Friday, October 16, 2009

How to Create a Reluctant Speller in Five Easy Steps

1. Give your student a pre-populated spelling list containing a mixture of words he already knows how to spell and words he has never seen before.

2. Make the list as long as possible, so you can check off that the "correct" number of spelling words has been introduced this school year.

3. Assign tedious and boring practice exercises, such as copying the entire dictionary definition for each word.

4. Follow the tedious and boring practice exercises with additional meaningless activities, such as writing each word five times.

5. Administer a spelling test on Friday. On Monday, start over with a new list of words, regardless of how many words the student spelled incorrectly on last Friday's test.

You were yawning just reading that, weren't you? What if you were to do the following instead?

1. Assign a daily journal entry. Tell your student that creativity is the goal, so to not be concerned about spelling, grammar, or punctuation, except for what comes naturally to him at this point. Allow your child to write about whatever he wishes: a story, a poem, an essay, a book report, or a letter to Grandma.

2. On Friday, have your child choose one favorite journal entry from the week. Help him correct the spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Have him re-write or type the piece with the corrections made.

3. Take note of the words your student misspells in his journal entries during the week. Choose ten or so to make up his spelling list for the following week. (Remember, this list will only contain words he does not already know how to spell, so it should be shorter than typical spelling lists.)

4. Use a site like SpellingCity for spelling practice. At SpellingCity, the student can play fun games online, using his own spelling list. Supplement the online practice with activities such as writing spelling words on the sidewalk with chalk, scratching spelling words in sand with a stick, forming spelling words on the refrigerator with magnetized letters, and making spelling words with letter tiles borrowed from Scrabble or a similar game.

5. Administer a spelling test on Friday. (The student can take and print their weekly spelling test at SpellingCity ). If any words are not mastered, include them in your student's spelling list the following week. The total number of words in the list should still not exceed ten or twelve. Keep the printed test results and occasionally include a previously mastered word or two in the student's list for review.

You can probably see the advantages to the second method:

  • It allows the student to concentrate on words he doesn't already know how to spell.

  • He learns how to spell words that are relevant to him, because they are already part of his vocabulary.

  • Incorporating writing into the spelling program demonstrates a tangible reason for learning to spell correctly.

  • The practice activities are entertaining, so more practice is likely to take place.

  • Students tend to retain what they learn when learning is fun.

  • Frequent review assures that words are committed to long-term memory.

  • Finally, the personalized method assures that one missed school day doesn't forever end the student's opportunity to learn to spell an important word!
Homeschoolers in the seventies often had to "make do" with curriculum designed for classroom situations. Utilizing classroom curriculum often negates one of the main benefits of home education: The ability to customize your child's program. If you, as a parent, would like to provide a more personalized experience for your student, but aren't quite sure of your ability to do that yet, spelling is a great place to start!

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