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Highdown School
and Sixth Form Centre

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At Highdown School we are raising the bar in our mastery in Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG) across the curriculum. Every week we have a new focus to develop or to think about.

18/07/16 Adverbs

Adverbs modify the meaning of adjectives, verbs, or even other adverbs. Adverbs will modify by time, place, manner, degree or frequency.

Time – tells us when something is done or when is happens e.g. He went to school yesterday.

Place – tells us where something is done or where it happens e.g. We can stop here for lunch.

Manner – tells us how something is done or how it happens. These types of adverbs tend to end in –ly e.g. She skipped merrily.

Degree – tells us the level or extent to which something is done e.g. The boy almost forgot his homework.

Frequency – tells us how often something is done e.g. The girl rarely forgets her lunchbox.

11/07/16 Collective nouns

Collective nouns are names for a collection or a number of people or things e.g. a murder of crows, a cloud of bats, a mob of meerkats, a pandemonium of parrots, a conspiracy of lemurs.

04/07/16 Abstract nouns

A noun that refers to a thing that does not tangibly exist; it is an idea or feeling e.g. hope, happiness, honesty.

27/06/16 Concrete nouns

Nouns that physically exist – you can experiences them using the five senses: you see them, hear them, smell them, taste them, and tangibly feel them.

20/06/16 Adjectives

Adjectives are describing words e.g. titanic, rotund, haphazard.

13/06/16 Verbs

Verbs are doing words, and denote an action e.g. jump, hop, look, eat.

06/06/16 Paragraphs for speech

Paragraphs create order in a piece of writing. They help us see when we move from one idea to the next, and enable us to keep track of what we are reading. We use TiPToP to help us remember when we need to begin new paragraphs, but as well as TiPToP, we need to remember to use a new paragraph each time a new speaker talks.

23/05/16 Paragraphs for organisation

Paragraphs create order in a piece of writing. They help us see when we move from one idea to the next, and enable us to keep track of what we are reading. Paragraphs make our writing TiPToP. TiPToP helps us remember when to start a new paragraph – Time, Place, Topic or Person.

16/05/16 Compound-complex sentences

A compound-complex sentence is made from two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses. E.g. Although I like to go to the cinema, I haven't had the time to go lately and I haven't found anyone to go with.

09/05/16 Complex sentences

A complex sentence is used to put across more detailed ideas. A complex sentence contains one main clause that can make sense on its own, and one or more minor clauses that are linked to it. E.g. Though he was very rich, he was still unhappy. Here, ‘he was still unhappy’ is our main clause – it is a complete piece of information. Without the main clause the subordinate clause ‘Though he was very rich,’ would not make sense. Subordinate clauses can appear at the beginning, middle or end of a sentence, and are separated by commas.

03/05/16 Compound sentences

A compound sentence is made up of two or more simple sentences joined by connectives. E.g. The dog came rushing in so the cat ran upstairs. Here, ‘so’ serves as our connective; the ideas either side each form complete simple sentences.

25/04/16 Simple Sentences

A simple sentence has one complete idea. Like a clause, it must contain a verb. E.g. Mr Small cooked his dinner.

18/04/16 Clauses

A clause is a group of words that contains a verb (and usually other components too). A clause may form part of a sentence or it may be a com-plete sentence in itself. E.g. He was eating a ba-con sandwich.

21/03/16 Ellipsis

Ellipsis is used to show that a word or words have been missed out. This punctuation is often used to create suspense or a cliff-hanger effect.

14/03/16 Brackets, hyphens and dashes

Brackets are used to add extra (but not essential) information to a sentence e.g. James Dean (1931 – 1955) died tragically in a car crash, at the tender age of twenty-four. Hyphens clarify meaning in sentences. Man eating lion seen prowling in the woods. (Is there a man eating a lion in the woods?) Man-eating lion seen prowling in the woods. (A lion that eats humans is prowling in the woods.) Hyphens also link words where no link originally existed e.g. daughter-in-law.

07/03/16 Punctuating speech

As well as using speech marks, we need to ensure the rest of our written speech uses the correct punctuation. The first word within all speech marks must have a capital letter, direct speech and reporting clauses (.g. he said) should be separated with a comma (unless an exclamation mark or question mark is used): "Hi, Mark," Jerry began.

"How are you?" Mark replied.

29/02/16 Speech marks

Speech marks highlight when speech starts and ends within a piece of writing.

“Don’t do that!” Gemma shouted.

22/02/16 Apostrophes – omission

As well as to show possession, apostrophes are also used to show when we omit a letter, or letters, while joining two words together e.g. you’re (you are), should’ve (should have) can’t (cannot).

