The visual spelling strategy

Attending a CPD session on working memory from an Educational Psychologist prompted me to ask about effective strategies for spelling. Having taught a range of strategies before, I had failed to see real impact of the independent application of strategies by students. I was told about the NLP technique. A quick google took me to


  1. Place the correct spelling of the word in front of you so you can see it easily.
  2. Close your eyes and think of something that feels relaxing like a favourite place or spending time with a pet. When the feeling is strong, open your eyes and look at the correct spelling.
  3. Move your eyes up and to the left and picture the correct spelling in your mind’s eye. (If you have difficulty, use the Helpful Hints below.)
  4. Look up at your mental image and write down the letters you see. Check what you have written against the correct spelling. If incorrect go to step #1.
  5. Look up at your mental image and spell the word backwards (write the letters down from right to left). Check the spelling. If incorrect, go to step #3.


  1. Picture the word in your favourite colour.
  2. Make any unclear letters stand out by making them look different than the others in some way – e.g. bigger, brighter, closer, a different colour, etc.
  3. Break the word into groups of three letters and build your picture three letters at a time.
  4. Put the letters on a familiar background. Picture something like a familiar object or movie scene then put the letters you want to remember on top of it.
  5. If it is a long word, make the letters small enough so that you can see the whole word easily.
  6. Trace the letters in the air with your finger and picture in your mind the letters you are writing.

Introducing to classes

Using terms like brain trick, I introduced the strategy with some traditionally tricky words like diarrhoea. Level 4-5 students, with difficulties with common words, homophones and words not spelt how they sound, secured the word by employing the handy hints and there was an air of confidence and triumph amongst a group of year 8 learners. Class discussion teased out other strategies and when it came to securing students’ own tricky words highlighted in marking, a small number stated a preference towards strategies they had used before. In order to encourage students to internalise the process for future independent application, I asked them to write an email to an alien who had recently landed on earth and was struggling to secure some spellings.  Introducing the strategy to a group of much more able and confident spellers was less successful as baffled faces couldn’t equate closing eyes and relaxation to spelling.

Next steps

What I didn’t do last term was revisit the words with the same classes and see if the strategy had any long term impact. While I referred to it in DIRT sessions afterwards, perhaps I could have surveyed students who had used it or given the class a reminder of the process. A certain next step is to encourage students to apply the strategy in others subjects. Having demonstrated the techniques with colleagues from other departments, who were enthusiastic and positive about the process, I wonder what power and impact such a strategy could have with all staff referring to it as the responsibility for SPAG moves beyond the English classroom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s