Monday, March 2, 2015

How Well Do You Spell?

If reading is divided into word calling and comprehension, elementary spelling can be divided into spelling tests and application. After working a week on the words many a child can spell them correctly on Friday. The next week, however, when writing a sentence the same words are misspelled. This post is focused on the weekly spelling test. This doesn’t mean you can’t help your child be successful on the weekly spelling test. Teachers often schedule daily spelling homework. Sometimes it is a given that Monday is definitions, and Tuesday is sentences. Other teachers have a variety of activities from which to chose.
Some children are naturally gifted spellers. You know the ones who win spelling bees with words such as  cymotrichous or appoggiatura. Spelling ability does have a genetic component to it.  "Around 60 percent of the variation in the ability to spell lies in our genes," says Tony Monaco, a scientist at the Wellcome Centre Trust for Human Genetics at Oxford University.

It is important to realize that spelling homework is not the same as studying to learn the words. If you want to help your child learn the words for the weekly test, remember children often have a specific way they learn new items.
A visual learner needs to see the words. They are students who look at a word and decide if it looks correct or not. The auditory child focuses on hearing the sounds. The may do best spelling orally to themselves as they write the word. The tactile learner is helped by feeling the word. This child might practice writing the words in sand or shaving cream. That does not mean that a child should only use one method to learn. However, it is the best way for a child to learn that difficult word that just won’t stick.
Another way to remember a difficult word is to give the child some hook to help learn a word.  For example, a child who doesn't remember if ‘their’ is spelled with ei or ie might be told that all three  theres (they’re, their and there) start with the letters “t h e”.  That makes the ei easier to remember.  
Using fingers to count out the sounds helps some children, but they first must have the ability to break a word down into sounds.
One way to use fingers to count out sounds is as follows:
  • Sit next to your child.
  • To spell cat, start with your left little finger and tap it for c, tap the next finger for a and the next finger for t.  Then have your child do it with you.
  • For a word in which one sound is made by two letters,  tap two fingers together.  Example DUCK  - little finger tap d, next finger u and next two fingers for the k sound or ck.
  • Have your child do it with you.
Several other tricks to spelling the sounds with fingers, as well as spelling rules, will be covered in future posts.

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