave, you see.

Sometimes, though, I’m supposed to make that big I sound in other words and (this is my secret, so I’ll whisper it to you) I’m scared of doing that.  So I get help!

Luckily I have two very kind friends called g and h.  They know my secret and they stand with me.  When they are there we make a secret spell and together we turn into a tough, brave kid who can make that I sound.  Do you want to help us make my secret spell?  You have to shut your eyes and use your hand to write i, then g, then h.  Here he is – igh!

The new kid laughs.  “Don’t worry i.  I’ll keep your secret.  I know I look a bit weird, but if you want to remember me just think of ‘I get help‘ because the first sounds of those three words make my sound shape.  I make my sound in words like “sigh, high, light, right, sight and fight.

So now you know the secret!  If you see those three letters i, g and h together, remember ‘I get help‘ and just make the igh sound.  High five!


EY/FS – Get a piece of paper and write igh five times in the middle, like this:






Now see if you can build words around them by putting in the first and last sounds of these words, when your grown up reads them to you: fight  light  might  right  night

KS1 – There are so many rhyming words with that igh sound.  Most of them have t at the end.  Have a go at reading, and maybe learning this silly rhyme to help you remember the spelling pattern:

Mrs Wright went out one night

And she saw the strangest sight.

Upon his horse, a silver knight

And as she watched, the horse took flight!

High up in the moon’s soft light

The knight found stars that he could fight.

And as for poor old Mrs Wright,

She ran home after such a fright!


KS2 – Another of those annoying sounds that has many different spellings!  Let’s investigate them.  Divide a sheet of paper into 6 columns.  Write these headings at the top of them:

igh           ie         i           y           i_e         random

Now search for the words in these sentences with an ‘igh’ sound and write them under the correct heading.  If you really want a challenge, get someone else to read the sentences aloud for you, so you write the words at dictation!

She said goodbye with a tiny tear in her eye.

Try to buy a lemon and lime pie for my dessert.

Isla thinks that guy might be a bit shy.

How did knights fight with all that tight armour on?

Mike was trying to tie the Mighty Sea Rider to the mooring post while also attempting to stay dry.

It’s fine if you like that music – just wear your headphones when I am nearby!

We want to find the site of the Viking settlement.  Is it that pile of stones by the white stile?

How many did you find?  Which was the most common spelling for that sound?  Maybe you could add more words to your lists as you think of them.









Spell School 20 – Free home learning multi-age phonics and spelling

Today’s new sound is q and, of course, qu, as they always go together when q appears in English words.  


Spell School Purple Class  – Story 7

Someone is peeping round the door of Purple Class.  She seems to be looking for someone.  At last she spots the person she wants.  It is u.  The new person waves her arm and tries to get u‘s attention.

“I think someone wants you, u,” says oo.  She points towards the doorway and the mysterious girl steps back as if she is scared of being seen.

“Who is that?”  wonders u.  Then she realises who the mystery person must be.  “Oh, it’s q,”  she laughs.  “She won’t come in here by herself.  Excuse me a minute.  I need to go and do a spell.”

“A spell?” say the others.  “We haven’t had a spell in ages!  Can we join in and help?  Please?”

But u laughs and shakes her head.  “Sorry guys, not this time.  You see q won’t let anyone see her unless I stand with her.  It gets a bit boring sometimes because I have to stop being a vowel and just be her bodyguard.  But if I go and do a secret spell with her you’ll get to meet q and I can get back to being myself.  I won’t be long.”

So although the others are very curious, they let u go.  She steps outside and closes the door.  “OK, q, where are you?” she calls.  “There’s no one else around, so you can stop hiding.”

But q is nowhere to be seen.  The corridor is empty. 

Then u hears a quiet voice coming from a cupboard.  “In here!  Come in here, u.”


“Oh q, this is ridiculous!” exclaims u, opening the cupboard door and seeing q stuffed in amongst a load of mops and buckets and brushes.  “I can’t even fit in there with you.”

“Yes you can,” insists q.  “Look, I’ll make some more space,” and she picks up a bucket and puts it on her head.

“You are crazy!” giggles u, but she climbs into the cupboard and shuts the door.  “Now we can’t see a thing.  It’s completely dark!”

“I know,” says q, from under the bucket.  “But they want me to come into Spell School and I’m not going in by myself.  I just can’t!”

“Well then we need to do a spell,” u tells her. 

They don’t need to shut their eyes, because it’s dark already.  Somehow they both manage to put up their hands and make their shapes.  Then there’s a lot of banging and clattering and a new voice says, “Help!  What IS this place?  Ouch!  I can’t move!”

u opens the door and she and the new person – qu – tumble out.

