Improve Your Spelling
A Free Spelling Improvement Course by Ultimate Spelling Software
I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC
It plainly marks for my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea
I’ve run this poem threw it
I’m sure your please to no,
It’s letter perfect in it’s weigh
My checker tolled me sew
Anonymous (ETNI, 1997)
It is not every day that you see a poem about spelling, let alone one that is as funny as the
one above but this poem is very useful to help our understanding of a linguistic issue that
exists today. It highlights a major problem that adults and children alike experience on a
daily basis – the problem of spelling.
In recent years there seems to have been a distinct reduction of the focus on teaching
spelling in English lessons because, according to Taylor and Martlew, the focus has fallen on
introducing and encouraging reading instead (p. 168). As a result, children are leaving
school with poor spelling that has never been corrected. That continues into life as an adult
and can cause problems when it comes to preparing documents for work, applying for jobs
or even just writing a letter. As children, we take it for granted that we do not need to learn
how to spell everything because we have the technology to help us. The poem proves that
The poem is based on the idea of the spell checker on a PC being relied upon to help
someone who cannot spell to complete it. As you can see when you look closely, not only
are the words spelt differently to how they would be if they were used correctly, but the use
of the wrong words has changed the meaning of the poem completely. If nothing else, the
poem highlights just how important it is to learn to spell without relying on technology to
Whether you are an adult or a child, there are ways and means of helping you to improve
your spelling and it is never too late to find strategies that can teach you the basics of
spelling. Good spelling practice does begin in children at school but if you have not had the
right teacher or have not been given the knowledge then the only way to get it is to help
yourself and that is not as difficult as it might sound.
The purpose of this course is to provide anyone needing a spelling boost with the tools to
improve it in no time at all. There are a number of strategies that you can use to improve
your spelling, for example. Most of these strategies are difficult to find information on
outside of educational textbooks and so may not be readily accessible to adults and children
that are looking for a way to help improve their spelling. However, all the information you
need about seven of the strategies available to improve spelling can be found right here so
you do not need to look any further. Each strategy is easy to understand and use, and at
least one of them will suit you. After all, everyone learns differently and so not all strategies
will suit you (Easton, 2007, p. 18). Whether you learn in a creative way or via a basic
technique, you can choose the best one to suit you from the following:
Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge
Morphemic Word Knowledge
Computer Aided Spelling
Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check
These strategies have all been proven to work time and again and so can be trusted. With a
little hard work and effort, you could make these strategies work for you so read on to find
out what they do and how to use them to improve your spelling.
According to Powell and Hornsby, Visual Memory is one of the most successful spelling
strategies out there because writers can build up a memory of spelling patterns and so can
memorise how to spell a word by getting a picture of that word in their heads (1993, p. 29).
This is not only very successful but also very popular because it can help adults and children
to get a handle on spelling in their own way.
There has been a lot written on the Visual Memory strategy by teachers, academics and
researchers in the past because it is so common but the information can be a little confusing
because there is so much of it and some of it seems to contradict the rest. As such, this
lesson will look at the Visual Memory spelling improvement strategy, explain what it is, why
it works and offer potential exercises that could help you to use the strategy for your own
There is no one way to use this particular spelling improvement strategy because it is a very
broad option that can include any visual signals that you find help you to improve your
spelling. For example, it is a common technique used when teaching children to spell during
their kindergarten years. Do you remember Flash cards or picture cards that looked like the
They are prime examples of Visual Memory techniques that can be used to help children
form mental pictures of simple words by making sure that the memory can easily recall the
correct spellings (Kumar, 2006, p. 137). Of course, this is a great method for children
because it puts a picture to the word and helps them to remember exactly what the card
says. However, as children get older, using these visual stimulants do not always work
because words become more complicated. The chances are that an adult can spell “black
cat” but he or she might not be able to spell other words that are an essential part of his or
For the reasons outlined above, different Visual Memory techniques have to be used for
adults because simple Flash cards are not enough. Visual techniques are still effective but
many adults that have used this spelling improvement strategy use very different visual
cues and techniques: “Although they know that sounding out the word won’t help them,
they often feel that if they write the word out how they think it may be spelled, they will be
able to judge whether it’s correct or not by looking at it. They are, therefore, relying on
their visual memory.” (Powell & Hornsby, 1993, p. 28). Writing down words and then trying
to remember how they have been pictured in newspapers, on websites and in books is just
as much a visual strategy as using picture cards when you are a child.
Although this section has only covered two of the many techniques that could be used in the
Visual Memory strategy, you should get the picture (pardon the pun!). Adults and children
learn to spell through their visual memory in similar ways despite the fact that there are
differences in the visual cues used. There are many ways to use this particular strategy but
first of all you have to know why it works and whether or not it is suitable for you.
Why It Works
The Visual Memory strategy for improving spelling works because it helps those who
struggle with spelling to bypass the process of ordering letters consciously and instead focus
on another visual cue to jog the memory and make the process of spelling more
subconscious. After all, adults generally know when words look incorrect and can recall how
they look when written properly. Children can figure out how to spell using pictures and
other similar visual tools because the images are easier to recall. This might sound a little
complicated but it is all about how the brain and the memory works.
Jackman states that: “All memory can be dramatically assisted if the information to
memorise is organised and categorised in a meaningful way. For young children, without
significant experience of the printed work, such help is vitally important.” (2002, p. 16). In
plain language without the jargon, this basically means that the brain organises information
in a certain way, allowing you to draw on images and visual cues every time you need
In the case of spelling, this technique actually gives you a point of association so that you
can remember how to spell words without even thinking about them. For example, as soon
as she hears the word “cat”, a girl of four years old will immediately think of the picture
card and will then be able to spell the word. A man of thirty five years old may be able to
recall how words like diarrhoea and Ayatollah appeared in the newspaper and then be able
to spell the word (Powell & Hornsby, 1993, pp. 27-28).
No matter what visual cues you choose to use, the mental process you go through is the
same. You store the image of a word that is presented to you, whether it is paired with
another image or not, and then can call upon it when you need to use it. The more practice
you get with this strategy the more subconscious the process becomes until you begin to
improve your spelling without even thinking about it (Goulandris, 1992, p. 154).
