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Lessons You Can Use

By Kathleen McCurdy

Spelling and Observation. Some people have an amazing ability for remembering details such as peopleís faces, phone numbers, tunes. Different kinds of brain power are brought into use for such skills. People who are good spellers may have visual skills that give them the ability to notice and remember details or patterns in the structure of words. Or if they are auditory learners they may remember by saying the letters in sequence and remembering how it sounds.

Sometimes if a child struggles with spelling, it may help to write the words several times (kynesthetic learning) or they can use blocks with letters on them to "build" the words, thus getting the sequence of the sounds and letters in order.

All children learn relationally, so we can help them play games that involve spelling and phonics. For example, rhyming games help them see the patterns in spelling. And if someone forgets the Ďdí in wedge, it would help to know thereís a whole family of words that contains the same sequence: hedge, ledge, pledge, etc.

Etymology and orthography. A child who likes to use reason to understand how spelling works may find etymology a worthwhile pursuit. So comparing similar, simmer, simple to the spelling of symbol, sympathy, symptom may lead him to the etymological cause of such differences. The word origin often affects the spelling of English words.

Your child may be in a "collecting" phase of learning. Why not collect variations of spelling a given sound, thus exposing him to the possibilities. Here are five ways to spell the 'f' sound: life, stiff, half, photo, rough.

If a child is encouraged to find two or three more words to put with the one he is struggling with, he will more likely remember how the system works next time. For example, thereís a 'family' of words with a silent 'a': measure, leave, cleanse, great. In fact, there are many instances of silent letters, both vowels and consonants, which could be used in developing spelling patterns.

If the student has memorized rules that donít work (i before e except after c, is one), making a list of some of the exceptions may even develop into a mathematical study in statistics. What percentage of examples should it take to make a rule?

Spelling becomes a game of hide and seek if the child is encouraged to proofread his own work. Or, how about a nickel for every typo they find in the newspaper, or in a parentís letters?! What fun!


  • Dictionary
  • The Yellow Pages — Spelling
  • Manito Mini-school Reading Method - Horn
  • Dictionary of Word Origins - Ayto
  • Word Histories - Merriam-Webster
Other Lessons You Can Use

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Family Learning Organization
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