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Spelling in Year 1 (age 5–6)

In Year 1, your child will learn about the alphabet and will learn to spell some basic words.

Read on to discover the National Curriculum expectations for spelling in Year 1, and to find out how you can support your child at home.

What your child will learn

Take a look at the National Curriculum expectations for spelling in Year 1 (age 5–6):

Spelling words using the 40+ phonemes they have already learnt

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and spell. English is made up of around 44 different sounds. We call these sounds phonemes. Like most languages, English has a code for how we write these sounds down. Each phoneme can be represented by one or more letters. Find out more about how phonics works:

When they start primary school, children will learn to use phonics to spell words that contain these sounds. English writing sometimes represents the same sound in different ways, so they might not always get it right every time (for example, they might spell ‘name’ as ‘naim’ or ‘naym’).

For a full list of the sounds that children will learn to spell in Year 1, take a look at the National Curriculum spelling appendix.

Spelling common exception words

In some English words, the spelling of the word doesn’t appear to fit with the phonemes that children have been taught so far. These are often called ‘common exception words’ or ‘tricky words’. In Year 1, children will learn to spell the ones that are used most often in writing. They include:

the, a, do, to, today, of, said, says, are, were, was, is, his, has, I, you, your, they, be, he, me, she, we, no, go, so, by, my, here, there, where, love, come, some, one, once, ask, friend, school, put, push, pull, full, house, our

To practise spelling common exception words, download our Year 1 common exception words worksheet.

Spelling the days of the week

Your child will learn to recite and spell the days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Naming the letters of the alphabet

Your child will learn to:

  • name the letters of the alphabet in the right order
  • use letter names to distinguish between alternative spellings of the same sound (for example, to understand that ‘ceiling’ and ‘sea’ use different letters to show the same ‘ss’ sound).

Adding some prefixes and suffixes to words

Suffixes are morphemes (groups of letters that mean something on their own) that are added at the end of a root or root word to change the meaning. Prefixes are morphemes added at the front of a word. Over the course of Year 1, children will learn about some of the most common prefixes and suffixes to change the tense of a word:

  • using the spelling rule for adding -s or -es as the plural marker for nouns and the third person singular marker for verbs
  • using the prefix un-
  • using -ing, -ed, -er, and -est where no change is needed in the spelling of root words. For example, helping, helped, helper.

How to help at home

There are lots of ways you can help your Year 1 child with spelling. Here are our top ideas.

1. Practise phonics

Phonics is the main way your child will learn to spell at the start of primary school. You can use phonics by encouraging your child to spell a word by breaking it up into individual sounds and then matching those sounds to the letters of the alphabet.

Reminding children to segment ‘frog’ into its four sounds – ‘f’ ‘r’ ‘o’ ‘g’ – sounds like such a basic way of supporting spelling, but practising it is very important if it is to become second nature. Take a look at our phonics page to find out more.

Video: What is phonics?

Watch this fun animation to find out about phonics and understand the key aspects of learning to read using phonics.

2. Help with spelling homework

Some schools send spelling words home to learn in Year 1, while others just use phonics sessions at school to teach spelling. If words do come home as a list to learn (perhaps for a spelling test), then helping your child to learn them can be really helpful. If they are struggling to remember them, you might:

  • Draw their attention to any patterns or groups of letters in the words, making links to the phonics they’ve been taught:

    ‘which letters are making the ‘ay’ sound here? Yes, it’s the ‘ai’, just like in ‘gain’ and ‘Spain’. That’s different to the ‘ay’ sound in ‘play’, isn’t it?’

  • Use over-pronunciation. So for Wednesday, encourage children to say Wed-nes-day as they write. There are lots of words which feature sounds that aren’t always pronounced clearly (such as words ending in -ed), and over-emphasising these while spelling them out can help fix the spelling in your child’s memory.
  • Ask your child to write down the words that they need to remember how to spell. The physical act of writing the words by hand helps to anchor the spelling in children’s memories and encourages them to think about the letters that represent the sounds in the word. Typing the words into a PC or tablet isn’t as effective.
  • Focus your child’s attention on the tricky bits in a word by asking them to highlight them. For example, show them that said has ‘ai’ in the middle and ask them to write the word, and then highlight or underline this part to help them remember. Few resources are more motivating than a highlighter pen for primary-aged children!

3. Play spelling games

Playing games can help children to learn about spelling in an enjoyable way. Watch grammar expert Charlotte Raby’s video ‘How can I help my child with grammar, punctuation and spelling?’ to see some fun and easy games:

Charlotte Raby offers her expert advice for helping your child develop their grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills at home.

Online games such as Word Worm can be motivating, and so can more traditional games like hangman. Making silly sentences can be great fun too. Challenge your child to write a silly sentence, including as many of the words on their spelling list as possible.

For example, your child may have to learn ‘room took hoop foot book’. They could make up a silly sentence such as ‘The boy took his book across the room but got his foot caught in a hoop’. Why not draw illustrations to go with the sentences?

4. Find the right resources

Learning to spell is a gradual process and mastering English’s complex spelling system can take time. All children are different: some pick up spelling quickly, while others take longer. Whatever their level, we have lots of free spelling activities to support them.

Year 1 common exception words

Learn the common exception words children are expected to spell by the end of Year 1.