Core WordsHelping Children Become Better Spellers: What Parents Can Do!

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As educators and parents, we realize the importance of spelling words accurately. Research indicates that learning words in isolation does not transfer into students' daily writing. Today, spelling is viewed primarily as a process of conceptual learning rather than one of rote memorization. In school, we teach spelling in a variety of ways in reading and writing workshop. We want our students to use their phonemic awareness, phonics-based classroom instruction, and knowledge of patterns to engage in written response. In addition, we want them to rely on an understanding of root words and affixes gained in word study work during Core and Tier time. Furthermore, our students should learn to think about the meaning of words within the context of a sentence or paragraph. Additionally, they should use their clear mental images of words often found in their stories, letters, poems, and informational pieces to strengthen spelling long-term memory. The frequent and simultaneous use of these strategies will help students become better spellers.

1. When reading to your child, point out patterns that occur across words (“Look! The ‘e' at the end of cute and rate make the ‘u' and the “a” say their names!”). Encourage your child to look for other words with the same pattern.

2. When your child asks you how to spell a word, don't automatically spell it for him. Ask him to think about the sounds in the word, the letter patterns of other words that are similar, and the meaning of the word. Ask your child to write the word, using highly engineered spelling – what he knows about the sounds and their corresponding letters, the patterns, and word parts (prefixes and suffixes).

3. Encourage your child to think about the sounds, patterns, and meanings that dictate why words are spelled the way they are.

4. If your child is stuck on how to spell a word, start by asking her to think about each sound she hears in the word and putting at least one letter for each sound; make sure she writes the letter(s) at the exact same time that she says the corresponding sound.

5. Point out how words that are related by meaning often use the same base or root (“Moist and moisten have similar meanings. I see moist in moisten even though I don't hear it in there”).

6. When your child needs to spell a long word, encourage her to think of smaller chunks within the word that have meaning (“. Well, I know how to spell personal. I look for a part I do know such as person and I know al is often spelled as a-l. Let's try that”).

7. When you are helping your child learn to spell a word, associate it with a word he already knows how to spell (“How do you spell fright? Well, it rhymes or sounds a lot like light. Use light to help you spell fright.”)

8. When spelling a word, encourage your child to say the individual sounds (not the letter names) as he writes the corresponding letters; we say sounds and we write letters.

9. Don't dismiss spelling as something that can be corrected by spellcheckers. While we encourage students to use spellcheckers and peers or adults to help them edit, they also need to try their best to give all written work a careful, final edit! Help children understand that good spelling is for everyone!

10. Read with and to your children and ask them to read with you or to you. Reading daily at home builds vocabulary and spelling strength. Poetry is a wonderful option since it is easy to find the time for a poem or two each day and the rhyming pattern will help children recognize patterns.

11. Children can't learn how to spell everything they use in written work all at once. Look for the words that your child will use almost daily and help your child continue to check the spelling of these words as they edit their homework. Perhaps they can keep a small spelling notebook at home with a page for each letter of the alphabet. They should only record the words they most frequently use and need to spell correctly such as because, where, when, does, friend, family, and people.

Last Modified on December 13, 2012
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