When children begin school, they are often overwhelmed with new information. They quickly begin to learn to read, and initially, children are often taught to spell and write words in a kid-friendly manner where everything is spelled the way it sounds. Unfortunately, however, many times words are not spelled exactly as they sound. As children become more advanced with reading and writing, they eventually learn the basic rules of the English language and begin to spell words properly.
Each child has a different learning style that works best for them, which often means that practicing spelling at home can be a journey of trial and error. One child may excel when flashcards are used, for instance, while another may struggle with the same method. Parents also have their very own personal learning style preference, which many times is different from the learning style preference of the child. This learning preference must be adjusted based on the child’s learning style to effectively have the parent and child work together. After figuring out a child’s learning style, it is often helpful to give an at-home spelling test in which parents can get a better understanding of their child’s spelling level. Many tests are offered online and come with an easy guide to help diagnose each child’s level based upon the results of the test. From there, it can be easy to realize exactly which spelling matters are causing a child to become confused.
The English language can be very confusing to someone who is not familiar with all of the rules and different sounds. The best place to begin is with the alphabet and the sounds each letter makes. There are 44 different sounds that are represented by the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Phonemic awareness is one of the most important skills when it comes to spelling, as it is the base from which everything else is built. When a child fully understands each sound that every letter makes, they can begin to piece sounds together to create basic words. After basic words can be formed, spelling becomes more complicated with matters such as prefixes, suffixes, and silent letters to add into the mix. As with learning anything, learning to spell properly will take a lot of practice and proper instruction. It is vital that a natural progression occurs with instruction, with one lesson leading smoothly into another. A strong understanding of basic spelling rules and practices is truly the key to becoming a successful speller.
When a parent learns where a child is struggling with spelling or the child begins to spell more complicated words, there are endless methods for teaching and practicing these words. Traditional methods used by parents include the use of flashcards, spelling words out loud, and even singing sounds to reinforce spelling principles. Recently, the use of whiteboards has become a popular tool for parents teaching children to spell. Whiteboards are extremely effective because they require the child to not only spell the word but to write it as well. This means that they are practicing two skills at once and memorizing the way the word looks each time they write it. Writing words down while spelling them out loud is a proven method to help a person memorize information. Writing the word on an erasable surface is often very entertaining for children as well, which keeps their interest much longer than other traditional methods may have done. Parents can yell out words and have their children try to write and spell the word as quickly as they can on the whiteboard, or traditional games such as hangman can be played with spelling vocabulary words.
Regardless of which teaching method is chosen to teach children about spelling, it is important to work at the child’s pace and not rush or drag lessons along. Children, especially young children, can easily lose interest and understanding of a topic if new information is given too quickly or too slowly, but it is up to the parent to redirect the child’s focus on the activity at hand and adjust the pace accordingly.
There are various resources available for learning the proper way to teach spelling in addition to using whiteboards as a teaching tool:
- Developmental Spelling Test (PDF)
- How to Teach Spelling
- Learning Styles
- Spelling Activities
- Spelling Games