While it is only one aspect of writing, one of the most common challenges children run into with writing is spelling. When encountering words children cannot spell, they do one of several things: ask for help, look it up, try it out or shutdown. The child who shuts down is likely the child who struggles with spelling even seemingly simple words.
The tips in this post will help you help your struggling speller.
Children learn to spell through:
- visual memory
- direct teaching of spelling rules
- vocabulary study in context
6 areas that stump spellers:
- lack of phonemic awareness (sound-symbol relationship)
- not enough exposure to letter patterns (ex: /ough/ or /augh/)
- little to no knowledge of word origins
- small repertoire of vocabulary words
- lack of explicitly taught spelling strategies
- fear of taking risks
How to help a struggling speller:
Contrary to what you might have learned as a student yourself, spelling is not learned by memorizing lists of words. Instead, children learn various strategies and apply them to their writing.
Here are some tips to helping your struggling spellers:
- Read and write. Since spelling goes hand-in-hand with reading and writing, both of these need to be fostered daily. It’s simple: read daily, write daily.
- Model. As with everything else you do, model the spelling strategies you use as you write, for instance, a grocery list, by thinking aloud. Children need to see adults writing and spelling for authentic purposes. They need to understand the importance of correct spelling. They also need to see adults making errors and then using strategies to help them spell words correctly.
- Keep it inclusive. Don’t make spelling a separate subject of the homeschool day. Spelling can be explored all day long in all activities and subjects. Point out words as you read recipes, on your drive to grandma’s, at the grocery store, during a science experiment, etc. As your child attempts to write throughout the day, keep track of words he has difficulty with in a little notebook.
- Focus on meaningful spelling. After you have a list of words your child regularly struggles with (you have them written in a notebook, as outlined in #3), use those words as spelling lists for your child. The most motivating way for struggling learners to tackle spelling is to spell words that mean something to them. Yes, words like “Superman” or “Nickelodeon” are perfectly accepted, if this is what your child wants to learn to spell.
- Teach spelling strategies. Children need to learn and practice strategies for effective spelling. Some strategies include learning mnemonics (memory tricks and rules), using visual memory, looking in a reference book, using spell-check, and even asking an adult.
- Encourage risk-taking. Reluctant or struggling spellers often withdraw from taking risks with spelling for fear of making an error. By doing all of the above, you are empowering and motivating your child to take risks with spelling. Be gentle and understanding. You will see strides in no time.
- Learn from the spelling errors. Hold yourself back from correcting the spelling errors right off the bat. Instead, analyze the errors your child makes. Is the issue phonic? Are the errors related to a lack of meaning of the words? Does he make reversals? Over time, you will see a pattern that can help you understand exactly what your child is struggling with which will help guide your lessons.
Giveaway: If you’d like specialized help with the concept of spelling for your child, I am giving away one FREE Spelling Planning Session to readers of Christian Homeschool Moms. I can help you identify your child’s spelling struggles and then give you strategies to help him overcome them.
All you need to do is answer this question in the comments below: What does your child struggle with most in spelling?
What to expect from the session:
- a pre-session welcome package/ questionnaire will be sent to you requiring you to send it back to me at least 48 hours before our session
- two 30-minute consultations (via Skype)
- follow-up report sent to you within 8 days with customized details that recaps our discussion and offers additional resources, references, ideas, tips and tricks (and so that you can keep the notes from our session)
The comments will close on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 at 8:00 a.m. EST. A winner will be selected by random generator and will be posted by noon the same day. The offer is open to all elementary homeschoolers (with or without children with special needs).