10/02/16 Apostrophes – possession

Apostrophes are used for two main rea-sons. One of these uses is to show pos-session – who owns the object e.g. It was Charlie’s ball. Apostrophes are not used to show possession of its – its acts in the same was as his/ hers and there-fore does not require an apostrophe for possession.

01/01/15 Semi-colons

The semi-colon is used to join two independent clauses that both relate to the same topic. Each clause on either side of the semi-colon must make sense as a standalone sentence though e.g. The window cleaner came to my house today. He saw me in my pyjamas. = The window cleaner came to my house today; he saw me in my pyjamas. The semi-colon acts as a conjunction, so you should never find a semi-colon used alongside words such as and, but, or, nor, for, so and yet.

01/01/15 Colons

The colon is used to mark the beginning of a list or explanation but only when the preceding clause that makes sense on its own e.g. There is only one thing left to do now: confess while you still have time.

01/01/15 Commas – separating phrases

As well as using commas in lists, we use commas to mark out the subordinate clauses in sentences. The comma is used to show each part of the sentence.

01/01/15 Commas – separating ideas

Commas are used for a multitude of reasons. They are used to separate items in a list, to separate adjectives in a description, and to separate the name of who you are addressing in a sentence.

I went to the shops to buy cake, sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks.
He is a podgy, unhealthy boy.
What do you think, Sarah?

01/01/15 -tion/- sion/-cion

‘-tion’, ‘-sion’ and ‘-ssion’ prefixes sound as ‘shun’. ‘-tion’ is the most common ending. Where the base word ends in ‘de’ (explode), use‘-sion’ (explosion). ‘-ssion’ words (permission) have a clear ‘sh’ sound.

01/01/15 -ous/ -ious/ -cious

‘-ous’ and ‘-ious’ endings sound as ‘us’ as in ‘bus’ whereas ‘-cious’ endings sound as ‘shus’ as in ‘precious’.
ous → jealous
ious → obvious
cious → unconscious

01/01/15 -able/-ible

It can be easy to confuse when we need to use the suffixes –able and –ible. If you know your Latin root words, you may well be able to identify the fact you need to use –ible for Latin roots, and –able for non-Latin roots, modern words and just the occasional word also originating from Latin.

There is an easier way to remember things though that works most of the time (it is the English language after all – there have to be some exceptions). If you remove –able from a word, you should be left with a complete word. renewable → renew. If you remove –ible from a word, you will not be left with a complete word. sensible → sens. Note accessible, digestible and flexible are amongst the exceptions here.

01/01/15 There/ their/ they’re

There is used to determine placing/positioning – the clue is the word ‘here’ appearing in the word itself e.g. Go over there.

Their is a third person possessive plural – the clue here is that it features the letters for ‘her’. Their is usually following by a noun e.g. Have you seen their cat?

They’re is a contraction of ‘they are’ and is often followed by an–ing word e.g. They’re coming for dinner.

01/01/15 Irregular plurals

Irregular plurals are far trickier than regular ones in that their very name suggests rules are few and far between. Some nouns don’t change at all (sheep→ sheep), some include a vowel change (woman→ women), some lose letters but gain extra vowels (radius→ radii), some lose letters and add –ces (index→ indices). The only real way to get to grips with irregular plurals is to learn them as they arise in your day to day life.

01/01/15 Regular plurals

Most nouns simply need an –s adding to them to turn them from singular nouns to plural nouns.
cow → cows
Nouns ending in –ch, –o, -s, -sh, -x or -z however, need an –es added
potato→ potatoes
wish→ wishes
box → boxes
Nouns ending in a consonant and a –y need the –y removing and an –ies adding.
factory→ factories
Nouns ending in –f or –fe need the –f removing in place of –ves
leaf→ leaves
knife→ knives

01/01/15 Double consonants

There are a number of different rules for knowing when we should and should not apply double consonants when spelling. A full breakdown can be found on the English Zone website.

However, a simple and more student friendly way to remember this relies on the vowel sounds looked at before half term. If a word uses a long vowel sound, it needs a single consonant, if it is a short sound, it needs a double consonant.


hope → hoping            hop → hopping

01/01/15 Short vowel sounds

A short vowel sound makes the opposite sound to the long vowel sound – it does not say its name in pronunciation. Examples of short vowel sounds are below:

caegg  ink  operation  understand

01/01/15 Long vowel sounds – u

If a word with a certain letter in it makes the same sound as the name of the vowel, this is a long vowel. Unlike other long vowel sounds, the long ‘u’ sound is often found without the initial ‘y‘ sound e.g. cue, blue, accuse.