Exercises and Ideas
There are numerous exercises and ideas you can practice to improve your spelling via the
Visual Memory strategy. Depending on how old you are and what your spelling needs are,
you may want to try some of the exercises that are outlined below. All of them can be used
in addition to or instead of the newspaper and picture card techniques as already mentioned
in this chapter.
Use post it notes to write out words you are having a little trouble with ad place
them around your home. You will then be able to test yourself on your spelling by
remembering where the post it is and what word is written on it. This is not ideal for
children but is perfect for adults
Compose rhymes consisting of the letters of words you are having difficulty with and
write them down. For example, NECESSARY could be Never Eat Cereal Every Sunday
Sausages Are Really Yummy! Write the rhymes down and you will be able to
visualise them in the future. This is suitable for both adults and children.
Use Scrabble letters to spell out words. Playing such popular and yet simple games
can really help to boost your memory because you will be able to see the letters on
the board the next time you have difficulty with individual words.
You can improve your Visual Memory spelling by using a map. This may sound a little
strange but it really does help with the Visual Memory strategy for improving
spelling. If you know where all the states in America are located you can use that
map or alternatively you can use a world map. Spell out words using combinations of
countries or states and point to them as you spell. For example, ARITHMETIC can be
America Russia Ireland Turkey Honduras Mexico Egypt Tunisia Iran Canada. Or
Alaska Rhode Island Texas Hawaii MainE Tennessee Idaho California. It is a little
complex but is ideal for helping children to learn geography and spelling in a fun and
engaging way. Adults can use this technique too if their geographical knowledge is
In a similar technique to the map, it may be a good idea to engage your children in
various other disciplines to encourage their use of the Visual Memory technique. It is
possible to use building blocks, toy cars, teddy bears and any other favourite toys to
spell out words. With the latter, think YMCA. Encourage the use of the arms to spell
out words before getting the children to write the words down. With building blocks,
it is possible to build the words up too. Either way, you will find the words easy to
visualise and remember.
These exercises are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There are many different ways
that you could actively improve your spelling via the Visual Memory strategy. These ideas
might inspire unique ways to improve your spelling or you can use them as they are. Either
way is acceptable providing that you find a way to improve your spelling that works for you.
Just remember the rules to any Visual Memory game, exercise or idea:
Make sure that you can picture it in your mind’s eye after the event
Keep it simple because overcomplicating the techniques will serve to confuse you
Use your hobbies to make spelling fun and not a chore
Do whatever works for you and do not be afraid to change your Visual Memory
techniques if you find a better way of learning to spell effectively.
GRAMOPHONIC OR SOUND SYMBOL
The previous lesson dealt with visual cues that can help to improve spelling but using such
images and pictures are not always the most effective methods of learning how to spell.
Some people just cannot work with visual spelling or literacy and prefer to work with
sounds. If you are one of those people then this particular strategy may be for you. Sound
Symbol Knowledge, or Graphophonic Knowledge, is an effective strategy that involves
writers listening “…to the sounds in word and then [they] write down letters for those
sounds.” (Powell & Hornsby, 1993, p. 29).
We all know that listening to words and then trying to spell them does not always work.
There are always words that sound different when they are spoken to how they look when
written on paper. Silent letters can be confusing and variations in letter sound can be
annoying but for the most part Sound Symbol Knowledge actually works. All you have to do
is listen and spell, it really is that simple. Before you do though, you might like to know a
little bit more about the strategy and just how effective it can be.
The Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge spelling improvement strategy focuses
specifically on the way that words sound. Saying the word out loud and then writing it
down, even if the initial spelling of it is incorrect, can actually help people of all ages to
learn how the way words sound corresponds with how they translate onto paper. It is all
about listening and identifying new and familiar sounds. Eventually, children and adults
alike become used to many of the different sounds by dividing words up into them. Take, as
a simple example, the difference between read and red. There is only one letter in it but the
difference in the sound of each word is distinct and easily identifiable. When any individual
can identify not only the difference but why there is a difference as a result of the way a
word is spelled, spelling will become easier and less of a chore (Robbins & Kenny, 2007, p.
This spelling improvement strategy can be used in just as many ways as the Visual Memory
strategy can because there are just as many exercises used by adults and children alike to
pick up word recognition and Sound Symbol Knowledge. For example, Angelisi points out
that one of the most common techniques used for teaching this strategy is syllable tapping
for primary school children. She provides a real world example of how it works:
As she teaches basic monosyllable and more challenging multi-syllable words to her first
grade class, she encourages them to listen for the syllables and clap their hands or tap their
desks for every syllable they hear. Her students learn to rely upon their senses in helping
them sound out the syllables of words, which, in turn, will, eventually, aid them in learning
how to spell words better. (2000, p. 5)
Syllable tapping is an easy technique that is favoured by teachers all over the world.
Speaking in time with the tapping to identify the syllables also identifies the distinctly
different sounds in each word. A little practice for each word will go a long way to helping
identify and build Sound Symbol Knowledge, especially if there is a written worksheet being
used in addition to the sounds being spoken. You can follow the worksheet while tapping out
the syllables and literally break down the individual words. Of course, this might not be a
preferred method of using the Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge strategy to
improve spelling knowledge, especially not for adults because it may seem a little
degrading. There are other methods that can be used to improve adult spelling though.
For example, Sound Symbol Knowledge for adults may take the form of sounding out words
and then copying them onto paper how they sound (Savage, 2004, p. 141) without the
extra syllable tapping. Adults will then tend to look up words in a dictionary or online to see
how they should be spelt. This can be a frustrating process because it takes quite a while
and spelling the same sounds incorrectly over and over again may make it appear that you
are getting nowhere. However, adults can then compare how the word sounds and how it is
actually supposed to look, taking note of how different sounds should look on paper. For
example, diarrhoea should be diarea if the spelling is faithful to the sound but by breaking
down the actual spelling and saying it aloud, it is easy to remember how it should appear.
[Dia] is an obvious sound that you may be used to as a result of its use in other words, like
diabolical or diameter. [ea] is also a familiar sound as it appears in ear and hear. It can also
be broken down into two distinct letter sounds. However, [rrho] does not resemble any
sound in the word diarrhoea as it is said. As a result, it is up to you to formulate a sound
that helps you to remember the correct spelling of the word.
