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Spelling Help

If your child has hit a spelling roadblock, don't panic  -- he's probably going through a spelling phase. So before you whip out that red pencil, remember that he babbled before he spoke, and stumbled before he could run. "Parents need to understand that spelling is a process  -- like learning a language or learning to read," says Maribelle Betterton, assistant professor of teaching at the University of Northern Iowa. Educators believe that children between the ages of 4 and 8 move rapidly through five phases of spelling; each stage must be mastered before the child can move on to the next. Try these tips to speed children on their way:

For the beginner speller:

  • Read to her a lot. Track the text with your finger so she can follow along.

  • Set up a writing table with pen and paper. Celebrate every doodle.

  • Ask your child to tell you a story while you write it down. Show her that what she says, she can write.

  • Use games with magnetic letters to show how letters carry sounds.

For the advanced speller:

  • Have him write difficult words three to five times each day before a spelling test to form a visual memory.

  • Make sure he proofs and corrects his own work. He'll learn faster from his mistakes.

  • Look for patterns in the words he stumbles over. Invent a rhyme or song to jog his memory.

  • Make spelling drills quick, concise, and interesting; never use them as punishment.

  • Create a spelling portfolio throughout the year to remind him how much he's learned.