How to Help a Poor Speller

By Huntington Learning Center

How to Help a Poor Speller

For some children, learning to spell is incredibly frustrating—and something that never seems to get easier or less confusing. The bad news is that spelling troubles are unlikely to go away on their own. The good news is that there are many things parents can do to help their children become better spellers, and as a result, better students. Here are several tips to help your child improve his or her spelling ability:

Encourage mastery of the sight words. You probably recall the words sent home by your child’s kindergarten and first grade teachers that you were instructed to have your child memorize by sight. Sight words—also known as Dolch words—are the most frequently used words in the English language. Many sight words have irregular spellings and it is critical that students memorize them and know how to spell them.

Make sure your student understands the different sounds that letter combinations make. Reading fluency is achieved through a series of “building block” skills, including understanding that words are composed of letters and word units and that letters (and letter combinations) make individual sounds. Your child should be able to sound out:

  • Individual letters (consonants and vowels)
  • Blends (such as pl or sm)
  • Digraphs (two letters that make one sound, such as sh or ng)
  • Diphthongs (two vowels that form as one syllable, such as au or ai)

Help your child recognize word families. Once your child masters train, give him or her a list of other words that share the same ain ending, such as chain and brain. Guide your child as he or she plays with letter combinations to understand word patterns.

Help your child memorize common spelling rules. Scholastic offers a helpful printable chart that summarizes spelling rules for ei vs. ie words, compound words, plurals, possessives, prefixes and suffixes. Once your child memorizes these basics, he or she will be able to apply them consistently and catch his or her spelling mistakes more easily.

Practice, practice, practice. Provided a student has a basic understanding of word structure, letter sounds, common spelling rules and relationships between words, repetition is critical to master spelling. As your child studies his or her new weekly spelling words, try the look, visualize, write, check approach. If your child gets tripped up with the same words over and over, practice them in the same way you would if they were brand new spelling words.

Spelling takes continued practice—and even adults can struggle with it throughout their lives. Frequent reading and repeated exposure to the spoken and written word are the best ways for students to acquire strong spelling skills. And when problems arise, early intervention is critical (as with all literacy skills). The sooner you can spot and correct spelling difficulties, the easier it will be for your child to become a good speller.