Spelling is something that should go hand-in-hand with reading, but when it doesn’t, it can be a challenge.
Some students automatically pick up spelling. It comes natural to them. These student are usually logical thinkers and orderly, task-oriented personalities. My eldest is a logical, black and white, two plus two equals 4 kind of person. He likes things to be in order. He likes rules to be in place and he likes boundaries to be set. If you teach him a spelling rule, he remembers it, puts it into practice, and spells beautifully.
Other students struggle with spelling. These are usually creative, dramatic personalities that see the world as full of endless possibilities. The world is colorful and whimsical and full of change and potential. My second child is like this. He learned his alphabet as he finger painted the letters. He never thought about the connection to words. They were just interesting shapes that everyone liked. Rules aren’t important to these students. There are so many sounds and shapes – why cage them up in orderly words?
People come in both sides of the spelling spectrum and everywhere in between. My youngest is “in-between”. She’s a decent speller, but not amazing by any means. She likes color and pictures with her spelling words, but she also will learn the rules.
So how in the world do you teach spelling? The best answer? However your child learns best.
My eldest can be given a spelling list, and he will simply memorize it. Done. He enjoyed Bob Jones and ABEKA spelling. Or I could simply print him off a list of words. Easy enough.
My creative middle child needs creativity. We have used scrabble tiles, sidewalk chalk, paint, sand, dry erase markers – on windows, dry erase boards, bathroom mirrors, etc. Children like this need to feel the words and associate something tactile with the letters. American sign language is another way to engage spellers. Putting your hands into motion while engaging the brain is the best way to help these children learn. We truly never found a great spelling curriculum for him. We did use some workbooks that included reading sections, words written both in cursive and in print, and used different fonts for the letters.
My youngest loves pictures and sounds. I have found she needs engaging workbooks and computer games to help her learn. She can read above her grade level but is below her grade level in spelling. It seems like a disconnect, but her brain just does not associate the actual spelling with the sounds of the words. And that’s ok. We just have to connect them. I have found this Spectrum workbook for her that she thoroughly enjoys. It is phonics with puzzles and games and color and sounds. She enjoys the book and is learning.
SO my point here is that spelling is not a grade level subject. It is a personality and readiness subject. Don’t push your child past where their brain is ready to go. It will only frustrate you and them. Don’t hold your child back either. If you have a natural speller, let them go as far as they like! Add in Greek and Latin word roots so their brains can absorb word origins and move past simple memorization. Grade level is merely a suggestion. If you are homeschooling, allow your child to pick their spelling books (or lack thereof). If you have a child enrolled in public or private school, work with them at home using these techniques. Call out the spelling list while on the swingset. Allow them to spell on the sidewalk or carport with chalk. Make up silly songs or stories that incorporate the words so they can have meaning besides just memorizing order of letters.
Don’t give up and don’t be discouraged. Don’t get frustrated because your child sees words differently than you do. Work with their uniqueness and discover an entirely new way to view the world of words!
Hi Dr. Sonya,
This was such a blessing to read today. I was actually praying about it this morning. I have two children that spelling comes so easily to and then my oldest has dyslexia and no matter how hard she tries it just doesn’t come together for her. She is very artistic, loves to write so much and I’m starting to see that she is being essentially written off due to the fact that others automatically see the spelling errors so thank you for the encouragement and this reminder!
I’m so happy to have been an encouragement to you today! My children have taught me so much about learning styles. I have simply learned to cater to their personalities and learning styles. Different isn’t bad – It’s what makes the world go around!