I have three children reading/writing so far (one to go) and two of those three who can’t spell. Here are a few things that I have done
- Lots of reading. This has increased their exposure to words. This is both reading aloud (with them following) and them reading to themselves.
- A little bit of writing every day – written narrations (often after they have already given me an oral narration) These are only 1 paragraph in length. I have seen patterns of spelling (wrong spelling that is) and can then focus on that for a while.
- Copy work – I write sentences with the words or types of words that they have difficulty with and they use that as copywork.
- Sometimes I get them to write sentences for the words themselves, helping them construct the words, one sound or syllable at a time. (I most often do this if there is a pattern they are not getting) I stand beside them and sound it out with them so they can think through the rule, or choices they have to make.
- Have them read aloud. I have found that when they read to themselves they can skip some words because they can glean the meaning from context. When they read aloud they have to register each word. I haven’t majored on this though I do think it helps. Keep in mind that reading aloud is a totally different skill to reading to yourself so you may have to go back to a simpler reading level when starting off.
- Word Processor and Spellcheck. This has been the most successful technique, where we have seen the biggest and quickest improvement. I firmly believe using words, writing, is the best way to improve spelling. Writing with a purpose. Once my children started to use the computer for their writing their spelling did improve. Spellcheck indicates a wrongly spelt word, they need to guess how to correct it before they look at the provided options. There have been seasons where I have got them to keep a log of spellcheck words. This is the list I would then (sometimes) work on to see if there were any word patterns I could work with.
I must say at this point, that it is a long process, it takes time. I believe that writing, using words, is the best way to improve spelling. Writing, writing, writing. But because I don’t believe in giving kids excessive amounts of writing each day it is going to take time.
Games – interacting with words is a great help to kids. We play these types of games mostly in the car but of course, they work anywhere!
- I spy with Spell – you play I Spy as normal and then after the item has been found the person who chose that I spy has to spell the word before the next person’s choice. Only problem here is they start to choose easy to spell words!! So I pick the person to spell it at random before I spy moves on.
- Spell your conversation – This came from fingerspelling with Auslan, but it works for regular spelling too. I ask a question – spelling each word, and they have to give an answer – more than yes / no – also spelling out each word. This is long and drawn out so it is good to play in the car!
- Writing Acronyms – choose a word, like Daddy and then think of a word that starts with D that describes Daddy, and then think of a word that starts with A that describes Daddy and so forth, D,D, Y. This is a great one to do either orally or to stand beside them and guide their choices so they are thinking of all the phonics rules and options they have as they build a word.
- Think of a word, and spell it for each letter of the alphabet. If you get it wrong, or stumble, the next person has a go. You can put limitations on different level spellers for example one child must have more than 2 syllables in his words, or 4 or more letters – depending on their own ability. This way it makes it a challenge for every speller playing!
I have found it more successful when I don’t stress about the spelling and focus on all their language skills. Use their reading time to work a little on their spelling, use their writing time to polish up a few words. But not to overly focus on one thing so that they kids are in tears.
We tend to think that our success as a homeschool mum hinges on our children being able to have basic academic skills down pat. But every child, whether homeschooled or not, is going to have their strengths and weaknesses. I look at some very successful men (in the business world) in our town and they can’t spell. But they have incredible negotiating skills, or management skills, or people skills and they use either a secretary or a spell check to get their letters written. Spelling is not the mark of true success. We need to do our best as we teach our children but we also need to be balanced in our expectations and approach.