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SOS - Spelling for Older Students

What is the SOS program?

The SOS Program, created for SPELD SA by Jan Polkinghorne, is a series of Power point presentations containing activities to build basic phonic and spelling knowledge with students from year 5 upwards called SOS. The lessons are structured with the same sequence of sounds as the Jolly Phonic Program so that they can be readily used with all of our free synthetic phonic resources on our site.

Why do struggling students have difficulty spelling?


Older struggling reader/writers frequently have never been taught to spell by sound. They have mostly relied on memorizing words. Many can see no logic behind English. To help them achieve we need to change their ideas of reading and writing. To help them see that English is a code which takes the sounds we speak and translates them via symbols into marks on a page so others who know the code can change them back into speech. We need to begin again by teaching these students the code, and helping them learn to blend the sounds to read and segment the sounds to write. Old strategies of guessing need to be replaced by blending and segmenting right through a word. There are 42 (44) sounds in English but we only have 26 letters to represent these sounds therefore we have to use combinations of letters (digraphs) to represent some sounds. Once we have learnt the code then we can read and write the majority of words in English—even the long ones.

SOS (Spelling for Older Students) is a way to attempt to teach older students the code in an age appropriate fashion. It is designed to be presented as quickly as possible over six or seven weeks as a concerted effort to remediate reluctant or struggling readers and writers.

With older students, it is important to screen them first to find out what level they're working at and provide activies to address the gaps. If you make the sessions fast and fun, include competitiveness, build in rewards, games and prizes, students will join in. You can use the SPELD SA free synthetic phonic assessment materials to find out which letter sounds they know:

The following 35 lessons introduce the sounds s, a, t, i, p, n, (c, k, ck,) e, h, r, m, d, g, o, u, l, f, b, ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or, z, w, ng, nk, oo(book), oo(room), v, x, y, ch, th (think), th (that), qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar and various ways of recording them.

Each lesson is in a PowerPoint and the teaching notes are in a PDF.

Spelling lists have been created to compliment this SOS program and can be accessed through the Spelling City website. This is an easy way to provide activities for students to practise the words. It must be noted that some activities use letter names instead of sounds. A link to this is provided below:


SOS - Set 1: s, a, t, p, i, n


SOS - Set 2: c, k, ck, e, h, r, m, d


SOS - Set 3: g, o, u, l, f, b


SOS - Set 4: ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or


SOS - Set 5: z, w, ng, nk, oo(book), oo(room), v


SOS - SET 6: y, x, ch, th(think),th(that), qu


SOS - SET 7: ou/ow, oi/oy, ue/ew, er/ur/ir, ar