“Oh, thank goodness you’re here qu,” says q, taking the bucket off her head.  “Now you can go to Spell School instead of me.  I quit!”

She runs off and, shaking their heads and laughing, u and qu go back to the classroom to make some new words with the others.



EY/FS:  Here are some words the spell school people made.  How many of them can you make?  quit    quiz    queen   quack.  Can you make up a sentence with each of them in?

KS1:  Make up some questions for a quiz.  Write them down, remembering to put question marks at the end.  See if people in your family can answer them.

KS2:  A bit of research for you today!  Use a dictionary or thesaurus to find out the meaning of some of these words, then challenge yourself to use some of them in your writing over the next few weeks:  quintuplets, quagmire, quintessential, quibble, quail (2 meanings), quill, questionable.

Spell School 18 – Home learning primary age literacy activities

Today’s new card is y and we will be looking again at ee andas well as introducing the tricky word my.

Purple Class Story 5

Today i is very excited.  She is jumping about all over the place.

“Guess what!” she shouts, “I know who is coming to join Spell School today.  It’s my cousin y.”

“Your cousin?  Oh that’ll be nice for you,” says ee.  “Which class will your cousin y be in?”

“She’s going to be in your class – Purple,” says i.  “It will be so good to see her.  She’s really kind and helpful to me.”

Then the gate opens and in comes y.  “Yesssss!” she laughs and starts to gallop around the playground.

“She likes playing at being a cowgirl,” i explains.

Suddenly y grabs hold of h and a and pulls them over to ee.  “Look what we can make!” she exclaims.

She moves the other sounds around until they make yee ha!

She’s quite noisy and bossy, this cousin of yours, isn’t she?” mutters m to i.

“Yes!” agrees i, happily.  “Do you know, sometimes she acts like a vowel so people can make words if I don’t want to be in them.  Go and stand in front of her and she’ll make a tricky word with no vowels!”

So m does what he’s told and when he stands in front of y, sure enough, there is a tricky word – my.

“Oh my goodness!  A word with no vowel.  And y makes the wrong sound.  That’s really tricky,” gasp the others.

The cousins i and y wink at each other.  They like sharing the job of being a vowel.


EY/FS:  See if you can write these new words using y when your grown up reads them out. [yes     yum    yell    yet    yard    yuck]


KS1:  Do you know the sounds y makes at the end of words?  In short words it sounds like ‘eye’ – my,  shy,  cry…  How many others can you think of?

But in longer words it makes an ‘ee’ sound – baby,   every,   happy,  luckily…   Write down another 8 words ending with that sound.


KS2:  Maybe if you’re having to read the Spell School stories along with younger brothers or sisters, you find them pretty silly.  Sometimes, though, treating the letters and sounds as if they are people can actually help us to remember how they work.  The relationship between i and y is a good example.

If I were to tell you that i is a very cowardly vowel who will do anything to avoid going at the end of words, you might find it easier to understand all that ‘i changing to y‘ stuff in words like baby/babies or beauty/beautiful.

Spelling would be so much easier if i took its proper place at the end of words, but whenever it should be there, it bottles out.  We get ie, igh or y instead.  When there are other letters after it, though, i is perfectly happy to take its proper place.

Read through these examples of i avoiding going at the end of words and then write down a few more that you think of:

      tri, try  (but tries)     ladi, lady (but ladies)    funni, funny (but funniest)    fri, fry (but fried)    loneli, lonely (but loneliness)

There are a few common exceptions, but they are all foreign words we have adopted into English: hi, ski, Thai.






Spell School 17 – Free home learning multi-age phonics and spelling

Again we will be introducing a new sound – x  which is pronounced like ‘kss’ – as well as reintroducing one they’ve seen before – th.  There are a couple of very basic printable pencil control sheets for the EY/FS children, and any older ones it might help, at this link mazes for pencil control .


Spell School Purple Class – Story 4

At Spell School the kids are playing an ‘I remember’ game.  They are thinking of something they once did and telling the others about it.

“I remember a time I went to a massive toy shop,” says th.  “My little brother threw a tantrum because he couldn’t have a Thor toy.  He screamed and yelled and laid on the floor and wouldn’t move.  So embarassing!”

“What did you do?” asks j.

“Well Mum asked me to look for the exit (which means the way out) but I couldn’t read that word.  I still don’t know how to make it.  Do any of you?”

“Yes!” says a voice from the back of the class.  “You need me to make it.  My name is x.”

“Your shape looks like a kiss!” says th in surprise.

