Learning to spell Definitely

It's definately  defnetly certainly got to be one of the most misspelt words - definitely.

By the time you've read this post, you'll definitely never misspell it again. But how DO you learn those words that refuse to be learnt.

Here's my advice:

Don't rely on sound alone. Depending on your accent, this word definitely might sound a bit like "def-nut-lee". In fact you really can't hear how that vowel between n and t is spelt, so that's not going to help you. Going on sound alone it could be a, e, i, o or u.

Try more than one way to remember. At least one of them will work for you. And if you can use more than one of those methods, you can check that you're right.

Here are some ways to remember the spelling of definitely.

1) Build it up. This is my favourite way (and how I personally learnt to spell definitely).

finite  (easy to spell)
de + finite = definite
definite + ly = definitely


2) Think about the error you usually make (people often write this word with an 'a') and kill it!

There's definitely no 'a' in definitely.


3) Look at the shape. If you follow this blog you'll know I do a lot of work with word shapes. But they don't work so well with long words and not at all with vowels. So here's another way. Look at the combination of letters below. What does the overall shape remind you of? You might need to squint!

Does it look like a car? Or an armchair? Or something else? Remember those are the vowels in this word:


4) Play a game: how many words can you find in the word definitely? The letters must be consecutive not anagrams. So fin is fine but fit isn't.



5) Relate part of the spelling to part of another word that you can spell.

I've definitely finished


6) Colour your vowels. Decide on a colour for each vowel. For example:
a - grey
e - green
i - bright red
o  - yellow
u - blue
(the names of the letters sound like the colours)
Then write the word:
Download resources for coloured vowels here.


7) Check you've got it. Use my Look Say Cover Write and Check chart to test yourself. Download it from here: or read more about it here.


Got it? Any other ways to remember? Go ahead and share them.

How to Self-Publish

Ever so slightly off-topic, this one.

My book Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners was self-published. What does that mean? How can teachers self publish? I am giving a presentation at the 49th IATEFL Conference in Manchester called The Why, What and How of Self Publishing. Here are the slides and the handout for those who attend and those who can't.

Handout 1 (for notetaking)
Handout 2 (links and references)

If you have any questions, please add them to the comments.


"What Teachers Should Know About Spelling" article

I am grateful to Megan, an Australian follower of The Spelling Blog, for pointing me to this summary of what seems like a very interesting talk by Dr Misty Adoniou about teaching spelling. Her ideas are similar to mine in many ways but have some really interesting variations. To summarise the summary(!):

  • Phonics and visual skills are not the most important indicators of being a good speller
  • English is morpho-phonemic (based on meaning as well as sound) and etymology (word origin) plays a large part, so these two aspects should be explicitly taught across the curriculum (if taught in English, of course)
  • We need to teach 6 types of knowledge about words to spell them well: meaning, sound, acceptable and typical letter patterns, origins, parts of words and remembering what words look like.
  • We should teach spelling strategies through words that learners meet in context  in real books rather than having lists of words to learn that illustrate a strategy.
All sounds very sensible to me. Read the whole article here: http://www.atesolact.org.au/recent-atesol-act-events.html#a1377 

Thank you, Misty, Megan and Tina Williamson, the summary author. More about Misty Adoniou


Winner of the International Literacy Day competition

And we have a winner! 

September 8th was International Literacy Day. To raise awareness of this I ran a competition to win a copy of my book, Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners. The winner is .... Fitta Astriyani from Indonesia. Fitta says she and her colleagues have not been able to find up-to-date books about teaching English spelling in Indonesia and her students certainly need help in this area. Fitta has a great blog herself - take a look at all the fun and creativity at http://funkreatifittaz.blogspot.co.uk/. So congratulations Fitta - your book will be with you soon!

Everyone else who entered will soon get a voucher for discount on the book. 

