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Definitions of regular and irregular words

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Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2547
Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2015 12:07 pm    Post subject: Definitions of regular and irregular words Reply with quote

Conversations are taking place via the DDOLL network regarding the definition of 'regular' and 'irregular' words and how best to teach these.

There are specific definitions of 'irregular' words in academic literature, but these are not necessarily helpful when it comes to practical, daily teaching of our complex English alphabetic code.

So, one's personal definition of 'regular' and 'irregular' words will affect the way you approach your teaching. Here is a message I wrote which briefly describes the way that I would teach the letter group 'ear' - not presented as 'irregular' in certain words but merely presented as a letter group with many 'pronunciation alternatives'. Other people describe that they use this approach too:

Surely it depends on ‘which’ irregular words you are referring to.

There are the kind which some of us don’t treat as ‘irregular’ - simply a bank of words with a common letter/s-sound correspondence – such as words spelt with ‘ear’ with the same pronunciation as each other.

I would ‘glue’ such words together through the design of the resources to introduce them.

For example, I might introduce the lesson in this way:

“Today, we are going to revisit the letter group ‘ear’ but whereas previously we learnt that those letters can be code for the sound /eer/ in some words, we are now going to focus on a bank of words in which this letter group is code for the sound /air/. Remember that our aim is to recall exactly which words are in these spelling word banks for our lifetime’s spelling.”

The children would receive a multi-skills Activity Sheet at word level which features the letter group ‘ear’ as code for /air/ on this occasion and they would practise sounding out and blending these words. Later, we would repeat this collectively and talk about their meanings.

Then, the children write the focus grapheme whilst saying its associated sound (for today’s sound).

Then, we would go through a spelling-with-editing (and handwriting routine) involving oral segmenting.

Then we would do ‘apply and extend’ whereby the focus word bank would now be within a cumulative ‘text’ with a theme to glue the words in the focus spelling word bank together.

Language comprehension would also be involved.

Creating a spelling word bank list by doing a ‘grapheme search’ within the text and compiling a list of the focus words would be included.

With their own paper-based resources which provides them with a specific bank of words and also words in context, the activies are easily repeatable and more memorable.

This range of activities (for example) means that learning ‘ear’ as /eer/ and ‘ear’ as /air/ are ‘routine’ but neither version is presented as regular or irregular – although a word like ‘heart’ will be flagged up as the more unusual (or rare) spelling with the grapheme ‘ear’ - and presented as such.

Debbie Hepplewhite
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