“I know,” says x wearily.  “People keep saying that.  My sound is a bit like ‘kiss’ too, I sound like k and ss put together, listen: kss, x, kss, x.”

“So will you show us how to make that word exit, please x,” says th.

“I need e to stand in front of me,” explains x.  “I usually go after e when I’m in a word.  Can you work out which two sounds would come after me to make exit?”  [See if your child can put i and t next without prompting.  If not, show them.]

“Thanks, x,” says th.  “Next time I need to find an exit, I will know how to read that word.”



EY/FS ACTIVITIES:  Make some mazes for your child to follow with a finger and then a pencil.  Best to use a yellow or other pale felt tip or highlighter pen.  Draw an arrow labelled in at the start and another labelled exit at the end.  There are a couple of simple ones here: mazes for pencil control if you’d prefer to print them out.


Sign, Exit, Emergency, Symbol, Direction

KS1:  Put each of these x words into a sentence:

exit          extra         next         text         exploded         explore


KS2:  The prefix ex- usually means ‘out of’ or ‘from’.  That means many words beginning with ex- mean something to do with coming or going out from a place or thing.

Find the ex- words in these sentences and explain what they mean.  You can look up any you’re not sure of.

The king was sent into exile when he had been captured.

There was a tumultuous explosion of applause as she walked on stage.

When you need to calm yourself, try to inhale and exhale deeply for a few breaths.

The exterior of the house was painted a vibrant orange.

They decided to explore a new location.

This strange substance expands when you put it in water.

The factory exported most of the machine parts to Europe.

When the alarm sounded there was a rush for the exit.

The fire officers quickly extinguished the flames.

There are poisonous gases in the exhaust from petrol and diesel vehicles.








Spell School 16 – Home learning primary age literacy activities

Just the sound to add in today and we will be looking again at sh.

Story 16

Do you get days when you feel really bored and fed up?  Your body feels all floppy and you can’t be bothered to do anything.  That’s how it is in Spell School today.  Some of them are tired.  Some of them are grumpy.

Take a look at sh.  She’s grumbling and saying, “sh!” to anyone who makes any sounds at all.

But now the door is opening and a new person is coming in.  She is called w.

At first she watches and waits.  Then she quietly asks i to join her and they stand in front of sh.  Can you see what word they have made? [wish].

“I wish you’d leave me alone!” grumbles sh.

“Seriously?” says w.  “That’s a waste of a wish.  Let’s pretend we have a genie in a bottle and can wish for anything we want, but it has to start with our own sound!”

Oranges!” shouts or, “or maybe an orchard full of apple trees with all the juicy apples I can eat!”

“You never can make up your mind or,” laughs d.  “I would wish for a dragon with sparkly wings who would take me flying over rivers and mountains!”

Everyone is starting to cheer up now, as they join in the game.

Rabbits!” says r.  “I’ve always wanted pet rabbits I could cuddle and watch running and jumping in the garden.”

Just a few of the sounds are still sad.  “We can’t play this game,” say ff, ss, ng, ck and ll.  “We are end sounds.  Nothing in English starts with us!”

“Well wish for a different genie,” smiles w, “one that gives you whatever you want that ends with your sound!”

“A mess in my bedroom that magically clears itself up at the end of the day!”  giggles ss.

“A shop full of games and toys and new clothes… and enough cash to buy whatever I want!” laughs sh.

“Thank goodness I cheered them up,” winks w.  “Even sh!”

ALL AGES:  Now it’s your turn to play the wishing game.  Start with the sound that begins your own name.  When you’ve made that wish, turn over the spell school cards and take turns to pick one and wish for something that starts with or contains that sound.  Remember it has to be the right SOUND, so no ice cream!



Spell School 15 – Free home learning multi-age phonics and spelling

Here is the link to Story 1 in case you have just found this site and want to start at the beginning.  You can click on the white ‘follow’ box further down this page if you’d like each new lesson delivered by email.

Today’s new sound is v and we will be revising ai.  