As you can see, there is a lot to the Sound Symbol Knowledge strategy that can be used to
help you to improve your spelling. There is no one set way to use the strategy to your own
advantage because there are so many techniques that come under the same heading. You
have to find one that works for you but you should never underestimate the power of sound
when it comes to improving your spelling.
Why It Works
The Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge spelling improvement strategy works for a
number of reasons. Many of those reasons are very simple to understand and bypass the
reasons most people offer as to why they struggle to learn how to spell. The first is that the
visual memory cannot always be relied upon to give an accurate picture of how a word
should look, particularly if the word you want to learn to spell is uncommon or rarely used in
books and newspapers. Take Ayatollah for example. It is very rarely written in any form of
media and “…the less well known a word the less the speller can rely on visual memory (the
lexical route) and the more he or she has to rely on generating the spelling using phonology
and sound-spelling correspondences.” (Sterling & Robson, 1992, p. 182). As such, you do
not have to rely upon visual memories if you rely on the sound of a word instead. Breaking
down such a word into the sounds and symbols that you are used to will help you to
remember how to spell it without picturing it.
The Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge strategy also avoids the main problem that
many people face when trying to use the Visual Memory strategy- it does not rely on an
individual’s ability to read (National Institute for Literacy, 2010). Many people who struggle
with reading cannot visualise words or necessarily get to grips with how words should look
and so would not be able to spell if they used the Visual Memory technique. However, by
using Sound Symbol Knowledge, it is possible to examine a word section by section,
listening to the individual sounds and then writing them down (McShane, 2005, p. 33). The
spoken patterns in the words are around us all the time, whether on the TV, in films or even
on the radio so it is easier to absorb them if you struggle to read. Think of Brad Pitt or
Angelina Jolie saying a word rather than how James Patterson or J K Rowling writes them.
Poor readers are more likely to remember the former than the latter initially but building a
foundation of Sound Symbol Knowledge can actually also help those that struggle with
reading to improve their skills in that area too.
Of course, there are points that should be made if you want to use Sound Symbol
Knowledge to improve your spelling. For example, it is necessary to make sure that you
learn all of the rules before you start to use Sound Symbol or Graphophonic Knowledge
because otherwise the technique might not be as successful for you as it would be
otherwise. Knowing the rules like “I before E except after C” is essential to avoid making
mistakes (Schmitt, 2000, p. 122).
Above all else though, Sound Symbol Knowledge works as a strategy to improve spelling
because your ability to speak will not fail you, even if your memory does. Simply saying a
word out loud will give you the power to recognise the sound and write it down.
Exercises and Ideas
There are numerous exercises and ideas that can help you to improve your spelling via
Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge, many of which are creative and will appeal to a
wide range of people. The two given examples, syllable tapping and comparing how words
look and sound, may sound pretty boring, even if they are effective but there are plenty of
ways to spice up your Sound Symbol Knowledge and use it to improve your spelling. Some
examples can be found below:
“Rhythm and intonation are very useful and you might even be able to pick up the
rhythms of raps, sports supporters’ chants or jingles which the children are familiar
with.” (Bearne, 1998, p. 229). Bearne’s suggestion is another way of performing the
syllable tapping exercise but one that is more acceptable to adults and more fun for
children. Using rap, songs and jingles can make learning sound symbols that bit
more memorable as well so it is a technique that should definitely be used to learn
how to spell certain words.
Although similar to the suggestion above, choose a favourite TV show and identify
the words that you do not understand on the first run through. Write the words down
after watching the scene several times, paying particular attention to how each
syllable sounds. Again, this is no different to saying the words aloud yourself but it
does make the whole process of learning that little bit more fun.
You could use some word exercises if you feel comfortable with doing so. For
example, if you are having trouble spelling then you could elongate each sound in a
word. This is similar to saying each sound separately but it allows you to hear the
entire sound pattern within the word so that you do not have to break up the word to
hear the sound symbols there.
There are many resources that you can take advantage of to improve your spelling
through the strategy of Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge. There are audio
tools like CDs and MP3 files that can give your auditory spelling a boost. These are
ideal if you are having a little trouble coming up with creative ideas of your own to
help remember how to spell words that you are having difficulty with.
Again, these exercises and ideas are only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other
creative solutions to spelling problems if you prefer to learn by listening to a word rather
than visualising it. It is easy to come up with them too. Unlike the Visual Memory exercises,
there are no hard and fast rules that apply to Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge
exercises. As long as it relies on you being able to hear the word in order to learn how to
spell it then it fits in with this category. However, it would be wise to keep the first few
exercises you try simple until you get a handle on it.
Morphemic Word Knowledge
If you are looking to use a spelling improvement strategy to improve your knowledge of
certain words that you have trouble with then you might not need to use a comprehensive
strategy like Visual Memory or Sound Symbol or Graphophonic Knowledge. Both of these
strategies provide you with new knowledge that you can use to continuously learn new
words, no matter how old you are or how much help you need when it comes to spelling.
However they can cause problems. As pointed out earlier, Visual Memory becomes of limited
help when words become more complicated or irregular but Sound Symbol Knowledge can
also be limited because we all know that there are certain words that are not spelled in the
way that they perhaps should be if they were written down as they were said. As a result,
the Morphemic Word Strategy can be an excellent strategy to use in conjunction with either
of the other two strategies to enhance knowledge or to use if you just have a few problems
with certain words like dissatisfied, disapprove, unnecessary and Mediterranean (Powell &
Hornsby, 1993, p. 27). This is because knowledge of all of those words can be improved by
using knowledge of other words.
It is a fact that “…writers use what they know about some words to help them spell other
words” (Powell & Hornsby, 1993, p. 29). This is actually a strategy, known as Morphemic
Word Knowledge, that can improve your spelling and your general knowledge. Believe it or
not, the two forms of knowledge complement each other. This strategy can be a little
difficult to understand if you have no previous experience with it but it is not that difficult to
follow when you get used to it. In fact, it can help you to avoid spelling problems that you
have yet to meet if you can get a good grasp on it, no matter how old you are.
The Morphemic Word Knowledge spelling improvement strategy is generally used on
common words that are more often than not misspelt. These words are very familiar and
yet there are double letters, silent letters and strange patterns that can quite easily cause
problems when it comes to putting the word down on paper. Take “necessary” for example.
