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How to Teach Spelling

Note: We strongly urge you to purchase one of the following books by Ruth Beechick, before attempting to use our spelling suggestions:

Spelling… It was troublesome for me when I was a child, yet my husband claims it was his favorite subject. God has made each one of us unique, and this uniqueness shows up especially well in spelling! That’s why we’d like to take a moment to explain our philosophy.

  • We don’t think good spelling should mean that your child can score a 100% on each week’s spelling test. Rather, we think good spelling means that your child can spell words correctly in his or her daily writing.
  • We don’t think good spelling means that your child can win the national spelling bee competition and win fame for your family and for homeschoolers in general. Rather, we think good spelling means that when your child comes across a very strange word, he or she will know how to look it up in a dictionary.
  • We don’t think it’s a good use of our time to drill our children on thirty or more words each week, especially if these words are rare and unlikely to ever be seen by your child in his reading or writing. Rather, we think it’s a wise use of time to concentrate on learning to spell only the groups of words that are most troublesome for each child. In other words, we think it makes more sense to take an individualized approach to spelling.
  • We don’t think good spelling is so much a matter of rote memory. Rather, we think that much of good spelling is learned as a child looks at words as he reads. It’s as if his mind takes little photographs of words, then stores those photographs away in the recesses of his mind. As he begins to write, the mind retrieves the photographs and tells him how to spell the word. The problems come when the mind confuses all the photographs. (“Is it spelled “street” or “streat”? Both could be right phonetically!) So, our system concentrates first on building handy “storage devices” in the brain of your child, so that proper ways of spelling can be stored away correctly for future use. However, the key to our system is exposing your child’s mind to lots and lots of reading (and teaching him to use that dictionary when the “storage devices” don’t work as intended)!

With these points in mind, we think you’ll agree that it’s tough to find one spelling curriculum that fits each child perfectly. Even our system won’t fit all your children just right! So we want to emphasize right at first… Please use our system as a guide! Change it to fit your circumstances!

How to Use Our System:

In this section, you’ll find two levels of spelling. Level A is designed for beginning spellers. In our home, we start official spelling in 2nd grade. We have given you a year’s worth of common spelling words, arranged by spelling rules, so that your child can begin building “storage devices” for all the words he will meet in the pages of books. Just follow our simple schedule for ideas on teaching both the words and the spelling rules. Feel free to add words to our lists, since we’ve intentionally kept them quite short. Note: Not all words in the English language fit neatly into these spelling rules! For that reason, we keep a jar in a drawer, and if the child can find a word that breaks the rule we’re studying, we put a dime in the jar. If the child finds a word that breaks a rule we studied earlier in the year, we put a nickel in the jar. The money can be used for a special gift at the end of the year. This will help your child learn to be observant as he reads!

Level B is designed for children who have completed Level A. There is nothing exciting about our system. We’ve included a list of common words, arranged by sounds. We simply ask that you begin to get in the habit of adding to our list by writing down all the words that your child misspells during his daily writing assignments. You should write them down according to the sound in the word that was misspelled. Please print these pages, and insert them into a notebook (once per child). Then, by following our scheduling ideas, you’ll find that it’s easy to teach these individualized spelling lists to your child.

If you should feel a need for additional spelling words to study, you can find lists of free spelling words online, arranged by grade level, at http://www.boostforreaders.com/spellinglists.html.

You could use Level B all the way through high school, if you felt there was a need. However, most families can probably feel comfortable using it until the end of 6th grade. After that, just use your dictionary to look up words as you need them. (Or you can do what most adults do… Allow your child to say, “Hey, Mom, how do you spell “street”? And you could simply answer him! Now that’s real-life spelling!)

We strongly recommend that 7th and 8th grade students learn Latin, as well as an additional, modern foreign language (or two) in high school. Not only will this help your child’s spelling; it will also favorably impact his understanding of English grammar and composition. We recommend using The LATIN Road to English Grammar (http://www.thelatinroad.com/). Also, Sonlight curriculum has written a helpful article on why studying Latin is important, at http://www.sonlight.com/whylatin.html.

