Spelling 'one' and 'two' - lexical spelling

I write this on a once-in-a-century day! The date is 11/11/11 - the only day in a hundred years when all those numbers are the same - lots of lovely ONEs. To celebrate and honour the number one, let's look at its spelling.

Learners have asked me "Why do you spell one without a w although you pronounce a w in it? And then why does two have a w when you don't pronounce it?" Great questions!

So why? The simple answer is that these two words are not phonetically spelled. Their spelling shows lexical or semantic links with other words - we are spelling by meaning not sound. All of the words below contain the letters o-n. Can you see how each of them relates to the idea of one?

Wordle: Untitled
one, alone, only, lonely, once, none

And how about two? (I'll deal with that now as I may not still be blogging on 22/2/22!) Where did that w come from? Again - it's about meaning not sound. What's the link with the number 2 in these words containing tw?

Wordle: two 2
two, twenty, twice, twelve, twin, between

Pointing this pattern out to learners can help prevent them writing *tow*, instead of two, and mixing the homophones. It also helps them to see there is some logic and that you shouldn't rely too much on sound when spelling.

Some questions for you:
  • Can you think of any more words related to the number one that include the letters on (together)?
  • And any more tw words related to the number two?
  • Do you know other sets of words in which the spelling can be learned by linking meanings rather than sound? (There are more in my book.)
Answers in the Comments please.


Websites from workshop

Here are a few websites related to spelling that I'm mentioning in workshops I'm doing at the moment. So for anyone who didn't have time to write them down:

Writing for an audience - students make Glogs (digital posters - see www.glogster.com) about their home cities and share them with others around the world: Greetings from the World


This site is great for Look Say Cover Write and Check:


Spelling City - about the best website for learning spelling that I've ever come across:

Also if you're interested in the following Cambridge English books:

Teaching English Spelling (this is not my book, that's below) by Shemesh and Waller

All of these are available at your local ELT bookshop. If you're in Romania:
TEL/FAX 0040 21 2104010
         0040 21 2103030
         0040 722375477

And then of course there's my own book Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners which you can order
Finally, if you want to come to the beautiful city of Norwich for a teacher development course (eligible for Comenius funding), I hope to see you at NILE (Norwich Institute for Language Education) sometime: www.nile-elt.com 

And don't forget to explore this blog.


Wordsearch your personality - a bit of wordy fun

I'd love to attribute this to someone but I can't find out who - it just seems to be flying round Facebook at the moment.

Actually, it should say 'the first four adjectives you see describe you', because the first word I saw was 'ram'! That's not me at all! Once I realised what I was meant to be doing though I came out as outgoing, dramatic, reserved and talented. Not quite sure how I can be outgoing and reserved at the same time!

Anyway what about you? Which four words did you see first? Teachers, try it with your students - a bit of vocabulary personalisation? And great for seeing words within words, which can really help with spelling long words.

By the way, a big hello to the people I met at the Language Show in London on Sunday and all the teachers I'm looking forward to meeting in Romania this week (25-30 Oct 2011).

Now, come on, what were your words? And do they describe you?