When you say it out loud, it does not sound as if it should have a double “s” where it does.
In fact, it actually sounds like the double “s” should be placed where the “c” can be found.
Does that make sense? It will if you have ever struggled to spell it. However, the Morphemic
Word Knowledge strategy can give you the information you need to ensure that you will
never struggle to spell it or words like it again (Slater & Bremner, 2003, p. 269)
That information still does not quite answer what Morphemic Word Knowledge is though and
this is where it can get quite tricky because there are two different parts to it. First of all, a
morpheme is the smallest possible unit you can break a word down into, not literally but
rather the meaning of the word and how it is spelled. For example, “terra”, a distinct word
in its own right, is located in the middle of “Mediterranean” so the larger word can be
broken down into a smaller word that has a distinct meaning and also confirms that the
larger word is spelled with two r’s and not two t’s as is a common misspelling (Powell &
Hornsby, 1993, p. 29). This highlights the fact that this strategy requires a little knowledge
of the English language but there are also patterns to consider. That is the second element.
The Morphemic Word Knowledge strategy draws on knowledge that is already in place and
then takes it to the next level in children, which helps to improve overall literacy. For
example, Slater and Bremner point out that children confuse the spelling of word endings,
such as past tenses, with how they sound, giving “killd” and “kist” as examples when they
should really read “killed” and “kissed” (2003, p. 269). This pattern of past tense endings of
certain words can help to improve a child’s knowledge of how words are written correctly. It
is all about applying the knowledge you have of various other words to those that you use
every day but struggle to spell.
Why It Works
Confused yet? If you are not confused but in fact know how and why knowledge of other
words can help you to spell those words that you routinely have trouble with then you will
also understand why Morphemic Word Knowledge works.
Morphemic Word Knowledge works because it helps the person having difficulties with
spelling to not only fully understand a word’s meaning but also to make sure that this
knowledge is retained so as to prevent problems with it in future. There is no Visual Memory
or Sound Symbol Knowledge required at all – only a little bit of information about various
words – so it takes a completely different approach to the chore of improving spelling. Not
only that, it does not really require any work or special effort because the knowledge is
already there waiting to be used.
Flippo and Caverly highlight that a “…morpheme is the smallest unit of language that still
retains meaning” but also that it is not a common technique used to improve spelling until
college (2008, p. 101). It tends not to be used on children because it is assumed that they
do not have the knowledge needed to use this particular strategy but that is not the case.
For example, take the word triangle. There are two distinct sections in the word – tri and
angle. When the meaning of these two separate and distinct words are broken down, it tells
you that the literal meaning is “three angles”. When that knowledge is memorised, it can
easily be called to the surface when someone needs it. The concept of using Morphemic
Word Knowledge for spelling works in much the same way. As an “independent word
learning technique” (Flippo & Caverly, 2008, p. 101), this strategy is particular useful as a
result and can really be used for any age group providing that there is knowledge of the
words within the words, so to speak!
Exercises and Ideas
There are certain exercises that you can do to improve your Morphemic Word Knowledge
but they are not as plentiful as those that have been mentioned in relation to Visual Memory
or Sound Symbol Knowledge. In fact, there are very few exercises because it depends on
the basic word knowledge that you have already built up. Children tend to take in a lot of
information related to words but that lessens off as they grow into adults so it is all about
using what you know to your advantage when it comes to spelling.
One of the main exercises that you can do to improve your spelling with the Morphemic
Word Knowledge strategy is come up with a list of words that you hear and maybe even use
all the time but always get confused with when it comes to spelling on paper. You might
include some of the following words:
Disappear – Dis – appear
Disaffect – Dis – affect
Misspelled – Mis – spelled
Mediterranean – Medi – terra – nean
Tyrannosaurus – Tyran – no – saurus
These words are all quite common but are all commonly misspelled. After you have written
them down, use your knowledge of smaller words to break these words down into smaller
units so that you can understand the meaning of the words as much as how to spell them,
as per the second column. This exercise is effective and should really highlight how useful
the Morphemic Word Knowledge strategy can be.
Computer Aided Spelling
Although the introduction highlighted how damaging technology can be to our ability to spell
all sorts of words (thanks to the availability of spell checker on every PC), did you realise
that it could also help you to improve your spelling if you use it in the right way? There are
so many software and program options available to you today that it would be easy to take
advantage of them to improve your spelling. Although some of the Computer Aided Spelling
programs are aimed at specific groups of people, such as primary school children or those
with learning difficulties, there are some that are designed for general use so it is necessary
to choose which options you think will be the best possible ones for you when it comes to
improving your spelling.
The Computer Aided Spelling programs can be used as part of an effective spelling
improvement strategy and are widely used in schools because of the advantages they offer.
For more info on spelling software, also see the spelling software reviews by Boffin.
The spelling improvement strategy that incorporates Computer Assisted Spelling programs
can take a variety of forms because it is actually big business. Many companies and learning
boards manufacture different software programs that come in a variety of forms. Some are
tutorials that focus on specific types of errors and issues that you may have whereas others
are interactive tools that require a response from the people using them to assess their
abilities and help them to learn.
Computer Assisted Spelling programs are widely used in classrooms today to encourage
improvements in spelling. They are used in a variety of ways, such as encouraging peer
tutoring and providing different levels so that each child can work his or her way up the
knowledge tree so to speak (Westwood, 2008, p. 40). Each program often uses a wide
variety of techniques and strategies in one, especially Sound Symbol Knowledge and Visual
Memory tools that promote learning and improvement in spelling. This not only makes it
incredibly fun but it also ensures that there is something for everyone.
However, it should be noted that there are nowhere near as many options for those adults
wishing to improve their spelling abilities as there are for children where Computer Assisted
Spelling is concerned. There are just very few programs made because they are not in as
much demand as those for children and the majority are created for the companies behind
them to make a profit.
Why It Works
It is difficult to give specific reasons why individual Computer Assisted Spelling programs
work because they are all so different. They target different groups of people, have different
content and often have absolutely nothing in common apart from the fact that they all
embrace computer technology to help teach spelling techniques and strategies like those
mentioned in previous chapters. However, there are some general advantages and benefits
that highlight why the strategy works as a whole.