Spell School Purple Class  – Story 2

“Do you remember me?  My name is ai.  I’m the sound the two vowels a and i made when they went out walking.  Here are some words you can make with me.  Have a try – sail    train    nail    rain.”
Now another person is coming into the new class at Spell School.  Her sound is v
“Oh dear,” says ai.  “I get a bit fed up with v.  She’s always telling everyone how beautiful she looks!”
“Hi ai!” calls v.  “How do you like my hair today?  Doesn’t it look shiny and lovely?  I have new trainers, too.  They really suit my little feet, don’t you think?  Oh and I’m so pleased to be in this class, because I get to wear purple and it’s, like, totally my colour.”
Quietly ai creeps off to hide between p and n.  “I wish v wasn’t such a pain,” she whispers.
They agree.  Then n has an idea.  “Come on ai,” she says, let’s go and make a new word with v.”
She invites v to stand in front of them.  They make the word vain.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word before,” says v.  “What does it mean?”
“It means someone who is always going on about how great they look and staring at themselves in mirrors,” replies n with a smile.
“Oh!” gasps v.  “Do you think I’m vain?”
The others look at each other.  “Maybe a bit, v,” says ai, gently.  
“I’m sorry I’ve been a vain pain,” says v.  “It must be quite annoying.  I’ll stop going on about myself.  Please tell me if you hear me being vain again.”
“We will,” agree the others.  “Now come and make some words with us.”

EY/FS:  Can you use the spell school cards to make these words: vet   van   vain   pain   sail   tail.  Maybe you’d like to draw a picture for each of them.

KS1:  Had you heard that word ‘vain’ before?  Now you know what it means, have a go at writing a story called The Vain Pain, about someone who started off being very vain, but learned to behave better.  If you have learned about fables at school, perhaps you could write one about this.

KS2:  Try making a collection of all the words you can think of that end with -ain.  Most of them rhyme but a few don’t, because the pronounciation has changed over the years (fountain, for example).  You could have a go at writing a rhyme or song lyrics using some of the words you’ve collected.

Spell School 14 – Free home learning multi-age phonics and spelling

This is the first Spell School story for phase 3 phonics.  It works best if your children have already read the phase 2 stories  Here is the link to Part 1  if you want to do that.

You can click on the white ‘follow’ box on this page if you’d like each new lesson delivered by email.

Today we will be introducing the sound j as well as reintroducing arIt would also be useful to have i handy, so that you can point out the difference between the way i and j are written.  The ‘football skill’ mentioned in the story is to help children to remember which way the ‘foot’ on the end of j faces when it is written.

By now even the EY/FS children should be able to join in and use the phase 3 sounds.


Spell School Purple Class – Story 1

Have you noticed that some children at Spell School have different colour tops?  The orange class is full now, so we are going to find out about the sounds in Purple Class.  You’ve already met some of them, and our old friends from Orange Class will be coming back to help out.

Here comes one of the Purple Class people now.  Do you remember the ‘cute kitty spell’ we did?  What sound did we make? [ar]  Yes, and this is how he looks: ar.  So here is ar again and today he has a friend with him.

“Hi everyone,” says ar.  “Meet my friend j.  He doesn’t join in words very often.  I wonder why.”

“I don’t mind making words,” j says.  “It’s just that I like playing football much more.”

“Is that why you are bouncing a ball on your head?” giggles ar.

“Yes, I never go anywhere without my football,” grins j.  “My friend i has one too, but he doesn’t have such good skills as me.”

“You’re showing off!” says ar.  “i is short and you are much longer.  But why do you kick backwards instead of kicking forwards like i?”

“It’s my special skill!” smiles j.  “Everyone expects me to kick forwards, but I flick it back and surprise them.”

“Clever,” agrees ar.  “Well let’s make a word together, now you’re here.”

They make the word jar.  What other words can you make with j?  [jug, jam, jog, just…]


Activity for all age groups:  The Card Game

Spread all the spell school cards out in front of you.  The youngest person is asked to find c, ar and d and to make the word card with them.

The next player can swap one sound, remove one sound or add one sound to make a new word.  So, for example, card could become hard, cod, cart or cord by swapping,  it could become car by removing a sound or cards by adding a sound.

Each new word should have the correct spelling, so if a child makes ‘burd’ (bird) or ‘carm’ (calm), for example, praise them for getting sounds that work but explain that we spell that word differently in our language.

Carry on round the table (adults too!) until no one can see any way of changing to a new word.  When that happens, go back to card and try making a new string of words.

For older children you can add any extra rules the family thinks of or maybe a dice or spinner with swap/add/remove written on it to add more fun and complexity.



Spell School 13 – Free home learning multi-age literacy activities

Hello.  If you’ve only just found Spell School, a free resource, put together by a retired primary school literacy co-ordinator in the midst of coronavirus lockdown and intended for families head to the following link and start at the beginning.  Here is the link to Part 1.  Do share it with friends who may find it useful.


Today we’ll be introducing the final sounds in phase 2 of the government phonics scheme.  These are f and l, along with their identical end-of-word sounds ff and ll.  It’s a good idea to check how your child’s school teaches children to write these letters, as there are varying ways.  Generally it’s good to put a hook at the end of l, so that it doesn’t get confused with capital I or the number 1.

