How to make spellings stick in time for SATs

Use these top tips to help get your child’s spelling SATs-ready!


Remembering spellings does not come naturally to everyone. But even if your child finds spelling challenging, there are plenty of learning strategies you can try to help them get to grips with even the trickiest words. In the first of a two-part series, we round up the best techniques to support your child’s spelling at home.  


1. Get to know spelling words

It may sound obvious but there’s a big difference between learning and testing. Children need time to really get to know spelling words, especially ones that frequently trip them up, before they can reproduce them accurately. This may involve seeing what a word looks like, breaking it down into individual letters or parts, hearing it spoken or speaking it themselves. Only ask ‘How do you spell...?’ questions once they’ve had time to practise.


2. ‘Little and often’ is the best approach

For children who have trouble remembering spellings, try to give them exposure to the words they are trying to learn as often as possible. Use fridge magnets to spell words, write them on sticky notes and place them around the house or use a dry-wipe pen to write them on the bathroom mirror. Don’t try to tackle too many words in one go. Find a manageable number for your child and only move on to new words once they’ve got the first set under their belts.


3. Group similar words together

It’s best to focus with your child on a few similar words at a time. These could be words that contain the same letter combinations to make the same sound (choir, echo, monarch) or words from a similar word family (photograph, autograph, graphic). Every now and again, mix up the words your child has already covered and revise them.

If you’re not sure which spellings to revise with your child before the SATs, you’ll find everything they need to know, along with practice activities and SATs-style test questions in the York Notes Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling: Study Guide and Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling: Targeted Skills and Test Practice Year 6 books.


4. Say words aloud

Breaking a word down into syllables when you say it (au-di-ble, sep-a-rate) or over-pronouncing the tricky bits (Feb-ru-a-ry) can help tricky spellings to stick.


5. Look, Cover, Write, Check

Lots of schools promote this strategy (sometimes called ‘Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check’ to take into account the strategy covered in point 4), and for good reason. Using this technique, the child looks at the word carefully first, sounds it out, then covers the word and tries to write it themselves. Finally, they check their attempt against the original, correctly spelt word. Make sure that your child checks properly – if they have trouble with this step they may need your help. It’s important they learn a correct spelling and don’t reinforce a wrong one.


In the second blog post, on spelling strategies to try at home, we’ll round-up five more techniques to try out before the KS2 SATs!


Emilie Martin is a Primary Education Consultant at York Notes and an experienced primary teacher and English subject leader.