Computer Aided Spelling programs have a whole range of advantages that other spelling
improvement strategies just do not have and it is as a result of these advantages that
people of all ages can really boost their spelling abilities. The main strength that Computer
Aided Spelling has is the fact that it avoids the weaknesses that so many other strategies
and programs have. That is to say that these programs have all of the following attributes
as per Tropping’s analysis (1995, p. 80):
Generalisation of skills so no particular focus on one specific element of spelling
Introduction of skills that enhance development and avoidance of future errors
Flexibility to work on areas of spelling that need a confidence boost
It also provides immediate feedback so you get to find out exactly where you are going
wrong and how to put it right without having to wait for feedback. In fact, the very fact that
you get feedback at all is excellent because many strategies, especially those used by
adults, might not highlight problems as and when they occur. As such, with Computer
Assisted Spelling, there is no reason to continue making the same mistakes over and over
again. Even better, you can use this particular strategy in conjunction with others to learn
as much or as little as you like to improve your spelling (Tropping, 1995, p. 80).
Exercises and Ideas
Getting ideas, hints and tips about how you can use Computer Assisted Spelling programs is
difficult because all you literally have to do is choose a program, install it onto your
computer and get going. The programs are flexible and can check any number of boxes for
you but you have to find the right programs for your needs first. The following information
and tips can help you to do that:
Check out consumer and educational reviews to find the best Computer Assisted
Spelling programs for your needs because there are so many that it can get very
confusing. Take your time to do your research in advance and also be sure to read
all of the other spelling improvement strategies here because they will help you to
decide what you want and need out of the programs.
Try interactive tools that allow you to interact with other people at the same time as
learning how to spell that little bit better. This is because you will be able to share
hints, tips and experiences with other people at the same time, much as children can
in the classroom setting, and this will actually improve your ability to learn. It is not
as one dimensional an experience.
Finally, some providers of Computer Assisted Spelling programs do offer free
demonstration versions of their software so you can try before you buy. As not all
programs will suit you, trying them out may be a good idea.
Computer Assisted Spelling is an excellent strategy to use if you are looking to improve your
spelling in the near future. Whether you are an adult or a child, you can benefit from
technology. However, you may actually want to look into whether or not you would prefer to
use this strategy as some of the programs can be quite expensive. They are often worth it
but there are alternatives if your budget is a little constricted.
Of all the spelling improvement strategies available to help people today, there are few that
are as useful or as popular as Word Identification. Whereas other strategies and techniques
rely on visualisation or how words sound, Word Identification relies on knowledge and
recognition of words. It is strongly linked to reading, but that is not to say that poor readers
cannot use it to great effect. In fact, they can because it is possible to improve reading and
spelling all at the same time (Smith, 2004, p. 91).
Word Identification is an excellent spelling improvement strategy for adults and children to
use throughout their attempts to get better spelling knowledge over a short period of time
because it encourages everyone to recognise words, acknowledge their meaning and then
break them down into easy to recognise sounds. The sounds and images of words are just
two distinct parts of the strategy that can help you to find a great all round solution to your
The Word Identification spelling improvement strategy works by “…teaching children to
break down large, unfamiliar words into smaller, more recognisable words [which] helps
them to, eventually, decipher the meaning of those tough words.” (Angelisi, 2000, p. 6). Of
course, the same principle also applies to adults. This may sound a little like the Morphemic
Word Knowledge spelling improvement strategy that was discussed earlier but there is one
key difference – no previous knowledge of the smaller words or sounds is required. Instead,
the only thing you need to be able to do is to see the word and break it down into groups of
letters that you can remember.
There are actually two ways that the Word Identification spelling improvement strategy can
work for you and the one chosen depends on personal preference. It is possible to use
whole word identification or letter sequence identification (Smith, 2004, p. 91). Think of
how a child may read a word for the first time and how an adult might read an unfamiliar
word to see the difference. The child would read it letter by letter before the sounds seem to
make sense together whereas an adult will attempt to read it as one whole word. That is
literally the difference between the methods that you can use within Word Identification but
many people find the child’s way of identifying the word more effective for improving
There are many ways that Word Identification can be taught to adults and children, with
one of the most popular in adult and child classroom settings being word walls and word
charts. According to Angelisi, the display of a wide variety of words, both long and short,
can help to improve your vocabulary in the first instance before moving on to spelling the
words through Word Identification. This may sound a little complicated but it really is not.
Basically, you can see the words on a wall chart, read them out loud to see how they sound,
learn their meaning and then begin to identify smaller words within the larger ones so that
you ultimately learn how to slot them together to spell without hesitation. Wall charts are
incredibly effective for use in this strategy because “…students can visually be reminded of
any words that may be useful in helping them decode the meanings of words, remember
spelling and writing patterns of words.” (Angelisi, 2000, p. 6)
Why It Works
Word Identification is an easy spelling improvement strategy to use and it works well
because it literally involves reading and little else. It really is simple. You just read a word,
say it out loud and then break it into easily manageable letter clusters so that you can begin
to memorise them. The first time you try out the strategy, you might well find it a little bit
difficult and even long winded because it can take some time to get used to using it. Despite
that, you will find that using Word Identification becomes a lot easier in a very short period
of time and can help you to learn more words with less effort than a number of other
techniques as mentioned here.
Of course, if you are considering using this spelling improvement strategy then it is
assumed that you know how to spell the shorter words that are commonly found in larger
words already. Not, and, is, cat, rat, as and air are commonly found within larger words and
most adults and children over the age of primary school will know how to spell and
recognise them. However, you might find that there are larger words within the more
complex ones that you are learning how to spell.
Word Identification also works really well because once you have identified one word and
learned how to spell it, you will never forget that word and your mind will recognise it
whenever it appears (Smith, 2004, p. 92). As a result, variations of the word also become
easier to recognise and spell so, in effect, you can learn whole groups of words at a time
rather than just taking up more time learning single words.