The other thing to note is that when you pronounce the sound, try to keep it very short and clipped, as it would sound in log or land.  If you make a ‘luh’ or ‘ler’ sound, it becomes harder for children to use it in words.

There is a PDF of ‘Miss Polly Had a Dolly’ for the EY/FS reading activity to download here: miss polly

And if you’d like the KS2 spelling activity on a separate sheet, it’s available here: spelling hints double letters

Spell School – Story 13

The spell school class was getting very full.  There were just a few places left.  Everyone was wondering who would arrive to sit in them.  Just then, the door opened and in came two new people.

“Hello,” said the boy.  “My name is f.”

“And mine is l,” added the girl.

Some of the others went over to meet them.  Try making some of the words they made together: fun  lot   fit   lick

“Do you know any spells?” asked k.

“Well yes, we do,” said l .  “We both have a ‘seeing double spell’.”

“That sounds interesting,” the rest of the class said, and they all gathered around to watch.

“You see, both of us sometimes double up at the end of words,” explained.  “Help us to make our spells.”

First stood in a space, shut his eyes and made his letter shape twice in the air.  When he opened his eyes ff was standing beside him.

“You might think you’re seeing double,” she laughed, “but I only make one sound!”  She showed them how she made just one sound in huff, puff and stiff.

Next it was l‘s turn.  She shut her eyes and made her shape twice as well.  When she opened her eyes, ll was beside her.

“I only make one sound, too,” he told them, “even though you’re seeing double!”  He helped to make hill, sell and full.


EY/FS:  Can you read and write some of the words in this rhyme? miss polly [Child to read the words in bold while adult reads the rest]

KS1:  How many words can you think of that rhyme with ill?  Make a list of them in your best handwriting.

KS2:  Double letters – they are so difficult to remember!  Think back to what we have learned about vowels. Usually vowels make a ‘long sound’ (like aye, ee, eye, oh and you) if there is another vowel after them or just one letter in front of them.  Putting in a double consonant between them usually keeps the vowel ‘short’.

I think of vowels like those kids in class who won’t stop chatting to their friends, so the teacher keeps them apart by sitting two other people between them to split them up.  That’s why so many words have a double letter before a suffix that starts with a vowel (-ed, -er, -ing and so on).

Try reading these words and nonsense words and see how double letters change the first vowel’s sound.

chiling    chilling

smiled   smilled

filing    filling

kiler    killer

hater    hatter

siting      sitting

smeling     smelling

shoping     shopping

slaped     slapped

cuboid     cubboid

droped     dropped

bunies     bunnies

sader      sadder

How many more can you think of?





Spell School Revision 9-12: using the sounds

If you are new to Spell School, you could head to the following link and start at the beginning.  Here is the link to Part 1.

So far we have covered 19 sounds from Phase 2 Phonics and 10 from Phase 3 as well as mentioning the ‘tricky’ words the  to  no  go and into.

Sounds covered so far are: a   b  c  d  e  g  h  i  k  m  n  o  p  s  t  u  ck  ss        ai  ee  ng  oa  ur  ar  or  ch  sh  th  



Phonic charades:  The idea is to secretly pick a card from this pack: phonic charades game, then act out the phrase on your card and see whether the others can guess what you are doing.

I’ve labelled some cards ‘phase 2’, so that the youngest children can select from these, while there are phase 3 cards that include all the sounds we have covered.  There are also a few blanks for your own creations!

Decide, based on your children’s abilities, whether sound effects (e.g. miaow or woof) and/or props (within reason) are allowed.  Remember the aim of the game is to get children independently reading and understanding a card, so aim for fun and cooperation rather than cut-throat competition!  Competing against brothers and sisters is tricky – younger ones may worry that they will look stupid, while older ones might be afraid of making mistakes in front of little siblings.

20 second sketch:   The reason for the 20 second rule is so that you can get plenty of different words in, rather than letting the children spend forever on artistic masterpieces.  If you want to extend the game into still life drawing, by all means do away with the time limit!

Probably best to start the 20 seconds from when the child has managed to read the card as that can take a while if they are still working words out sound by sound.

Hold up a card with the target subject from this set 20 second sketch subjects,  or write your own set from the following list if printer paper or ink is getting low.

a tin can       a fat cat     a pin     a sad pig     an egg in a pan     a tap and a drip     a sun hat     a dog in mud    (phase 2)

a thin man     a boat that has sails     corn on the cob     big feet     a church     a deep pit     a long train            (phase 3)

Children could then write the subject under their sketch if you want them to do a bit of handwriting practice.