An individual ‘u’ can make this sound, so can the patterns below:

u_e      e.g. museue        e.g. accrueew       e.g. eweeu        e.g. euphemism

01/01/15 Long vowel sounds – o

If a word with a certain letter in it makes the same sound as the name of the vowel, this is a long vowel. A long ‘o’ can be heard in words such as go, bow, moan.

An individual ‘o’ can make this sound, so can the patterns below:

o_e       e.g. boneoa       e.g. groanow         e.g. lowou         e.g. camouflageoe      e.g. foe

01/01/15 Long vowel sounds – i

If a word with a certain letter in it makes the same sound as the name of the vowel, this is a long vowel. A long ‘i’ can be heard in words such as pie, sigh, night.

An individual ‘i’ can make this sound, so can the patterns below:

i_e       e.g. miteigh       e.g. light-y         e.g. cryie         e.g. liey_e      e.g. lyre

01/01/15 Long vowel sounds – e

If a word with a certain letter in it makes the same sound as the name of the vowel, this is a long vowel. A long ‘e’ can be heard in words such as key, heap, greet.

An individual ‘e’ can make this sound, so can the patterns below:

e_e      e.g. theseee        e.g. seeea        e.g. wheat-y         e.g. happyie         e.g. briefei         e.g. ceiling

01/01/15 Long vowel sounds – a

If a word with a certain letter in it makes the same sound as the name of the vowel, this is a long vowel. A long ‘a’ can be heard in words such as fate, make, locate. An individual ‘a’ can make this sound, so can the patterns below:

a_e      e.g. ateai         e.g. gaitay        e.g. bayeigh     e.g. neighbourei         e.g. abseil

01/01/15 Ellipsis

Ellipsis is used to show that a word or words have been missed out.  This punctuation is often used to create suspense or a cliff hanger effect. 

01/01/15 Punctuating speech

As well as using speech marks, we need to ensure the rest of our written speech uses the correct punctuation. The first word within all speech marks must have a capital letter, direct speech and reporting clauses (e.g. he said) should be separated with a comma (unless an exclamation mark or question is used):-

“Hi, Mark”  Jerry began.

How are you?”  Mark replied.

01/01/15 Speech marks

Speech marks highlight when speech starts and ends within a piece of writing. "Don't do that!" Gemma shouted.

01/01/15 Brackets, hyphens and dashes

Brackets are used to add extra (but not essential) information to a sentence e.g. James Dean (1931– 1955) died tragically in a car crash, at the tender age of twenty-four.  Hyphens clarify meaning in sentences.  Man eating lion seen prowling in the woods.  (Is there a man eating a lion in the woods?)  Man-eating lion seen prowling in the woods.  (A lion that eats humans is prowling in the woods.)  Hyphens also link words where no link originally existed e.g. daughter-in-law.  Dashes can take the place of commas in sentences, to highlight the importance of the subordinate clause.  They can also serve a way of showing an afterthought e.g. I’ll meet you at seven - if I can get away that early.

01/01/15 Apostrophes - omission

As well as to show possession, apostrophes are also used to show when we omit a letter, or letters, while joining two words together e.g. you're (you are), should've (should have) and can't (cannot).

01/01/15 Apostrophes - possession

Apostrophes are used for two main reasons. One of these uses is to show possession - who owns the object e.g. it was Charlie’s ball. Apostrophes are not used to show possession of its - its acts in the same way as his/hers and therefore does not require an apostrophe for possession.

01/01/15 Question marks and exclamation marks

Question marks are used to show when a question is being asked (these are called interrogative sentences), exclamation marks are used to show when a sentence is said with great emphasis and dramatic effect is needed (these are exclamative sentences).  Exclamation marks should be used sparingly in writing or they very quickly lose their effect.

01/01/15 Colon

The colon is used to mark the beginning of a list or explanation but only when the preceding clause that makes sense on its own e.g.  There is only one thing left to do now: confess while you still have time.

01/01/15 Commas

Commas are used for a multitude of reasons.  They are used to separate items in a list, to separate adjectives in a description and to separate the name of who you are addressing in a sentence. I went to the shops to buy cake, sweets, chocolate and fizzy drink. He is a podgy, unhealthy boy. What do you think, Sarah?

As well as using commas in lists, we use commas to mark out the subordinate clauses in sentences.  The comma is used to show each part of the sentence.

01/01/15 Sentences

Full stops mark the end of a sentence (one complete idea). Capital letters are used to mark the beginning of sentences and proper nouns – the names of people, places, companies etc.