Exercises and Ideas
There are many exercises and ideas that you can take advantage of to improve your
spelling through the Word Identification strategy. The use of wall charts and displays has
already been mentioned and are by far the most popular techniques. They can be used by
adults and children alike, with words being replaced as and when they have been effectively
learned. However, that is not to say that wall charts are the only possible exercises and
ideas that can be used to improve your spelling with the Word Identification technique. In
fact, there are many more ideas that can be used and you have license to be creative:
Flash cards are ideal for use with this particular technique because they display
words that can be easily identified and broken down again and again. Those that
feature pictures, such as the one that is shown in the Visual Memory chapter, are not
necessarily the best option s for this strategy so plain Flash cards will be better.
Why not take the wall chart idea one step further and use magazines and
newspapers to create words. Cut out letters from magazines and stick them to paper
to form words. This will help because it will make Word Identification not only fun
and memorable but will also distort the words so you will find them much easier to
recognise and break down when you see them written normally.
Use word games to recognise words, like word searches and crosswords. Not only
will you be able to picture those words again but the grid actually helps you to break
down the words in order to learn them properly.
Word Identification games and puzzles are available at various specialist spelling
sites online so you can make the most of computer assisted spelling programs. Some
of them have different methods so you may have to see which ones out there will
suit you but there are plenty of options.
This list is by no means exhaustive so you can get as creative or as boring as you like. The
beauty of Word Identification is that you can use whatever techniques under this strategy
work for you and if you get bored of one then you can just switch to another. It really is a
fun way to improve your spelling.
Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check
This particular spelling improvement strategy is used widely around the world to help
children improve their ability to spell but it is often not given credit for being a strategy in
its own right. In fact, Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check is often put in with the Visual
Memory strategy because it relies on a person’s ability to recall the exact spelling of words
that they have just laid eyes on. However, it is a strategy in its own right because
academics have performed separate research on the technique and how effective it is.
Although it is thought of as a spelling improvement strategy for children at primary level,
Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check can be used by every individual that wants to improve his
or her spelling regardless of age. The idea is to teach basic words to younger children but
that is not to say that it cannot be used for adults either. In fact, it is an excellent exercise
for all ages and one of the better spelling improvement strategies available because it is
virtually impossible to overcomplicate it.
The Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check strategy is actually a really simple strategy to
remember. It comes under a variety of names but the basic idea is always the same:
Look at the word in context
Say the word silently
Think of the meaning
Try to see the word in your mind’s eye
Cover it over, still trying to see the word
Write the word
Check against the correct version.
(Bearne, 1998, p. 229)
As you can see, the step by step nature of the strategy makes it really easy to follow but it
can still “…strengthen visual imagery and enhance the recognition and recall of letter
patterns.” (Westwood, 2008, p. 80). Although this refers to the visual nature of words,
some teachers encourage children to say words out loud instead of thinking about them
internally so that there is an auditory benefit as well. As a result, it can combine how a word
looks and how it sounds to improve the individual’s spelling.
The Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check spelling improvement strategy is a particular favourite
in schools and at home because parents may remember using that tactic to memorise their
spelling lists every single week. However, adults that look to improve their spelling do not
often practice using the Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check because it can be viewed as
childish. In fact, it is a simple exercise that woks just as well in adults and it does in children
so it is worth considering for people of all ages.
Why It Works
Much like the Visual Memory strategy that was discussed in a previous chapter, the Look,
Think, Cover, Write, Check depends on the memory to work. It relies on the person looking
to improve their spelling remembering how the word looked on paper and recreating that
but is may also depend on the way that person remembers the word sounding when it is
spoken out loud. The beauty of the strategy actually lies in the fact that it is completely up
to the person learning to improve spelling whether or not they rely on visualisation or the
way a word sounds. It puts the initiative in your hands because you can choose how best
you learn before you go about memorising words that you might have found difficult before.
This is a technique that is often used with learning difficulties because it empowers the
student to think about the process themselves rather than telling them what to do (Jones &
Charlton, 1996, p. 228).
There are some critics of the Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check strategy though. For
example, Westwood points out the following:
The critics suggest that it relies too much on rote memorisation of letter sequences without
at the same time, encouraging a speller to attend to phonic cues within the word. Cooke
(1997) says that LCWC does not make full use of the alphabetic nature of the English
writing system, not the role of phonology in spelling both regular and irregular words.
(2008, p. 80)
Although the points made in these criticisms might appear valid to begin with, the Look,
Think, Cover, Write, Check strategy is not meant to be overly complicated and that is why it
relies on learning letters by heart. That is why it does not make full use of the English
writing system. There is absolutely no need for it to do so. The only reason why these
criticisms need to be looked at here is purely because some schools do not use the Look,
Think, Cover, Write, Check strategy as a result of these criticisms so you may have heard
them before but that is not to say that are not useful. In fact, the Look, Think, Cover, Write,
Check is versatile and works because it makes learning easy.
No matter how old you are, Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check can really help to boost your
ability to spell regular and irregular words. The repetition works wonders to imprint the
words you want to learn on your brain. Even better, is it not an expensive strategy to use
because all you have to is get a piece of paper and pen to make it work, although you can
make the strategy a little more fun if you want to.
Exercises and Ideas
Given the nature of this particular spelling improvement strategy, it is fair to say that there
are very few exercises that you can do to improve its success rate because the strategy
itself is one big exercise! By nature, the Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check has five distinct
steps to help you improve your spelling and it is difficult to use each of them in other
distinct exercises. Of course, you could change the exercise a little if you find a better way
of doing it. For example, you may choose to recite the spelling out loud rather than
thinking. It may be easier to say the letters out loud and remember them instead of
thinking about them. It is advisable to use this particular strategy in several similar ways.
Only then will you find the best one for you.
However, there are little tricks and ideas that you can try out to improve your memory of
the words you learn when using the Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check technique. For
example, Jackman points out: “Whilst the use of mnemonic trickery cannot seriously of
itself underpin a spelling programme, in its place it can have useful, if limited, applications
especially with those one off problem words (remembering the cess pit in the middle means
you’ll never again misspell ‘necessary’!)” (2002, p. 17). This is an excellent idea because
linking words to specific sayings or ideas like necessary having a cess pit in the middle of it
can help you to remember the spelling during the Think section of the exercise. It also
makes the whole process a little more fun. Here are some more ideas and tips for
remembering how to spell words during the Think section of Look, Think, Cover, Write,
Draw pictures or doodles to remind you of difficult sections of the word
Take notice of patterns in the letters and use them to your advantage
Look for memorable cues that you could remember (such as someone’s initials or
letters that can make up a rhyme) (Jones & Charlton, 1996, p. 230)
Break the word down into memorable sections, spell them individually and then put
the word together when you feel ready.
