Analysing spelling mistakes

Most spelling mistakes can be categorised into five common kinds of mistakes. These mistakes are usually:

  • Getting letters in the wrong order
  • Missing out bits or adding bits
  • Mixing up sounds and or homophones
  • Not knowing the spelling rule
  • Spelling words as they sound


Analysing spelling errors

It is important to only work on a few spelling errors in the piece in a given session. Try and find words that show a recurring spelling mistake.

Here are some suggestions for working on some common errors.


Example 1:

‘Rite’ for write. The student does not know that some words begin with wr – where the w is a silent letter.

Using a dictionary, find a list other words that begin with wr. It is important to try and use words that you feel the student will use. For example

  • write
  • writing
  • wrist
  • wrap
  • wrong

Make up some sentences, either before the session or with the student, to show the context for each word. For example:

  • I sat down to write a letter to my friend.
  • I made sure to wrap the present in nice paper.
  • It is wrong to drink and drive.

You could try doing Cloze tests with these sentences so the student begins to recognise these words.

To reinforce these words, make crosswords using online resources (see the resources section at the end of this section). For example,


Example 2:

‘Confed’ for confidence, ‘comepurter’ for computer. The student cannot break up longer words into syllables.

To introduce syllables, ask the student to clap or tap out the beats in their own name, and the name of their family and friends.  For example,

  • Mar-y has two syllables
  • Fer-gu-sonhas three syllables

Next, use the same method with some longer words that the student may want to spell. Try using the words in the piece that they had difficulty with. For example,

  • Con-fid-ence
  • Com-pu-ter

As you say each syllable, write it out so that the student can see how each syllable is spelt.

Encourage the student to try and spell each longer word by approaching each syllable separately.


Example 3:

‘Tink’ for think. The student spells words as she pronounces them.

Make a word list of other words that begin with th. For example,

  • thin
  • think
  • that

You can also encourage the student to make up their own sentences with th words and create Cloze tests. For example,

Th Words

I am going to Spain on holidays with Jackie.

I am going this week.

I think it will be hot there.

That is why I must bring sun cream.


Try filling in the blanks:

I am going to Spain on holidays _______ Jackie.

I am going ____ week.

I ______ it will be hot ________.

_______is why I must bring sun cream.


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