Strategies to Help a Poor
Q. Our sixth-grade
daughter makes the same spelling mistakes over and over. What can we do to help
Be patient, and quietly circle her
spelling errors yourself, and guide her to how to look up words in the dictionary
and spell them correctly.
Why should you do this, when school
won't? Because it's the right thing to do. Your daughter needs to see words
spelled correctly so that when she "constructs" a word, she has the correct
model from which to work.
It takes quite a few repetitions for
a child to see a word spelled correctly before he or she internalizes the
correct spelling. So if the child is allowed to misspell a word over and over,
without being made to go back and correct it, he or she will internalize the
wrong spelling. And then it's REALLY hard to get rid of it and get the right
one in place.
What would be better for the schools
to do? Switch to phonics-only reading and writing instruction in kindergarten
through Grade 2 because, among other benefits, it turns out much better
spellers than other reading instructional philosophies. After that, make sure
that teachers in all subjects circle misspelled words, teach children
dictionary skills such as alphabetization and string searches, require careful
editing and error correction, and keep teaching and re-teaching the rules of
spelling throughout the grades.
It would be great if parents and
taxpayers would demand those simple changes of our schools, but that doesn't
help all the poor spellers we've already turned out, or people like you whose
children need intervention right now.
the meantime, here are some thoughts for what you can do:
get on her case or criticize her about her spelling. Keep your encounters very
positive. Praise her effort. Just keep the mind-set of a spelling coach, not a
you reading to her for 30 minutes a night? You should be. Always hold the book
so that she can see the text. Encourage her to look at the text as you read.
The more she sees words spelled correctly, the more she'll internalize the
her a simple spiral notebook, and call it her spelling notebook. Buy her a
children's dictionary with relatively large type and make sure she knows how to
use it. Keep them both in a prominent place, like on the kitchen counter. But
this isn't for you, this is for her. Every time she notices that she has
misspelled a word, she should look it up in the dictionary and then write that
word over and over on a page of her spelling notebook, like 25 times, saying it
aloud each time so that it's a multisensory process. That's how she can "set it
in stone." This is how a phonics-only curriculum teaches spelling at the same
time as handwriting and reading.
love games, and they love to see how their parents draw. So put those two
together, and make a funny worksheet with lots of words that she tends to
misspell and cartoons depicting them. Have your child "correct" YOUR spelling.
say your child is very sensitive and you don't want to have her get down on
herself about spelling. So don't make a big deal out of it. When you look at
her school papers and notice misspelled words, don't say a thing. Just make a
mental note. Then get yourself a set of handy, dandy index cards. Write a word
that your child has misspelled on a card, and put it on your fridge as "The
Word of the Day." At dinner, everyone in your family should use that word in a
sentence. Have fun with it! If you did this every night for a year, there
couldn't be very many words left in a child's vocabulary that she doesn't
already spell correctly, or that you haven't covered!
Homework: For excellent background on what has
gone wrong with spelling, read the chapter about spelling in the landmark book,
Why Johnny Can't Read, by Rudolf