01/01/15 Tenses – future and staying in one tense

Unlike the present tense, with the future tense, all pronouns retain the same verb form e.g. I will, you will, he will.

01/01/15 Tenses – the past and present

Regular past tense verbs end in –ed, irregular past tense verbs are a little more erratic e.g. give/ gave, build/ built, think/ thought. I, you, we, they present verbs remain in their original form e.g. I see. He, she and it require an s at the end e.g. she sees.

01/01/15 Paragraphs

Paragraphs create order in a piece of writing. They help us see when we move from one idea to the next, and enable us to keep track of what we are reading. Paragraphs make our writing TiPToP. TiPToP helps us remember when to start a new paragraph – Time, Place, Topic or Person. We use TiPToP to help us remember when we need to begin new paragraphs, but as well as TiPToP, we need to remember to use a new paragraph each time a new speaker talks.

01/01/15 Connectives

Connectives are words that join separate (simple) sentences together to make a more complex sentence. E.g. I like strawberry ice cream. I don’t like chocolate ice cream. = I like strawberry ice cream, however, I don’t like chocolate ice cream.

01/01/15 Prepositions

Prepositions are words that denote the position of an object e.g. the book is on the table.

01/01/15 Subordinate clauses

Subordinate clauses contain a verb and subject, adding further information to the initial clause. Subordinate clauses do not make sense as sentences in their own right e.g. He was eating a bacon sandwich because he was hungry. Use of the subordinate clause is an instant way to improve written quality and fluency.

01/01/15 Clause

A clause is a group of words that contains a verb (and usually other components too). A clause may form part of a sentence or it may be a complete sentence in itself. E.g. He was eating a bacon sandwich.

01/01/15 Adverbs

Adverbs are words that describe how the verb is performed (adjective + verb = adverb).

01/01/15 Adjectives

Adjectives are describing words e.g. titanic, rotund, and haphazard.

01/01/15 Verb Types

Verbs are doing words, and denote an action e.g. jump, hop, look, eat.

01/01/15 Noun types

A noun is a person, place, thing, animal or idea e.g. Bob, London, table, cow, religion.

01/01/15 Latin root words

Understanding the meaning of root words is imperative in helping students decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words as they come across them e.g Renoir painted works of art, He was a man of skill. His paintings hold a narrative, I tell you he was brill. (art Lt. – skill En, narr Lt. – tell En.)

01/01/15 Greek root words

Understanding the meaning of root words is imperative in helping students decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words as they come across them. Having posters of key root words and their meanings is a helpful way of ensuring students have somewhere to go to look up new words when necessary.

01/01/15 Word Families

Word families are made up of words that share similar patterns in their spelling e.g. ate, ight, ous, uck.

01/01/15 Common Suffixes

A suffix is a letter or group of letters added to the end of a word that makes it a new word or changes the grammatical function of the word e.g. –ness – a state of being – heaviness – in a state of being heavy.

01/01/15 Common Prefixes

A prefix is a letter or group of letters added to the start of a word that helps to indicate meaning e.g. dis – not – disappear – to not appear.

01/01/15 Homograph

A homograph is a word that has the same spelling as another, but a different meaning, e.g. bear - to carry/support or the animal, bow – and arrow or to take a bow.

01/01/15 Homophone

A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another but has a different meaning (rose – the flower, rose – got up, rows – orderly lines). Spellings may or may not differ.

01/01/15 -y endings

When adding endings to words that end with a consonant plus -y, change the final y to i (unless the ending in question, such as -ish, already begins with an i) e.g. pretty – prettier - prettiest/ ready – readily.

01/01/15 Ph spellings

Ph spellings mimic the f sound, and can be found at various points in different words. Linking ph spellings to their Greek roots may prove helpful in learning this spelling.

01/01/15 -ing endings

Most words just add –ing. But, if a word ends in e, the e is dropped in place of –ing (like – liking), if a word ends in a c, a k should be added before the –ing (panic – panicking), if the word ends with an l a second l should be added (pedal – pedalling).

01/01/15 Double consonants

When the preceding vowel is a harsh sound, a double consonant should be used (happy), when the vowel sound is soft, a single consonant should be used (hoping).

01/01/15 Irregular plural endings

Words ending with y – when preceded by a vowel, an s is added (boys), if it is preceded with a consonant, it becomes -ies (skies). Words ending in f – words ending in f become –ves (calf – calves), but watch out for chief, cliff, belief, reef and roof, they all require an s to become plurals.