7 Spelling Tips for Young Students

A common concern for parents and teachers is that even when the children score perfectly on their spelling tests, they don’t always carry that knowledge over into their reading and writing. In other words, they memorize and write their spelling words for the test, but their new-found knowledge is not carrying over into practice.

There are also children who find it nearly impossible to memorize spelling words, so they consistently fail spelling tests. This inability to successfully memorize is not a learning flaw at all! Many children (upwards of 60% of all children) are right-brained, visual, kinesthetic, or tactile enough that memorizing sequences of letters is just not in their wheelhouse. They learn successfully and quickly when they can use those amazing right-brained elements to learn. Many types of learners cannot memorize and retain facts that involve symbols. This includes memorizing words or math facts, too. They might be able to retain the letters and sequence of a word for a few minutes, but 30 minutes later, the information will have disappeared from their brains.

Here are some spelling tips that might help in cases like these.

1. Focus on the sounds in words rather than letter names. If we taught spelling this way in the classroom, the efforts of both parents and teachers would be better spent. No memorization is required with this method.

2. 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 or shapes, choose a list of words that share a sound spelling, such as “Long I spelled IGH.”

3. Capitalize on the child’s amazing visual memory. If you group the words you have chosen in a column, visually this will help the child see what the words have in common. The brain of a child loves patterns like this and it can make it easier for them to absorb information.

4. Use color, too.  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. This is another great way to connect patterns and spelling in the child’s brain.

5. Point out that the highlighted letters all say (long) I. For instance, in the word HIGH, there are only 2 sounds: h – i. Easy to sound out, so no memorization needed.

6. To take spelling into reading and writing, have the children make up sentences that use the words on their list. They should not try to create a sentence for each word, but rather they should cram as many IGH words into one sentence as possible. Again, this repetition creates a pattern that is easier for the child to grasp and remember.

7. Finally, ask the child to illustrate their 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 their long-term memory.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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