What to do when students are working above their year level? How do I cater for strong spellers?

PLD Stages and Year Levels
PLD recognises that there is a range in ability within every class and this range in ability will be different for each classroom. The PLD stages do roughly correspond to year levels in primary school, however national curriculum requires students to read, spell and write in their first compulsory year in school or Pre-Primary (WA), Transition (NT), Reception (SA) Prep. (QLD, VIC, TAS), Kindergarten (NSW, ACT). Hence students are required to be well into stage 1 within the Foundation year.

This may look like:
Stage to Year Correspondence
Students working above PLD age-appropriate levels
How do I cater for my strong spellers and those achieving high scores in subsequent stages?

When contemplating whether to accelerate a student, PLD recommends that teachers do not over accellerate students. Typically one stage up is all PLD recommendds. Please consider the following:

1. Transfer to extended writing (dictation and self-generated)

Even though the student is achieving high scores in placement screens and assessments at a reading and single-word spelling level, it is highly unlikely they are consistently transferring with high accuracy to extended writing.

2. Evidence beyond placement test

The spelling placement screens are designed to be quick diagnostic assessments, hence do not test every phonic concept within every stage (apart from Stage 1) so the 85% move-forward recommendation should be carefully considered before accelerating students scoring significantly above year-level.

3. Meaning & Morphology

Prior to accelerating student, ensure there is an understanding of word meanings and a strong ability to apply morphology (prefixes, suffixes and base word identification). **There is little benefit for students if they can spell the words but not know what they mean.**

Benefit of Teaching Sequence

PLD advocates that the benefits of avoiding over-acceleration far outweigh any value that the student will accomplish by pushing them more than a semester ahead of their age-appropriate peers.

In the majority of these circumstances, students will benefit working through the teaching sequences (as per the relevant teaching sequence manual) as the scope is broader than just attending to the gaps in phonic knowledge denoted by the spelling placement screens.

Since an overarching goal of spelling is to apply sophisticated language and vocabulary to self-generated writing, it is worthwhile for strong spellers to "slow down" and engage in word study (morphology) rather than accelerate rapidly through PLD's stages.

In the unlikely event the student is consistently and accurately transferring their new spelling knowledge to extended writing and oral language tasks, then there would be justification for pushing them forward. Before this happens, teachers could use the checklist provided in the Teaching Sequence Manuals at the end of each school year outline to ensure there are no gaps, and the listed point have been considered.

Checklist Example
Word Study Focus Beyond Stage 6

Strong spellers moving beyond Stage 6 https://support.pld-literacy.org/en-au/article/strong-spellers-moving-beyond-stage-6-and-those-with-high-scores-in-stages-5-6-g7bxbp/

Updated on: 11/09/2023

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