In these days of iPads and laptops for every child, spelling might seem to be outdated skill. Add to that texting, e-mail, and chatting and you might imagine that the necessity for accurate spelling has gone the way of the phonograph.
In fact, while spelling isn’t necessarily the most essential skill, those who do spell well can take justifiable pride in their talent, which displays a combination of good visual memory, well-developed language skills, and the ability to apply rules appropriately.
And while some of the most atrocious spellers have turned out to be quite successful, there’s nothing like a poorly spelled note to cast doubt on the writer’s competency and intelligence.
If your child has difficulty spelling, there are several things you can do at home that can help him improve his ability to spell:
1) Drill, drill, and more drill. For many, flash cards bring to mind endless hours sitting at the kitchen table with dog-eared index cards, doomed to complete an entire run before bedtime. The truth is that nowadays there are numerous alternatives to index cards. There are numerous software programs for spelling that can be played on the computer or an iPod.
2) Encourage your child to write in stages. Some children, especially those with attention or memory issues, err in spelling when they are asked to complete numerous stages of writing at once. Spelling and punctuation should be done separately from the creative stages of writing.
3) A word-family approach can help children with visual memory weaknesses. Memorizing only parts of words is easier for children who have weak visual memories. Because they can categorize words according to their word family, they actually have to remember less.
4) Play board games like Scrabble and Spill and Spell. Games are a fun way of practicing spelling without the tediousness of testing. You can even out the odds by allowing your child more time spelling, letting them look up some of their words in a dictionary, or pairing them with a partner.
5) Have your child maintain a personal dictionary. Your child writes down words he commonly misspells in a notebook. Once she becomes proficient at a word (spelled correctly 100% of the time) she can cross out that word and add another one.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with a poor speller is to keep things in perspective. Make sure your child understands that while spelling is important, what you write is even more so.