Scheduling Hints & Teaching Tips

For Level A, simply follow the suggested teaching schedule on page 1. Many moms find it helpful to print page 1, as well as the Spelling Rules on pages 2-3, placing these pages on a clipboard for easy reference.

When teaching Rules 1, 2, 4, 9, and 11 (rules with fun poems to learn), you may wish to post the teaching poems in a prominent spot on your wall. (We write ours on colored paper, allow the children to illustrate them, then laminate them for durability.)

While your student is in Level A and happens to misspell a word while writing, if at all possible, pencil that word in by a spelling rule that applies. If no rules apply, add the word to the lists in Level B (by sound).

For Level B, print all the pages (Common Words by Sound) and place them in a 3-ring binder (one per student). Since there are 38 categories of sounds, you could study one sound per week and still have sounds left over. You may also choose to periodically review the Spelling Rules from Level A. Or you may choose to occasionally give your student a week or two off from spelling completely! You can choose to study the common words we’ve listed, or you can ignore our words and only study words that your child has trouble with. If you have several children in Level B, it might be easier if all are studying from the same sound at one time. This is truly an individualized approach, so tailor it to fit your family.

Whether in Level A or B, you can choose to write the week’s spelling lists on your master schedule, or you could write them on a white board or chalkboard that hangs on a wall.

Here is a possible way to study the week’s spelling words:

Monday – Give a pre-test of the week’s words. Choose to concentrate only on words that present a difficulty for your child.

Tuesday – Tutor your child on the week’s words. See pp. 153-154 of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, by Ruth Beechick, for more ideas.

Wednesday – Have your child write sentences using the week’s words.

Thursday – Have your child spell the words orally to you. Use the say-it, spell-it, say-it method. For example: “Street, S-T-R-E-E-T, Street.” Any misspelled words should be written 5 or more times.

Friday – Give a final test, usually written. Give a small prize for a perfect score (such as candy or stickers). Add any misspelled words to the list in Level B. Record the score for your homeschooling records.

Comments

  1. Hi, Thanks alot for this . It will be very usefull indeed!!!. Also just thought I’d mention this tip with regards to rule 2 I.E ” If a word begins with k Then the next letter will probably be e, i, y”. The tip is this , if one has to spell a word that starts with CK sound which both sound the same (right). Then you can know to use the K when spelling if you can hear the e, i, y sound in the word. How? Because using the C would actually cause the C with an e,i or y to make the S short sound. EG CEnt, CIrcle, CYcle. So the fact that you can hear the e,i,y sound tells you to spell with the K instead of the C. Hope that makesense! Thanks Again!

  2. It does make sense. Thank you so much! I’ve actually wondered this before.

    (Then in our house, we named all our girls with names starting with K… whether it fit the spelling rule or not. Poor things!)

    ~Anne

  3. heeehee, thats funny:)

  4. I have a 10 yr. old son with dyslexia who does not learn by traditional formal methods of schooling, which is how I got started on home schooling (a blessing in disguise).
    I had avoided having him write for a while, but now I have him writing his memory work and he is doing very well with learning spelling for those words. Emphasis being words used in context, rather than just a list of unrelated words which it seems is the only way most people teach spelling.
    Your download is great with some very helpful rules I have not come across elsewhere in my reading.
    Going one step further would be to put pictures and a sentence to provide a context for a visual learner–I always wanted to write a book like this–but I just discovered such a book The Illustrated Book of Sounds and Their Spelling Patterns from Child 1st Publications (I purchased the ebook off of CurrClick). I have already started using the author’s idea of finger mapping and it is really clicking with my son. Using this book along with your valuable resource seems like it is going to be a winning program for a right-brained learner.

  5. Joyce, *thank you* for these excellent ideas and the book recommendation. About half my children are right-brained learners, and I really appreciate this. (I am not…)

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