One of the biggest pains in teaching language arts is teaching spelling in a way that will ensure that the children will remember their words past the spelling test! In typical classrooms you can find a large number of students who successfully memorize their spelling lists and do well on tests, but the sad truth is that in those same classrooms you will also find a group of children who can’t successfully memorize their list of spelling words.
A common complaint by parents and teachers alike is that even when the children score perfectly on their spelling tests, they are not carrying that knowledge over into their reading and writing. In other words, they memorize and regurgitate their spelling words and that is where it all stops. Their new-found knowledge is not carrying over into their practice.
Why Teach Spelling?
- So children can write accurately. Of course we want our kids to know how to spell words! If they can’t spell, they won’t be able to write without the help of auto correct or spell check… which doesn’t work on handwritten stuff!
- So children’s reading will improve. One happy by product of teaching children to spell memorably is that in the process of learning to spell words, their reading levels soared as well.
Why Teaching Spelling Hasn’t Worked Historically
Many, many children cannot memorize facts that include symbols. They just cannot. They might be able to retain the letters and sequence of the word “instead” for a few seconds or minutes, but let them walk away for a half hour, and the stuff will have drained out of their brains.
- Memorizing for a test is different from applying spelling to reading or writing. For those children who can memorize a list of words for a test but who cannot apply that knowledge, the problem lies in the memorization for a test. If they can remember the spellings for a test, it might be because they have utilized a trick for remembering a spelling. For instance, if their list of words includes the word “year” the child might have created a little hook for themselves such as “I see EAR in YEAR.” Later, however, long after the test, the child might remember making a hook for themselves, but might have forgotten the word and the hook they made both.
- Spelling lessons require children to learn a sequence of letter names. We’ve all heard children chanting word spellings in preparation for a test. Sometimes their homework requires them to copy the word list five or ten times in hopes that this tactile activity will help cement the spelling. Children also are asked to clap and chant, to clap and snap for consonants and/or vowels. But no matter what the tactile component or the chanting component, the children are still dealing with a sequence of letter names! The reason children cannot carry information about a sequence of letter names into reading and writing is because words are made of sounds. Not letter names.
How to Teach Spelling so They Will Remember
- Focus on the SOUNDS in words rather than letter names. I promise that if we taught spelling this way, our efforts would be better spent.
- Group words with similar spelling patterns together in a list. For example, instead of picking a theme for a word list, such as months of the year, choose a list of words that share a sound spelling such as Long A or Long I.
- Capitalize on the child’s amazing visual memory. If you group the words you have chosen in a list so that the sound spelling they have in common appears in a column also, visually this will help the child see what the words have in common. The brain of a child LOVES patterns!
- Use color! Once your words are in a nice column, have the child use a crayon or highlighter to color only the letters the words have in common.
- Point out that the highlighted letters all say (long) i. For instance, in the word tight, there are only three sounds: t – i – t. Easy to sound out, so no memorization needed!
- To take spelling into reading and writing, have the children make up sentences that use the words on their list. NOT a sentence for each word, but rather they should cram as many IGH words into one sentence as possible! See the example above.
- Finally, ask the child to illustrate his/her sentences. The fact that the child wrote a sentence using several related words and then illustrated them will take the learning into writing and into long-term memory!
We Have a Resource For You!
This book will be a life-saver!
- All your spelling lists are made for you
- All the sound spellings in our language are covered
- There are 2-4 difficulty levels for each sound
- The book is ready to use – just copy the page you need
- This is the only book you will need - it works from K through adult!
Use this method for teaching spelling and help your child be a better writer, a better reader, and in general love learning better!