No matter how you choose to remember the words you are learning to spell with this
particular strategy, always remember to keep it simple because that is the whole idea
behind the Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check technique. If you overcomplicate it then you
will find that you learn absolutely nothing so do not stray too far from the original formula
and keep it simple.
Pattern spelling has been one of the most underestimated spelling improvement strategies
in schools and amongst adults over the last few decades and yet recent research has proved
that it is easily one of the most effective because it can be made to be fun and memorable.
Mary Ann Angelisi found that this was the case during her research in 2000. Although she
researched improving spelling in the classroom rather than in adults, her findings are very
important. For example, she stated that “Encouraging students to search for certain spelling
patterns in words can help them remember the spelling of the word better”, with patterns
being rhyming patterns, consonant or vowel clusters, prefixes and suffixes (2000, p. 5).
There are plenty of groups of words that can be learned by using this particular spelling
improvement strategy many of which most people probably do not link together unless they
experience difficulties spelling them. As a result, the Pattern Spelling strategy is dependent
on adults and children that have problems spelling certain groups of words identifying their
own needs and issues but if you do have difficulties and can identify where you are going
wrong then this strategy is ideal for helping you.
The Pattern Spelling strategy is based upon the idea that there are groups of words that
feature predictable patterns and letter sequences that look and sound very similar
(Department of Education – Tasmania, 2007). As such, it incorporates the Visual Memory
and Sound Symbol Knowledge strategies to a certain extent, combining them to help people
having trouble with spelling. The idea is to group words together so that people can learn
the patterns and so learn several words at once. The sense of achievement is amazing and
can really help to boost a child or adult’s confidence.
Some examples of similar words that can be learned as part of the Pattern Strategy are as
Group One – Other, Mother, Smother, Brother, Bother.
Group Two – Sand, Stand, Strand, Sanded, Stranded.
Group Three – Ease, Cease, Lease, Please.
All three of these groups of words have similar patterns but, you may notice, do not always
have the same sounds when they are spoken aloud. This is why Sound Symbol Knowledge
and Visual Memory strategies for improving spelling do not always work when it comes to
groups of words. Instead, Pattern Spelling is very useful in bypassing audio and visual
problems and takes a multisensory approach instead (Westwood, 2008, p. 70)
The Pattern Spelling improvement strategy incorporates a vast range of sound patterns,
visual spelling patterns and even vowel and consonant patterns like alliteration (Sterling &
Robson, 1992, p. 169). As such, it could be argued to be one of the best and certainly one
of the most comprehensive spelling improvement strategies that can be used to help adults
and children alike. It is commonly taught through techniques like speaking similar words
aloud while the teacher is pointing to specific words on a wall chart in primary schools but
improving spelling through Pattern Spelling techniques to adults is not as easy because
individual adult needs are different. That is not to say that adults cannot take advantage of
the strategy, just that they have to be more creative.
Why It Works
The Pattern Spelling strategy works because it combines the best of a number of spelling
improvement strategies together so it is not overly reliant on either visual cues or the way
in which the words sound when they are broken. It really is as simple as that. It neither
relies on sounds nor pictures but instead allows for the best combinations of both. Not only
that, it also allows for the identification of something memorable in groups of words in
adults and children alike.
Jackman states that: “All memory can be dramatically assisted if the information to
memorised is organised and categorised in a meaningful way. For young children, without
significant experience of the printed work, such help is vitally important.” (2002, p. 16).
Although he focuses on young children, Jackman makes a good point. Pattern Spelling
allows for significant organisation of sounds, letters and categories of word, all of which
make learning or improving spelling that little bit easier in the long term.
Pattern Spelling is also a lot of fun because it allows for creativity in both adults and
children when learning to use the strategy effectively. Spotting patterns is in no way boring
at all because you do not have to sit with a book open in front of you. Instead, it gives you
a chance to get creative because there is no set way to identify patterns.
Exercises and Ideas
Speaking of creativity, the general rule is the more creative the better when it comes to
exercises and ideas to promote Pattern Spelling as a strategy to help improve spelling in
adults and children. As the strategy embraces all of the senses, it is your choice as to how
you want to use them to improve your own spelling skills. There are a few ideas outlined
above but this list is not exhaustive by any means so you can really go to town when you
are looking for a little inspiration yourself:
Rhyming is a wonderful exercise to use to help improve spelling with this particular
strategy because it highlights sound patterns within individual words and these are
more often than not also visible when the words are spelled out on paper
(Westwood, 2008, p. 13). Nursery rhymes can help children to see Pattern Spelling
but songs and chants can be just as useful for adults.
Tongue twisters and similar enunciation exercises can also be really useful in
highlighting patterns within word groupings, especially consonant or vowel patterns
that you might miss in ordinary rhymes.
Flow charts are particularly useful in charting patterns in various groups of words,
particularly for adults that need to see how words evolve in terms of their sound and
the way in which they are spelled. For example, the groups of words written in the
previous sections all have certain letters in common and the changes can be
highlighted in visual aids.
Use art instead of the written word if you are not a keen reader or have problems
with reading. You can use symbols for certain sounds to make them easier to
remember or you can have a little fun in drawing the letters or patterns that are the
same in all of the words in a different way. It is completely up to you.
The only rule that applies to Pattern Spelling exercises is that you should not overcomplicate
the process. Patterns are simple by nature, even when they are related to spelling, so make
sure that you use that simplicity to your advantage. If you choose to come up with anything
more complex then it may well confuse you. Similarly, if you find that visual patterns work
better for you than sound patterns then use that to your advantage. Always choose the
easy option because your spelling will improve with less effort.
As you can see from the information in each of the lesson, being a bad speller does not
have to be something that you are stuck with for life. Instead, it need only be a temporary
feature of your life providing that you become pro-active and look for a solution sooner
rather than later. Admitting that you have a problem with spelling does not seem like a big
deal when you are a child but can be a really tough problem to seek help with when you are
an adult so the sooner you take matters into your own hands and look for a solution, the
less you have to endure the embarrassment!