But let's get back to the reason for the competition - raising awareness of literacy around the world. Here are some facts:

There are about 775 million illiterate adults in the world (nearly 16% of the global population) and nearly three quarters of them are in just ten countries. By far the largest number come from India, but it does not have the highest percentage of illiterate adults. According to the CIA Factbook, the country with the lowest number of literate adults is Burkino Faso with only 21.8%. 

In Afghanistan, the rate is slightly higher (28%) but it has the lowest rate of female adult literacy: only an unbelievable 12.6% (in 2000). We know that female literacy is crucial to the development of future generations.

But it's not all bad news. Literacy rates are increasing now. According to Unesco, between 1990 and 2011, the adult literacy rate in the Arab States rose from 55% to 77% and the youth literacy rate from 74% to 90%. South and West Asia also saw very welcome improvements.

International Literacy Day 2013 - Win a free book!

It's the UNESCO International Literacy Day on Sunday 8th September 2013.

To celebrate I am offering a free copy of Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners to the person who convinces me they deserve it most! And a discount voucher to everyone else who enters the competition following the rules below.

All you have to do is email me at johanna(dot)stirling@gmail.com
  • before midnight (GMT+1) Sunday 8th September -  not after please
  • say why you deserve a copy of Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners more than anyone else
  • The Subject of your email must be "ILD13 Competition"
The winner will get a free copy of the book (Recommended Retail Price £18.50) posted to them free of charge, wherever they are in the world. 

Remember you can't lose! Even if you don't win the book, you get the discount voucher just for bothering to enter. But it must be no later than Sunday 8th September 2013.

Global literacy - did you know?

Thankfully literacy rates worldwide are improving all the time but there are still millions of children who don't go to school or who are leaving primary school unable to read or write. Two thirds of the illiterate people in the world are female.

Literacy infographic here

Aspire, Inspire and Expire - related meanings?

I saw this on my Facebook feed:

A neat little quote for teachers I thought. Then I couldn't help looking at those three spire words and wondering what they had in common in terms of meaning. So off to some of my favourite etymological websites (www.etymonline.com and wordinfo.info) and here's what I found and worked out. 

The root here is spire meaning breathe or breath life into  from the Latin spirare

  • aspire - to breathe life upon something- to have hope
  • inspire - to breathe or blow into another - in other words, "influence or animate with an idea or purpose" 
  • expire - breathe out, especially for the last time (so meaning die or finish) - spelling note: ex means out of but we can't put that before the whole word spire (exspire) because x is never followed by s except across a compound word such as flaxseed)

And here are some more spire words

  • conspire - literally breathe together, but means to plot something together
  • perspire - to breathe through. The sweat meaning came later but I suppose is about a kind of breathing through the skin.
  • respire - this literally means breathe again but I really don't know why it's again. I guess just one breath isn't enough to keep you alive!
The there are all the spirit words that are also related: spirited, spiritual, etc

But, by the way, the word spire itself, meaning a tall pointed tower, comes from a completely different root. It's related to an Old Norse word meaning a slender stalk

Love this etymology stuff! Feel free to add your own etymological 'noticings' in the comments.

ELTons nomination for Teaching Spelling

Fantastic news! My book Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners has been nominated for an ELTon for Innovation in Teacher Resources.

If you are an English language teacher you may know (or may not) what that means. The ELTons are awards from the British Council and well ...  this is what the British Council say ...

"The ELTons, sponsored by Cambridge ESOL, are the only international awards that recognise and celebrate innovation in English language teaching (ELT). They reward educational resources that help English language learners and teachers to achieve their goals."

I'm so happy, proud and honoured that my self-published work is up there with the big guys. Full list of nominees here.
Really tough competition! The winners will be announced at the Oscars, sorry, I mean ELTons, ceremony in London on 22 May 2013. 

Special offer - 40% (or more if you hurry) discount
To celebrate, I'm reducing the price of Teaching Spelling until 22 April 2013. Only £11.10 (+ p and p) per book. Save £8.50 on RRP. But if you buy it before the end of 31 March you get an extra 20% off with the coupon code VERNUM. Only available when you buy from Lulu.com. Spread the word - bankrupt me!