Each of the seven spelling improvement strategies that feature in this eBook have their own
positive and negatives, advantages and disadvantages. However, it is difficult to pinpoint
what they are or each strategy because it all depends on what works for you. Everyone is
different and has unique personal preferences, strengths and weaknesses. As a result, it is
down to you to research each of the strategies and then choose the one that works best for
you. Do not be afraid to try several of them out if you so wish because doing so could
actually surprise you. You may find that one suits your spelling issues better than you
All of the information you’ve read is based on comprehensive academic research, which has
been performed specifically to make sure that you have the most up to date and reliable
information at your fingertips. Academic research has been particularly useful in helping to
identify the seven most effective spelling improvement strategies out there at this moment
in time and it should also be useful in helping to give you everything you need to improve
your spelling quickly and easily.
There is a lot of information included in each of the strategies so a quick summary of each is
outlined below for your convenience:
Visual Memory – The Visual Memory strategy is designed to help those who work well with
visual cues, who are able to picture words and spell them correctly, and those who have a
good visual memory but are not necessarily as good with sounds. Picturing words can
certain help to improve spelling if the above applies to you.
Graphophonic or Sound Symbol Knowledge – If your mind can process sounds better
than images hen Sound Symbol Knowledge may be a good option for you because it allows
you to break words down into individual sounds until you can remember how to spell them.
Morphemic Word Knowledge – The Morphemic Word Knowledge strategy uses the
knowledge of smaller words that you already have to teach you how to spell other longer
and more problematic words.
Computer Aided Spelling – Take advantage of technology with one of the many Computer
Aided Spelling programs that are available today. More common for children than for adults,
interactive programs can correct poor spelling choices and encourage people to use
techniques that suit them to improve their spelling.
Word Identification – Word Identification is an interactive way to improve spelling
because you have to interact with and recognise the words before breaking them down into
bite size patterns that are easier to remember when spelling words that you have previously
had difficulties with.
Look, Think, Cover, Write, Check – Commonly used in schools, the Look, Think, Cover,
Write, Check is a fantastically simple exercise for those people who can memorise the way a
word looks and sounds before spelling it out. The several steps are easy to follow and use.
Pattern Spelling – Finally, Pattern Spelling is an excellent strategy to use if you have
difficulties remembering how to spell groups of words that look or sound similar but are not
necessarily as easy as they first appear. You can really get creative with this strategy.
Now you have everything you need to know to improve your spelling effectively regardless
of how old you are or what your strengths and weaknesses are. All you need to do now is
seize the day and take control of your spelling ability once and for all.
Teaching Ideas – Literacy (Writing & Spelling)
This website provides numerous spelling ideas and resources for everyone to take
advantage of. You can download spelling patterns help sheets and spelling hints and tips
ideas from this page.
Robin Stephenson – How to Improve a Child’s Spelling Skills
This is a simple article that contains numerous hints and tips that can help you to improve
your spelling, many of which are not included in the strategies provided for your
convenience in this eBook.
LGfL – Primary Stratgies: Literacy
This website is primarily designed for teaching spelling but can be used by anyone looking
for a little spelling boost. It contains resources like spelling strategies, journals and games.
National Literary Trust – Literary Resources
This website provides a vast range of resources for parents, reading groups, basic skills
practitioners, librarians, teachers and other individuals looking to improve spelling. It
includes practical resources, videos and external links to help you.
Spelling it Right – Learn how to Spell Confidently
Perhaps the best spelling resource available online. It is for parents to help their children,
adults who have difficulties with spelling and teachers who need help with lesson plans. It
contains printable worksheets, advice, games, puzzles and strategies. In short, it contains
everything you need no matter what level your spelling is at.
Angelisi, Mary Ann, 2000. Teaching Spelling Strategies: Which Strategies Work Best.
[Online] Available at:
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Anonymous, 1997. Spelling Poem. English Teacher’s Network (ETNI). [Online] Available at:
http://www.etni.org.il/quotes/spelling.htm [Last accessed 30 June 2010].
Aston, Lois Brown, 2007. Engaging the Disengaged: How Schools Can Help Struggling
Students Succeed. London: Corwin Press.
Bearne, Eve, 1998. Making Progress in English. London: Routledge.
Department of Education, Tasmania, 2007. Spelling Strategies. University of Tasmania –
English Learning Area. [Online] Available at:
http://wwwfp.education.tas.gov.au/English/spellstrat.htm [Last accessed 27 June 2010]
Flippo, Rona & Caverly, David C., 2008. Handbook of College Reading and Study Strategy
Research. 2nd Edition. New York: Taylor & Francis.
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Chris M. Sterling & Cliff Robson eds. Psychology, Spelling and Education. Bristol, PA:
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Kumar, Rajinder, 2006. Teaching of English. New Dehli, India: Lotus Press.
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Teachers. Washington DC: National Institute for Literacy.
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[Last accessed 1 July 2010]
Powell, Debbie & Hornsby, David, 1993. Learning Phonics and Spelling in a Whole Classroom
Language. London: Scholastic Inc.
Robbins, Laura & Kenny, Heather A., 2007. Sound Approach: Using Phonemic Awareness to
Teach Reading and Spelling. Winnipeg, MB: Portage & Main Press.
Savage, John F., 2004. Sound it Out! Phonics in a Comprehensive Reading Program. New
Schmitt, Norbert, 2000. Vocabulary in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge
Slater, Alan & Bremner, J. Gavin, 2003. An Introduction to Developmental Psychology.
Smith, Frank, 2004. Understanding Reading: A Psycholinguistic Analysis of Reading and
Learning to Read. 6th Edition. London: Routledge.
Sterling, Chris M. & Robson, Cliff, 1992. Section Four: Spelling Problems. In Chris M.
Sterling & Cliff Robson eds. Psychology, Spelling and Education. Bristol, PA: Multilingual
Matters Ltd, pp. 182-184.
Taylor, Emma & Martlew, Margaret, 1992. Developmental Differences in Phonological
Spelling Strategies. In Chris M. Sterling & Cliff Robson eds. Psychology, Spelling and
Education. Bristol, PA: Multilingual Matters Ltd, pp. 168-180.
Tropping, Keith J., 1995. Paired Reading, Spelling, and Writing: The Handbook for Teachers
and Parents. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
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