Teaching spelling can be tough. Really tough. But there are some ways to make it a little easier, and more effective, too! With just a little know-how, spelling practice can be easier and more effective, too!
Some kids are just “good spellers”. It comes naturally to them. they just get it and do it. For other kids, it’s not so easy. It doesn’t come naturally and it’s a downright struggle. A painful one at that. They simply do not have the spelling skills that come to naturally to “good spellers”.
Research-based literacy curricula have (thankfully) moved away from just teaching visual spelling strategies. Remember bringing home a word list each Monday and writing our each word ten times to prepare for the spelling test on Friday? That’s a visual strategy, and not always the most effective, either.
There are more ways to do spelling practice, and depending on the kid, much more effective ways. Here are five tips to make spelling practice more effective.
5 Tips to Make Spelling Practice More Effective
Teach Phonics Heavily
Phonics is the cornerstone of spelling. As children learn to read new sound-spelling patterns, they can also use those same tools to learn to spell those same patterns. This reiterates that all sounds have a direct correlation to a specific letter or group of letters that make up the written word.
Practice Makes Perfect
Actually, you might say that practice makes permanent. Just like in learning to play the piano, to read music, practice creates muscle memory, and with enough practice, reading the music is not longer necessary.
The same is true for spelling practice. The more practice that goes into spelling words, the more muscle and reading memory is built, but only if the spelling practice is done the right way! A child to consistently misspells the same word 100 times is building memory to continue spelling that words wrong, which is why misspelled words should be corrected and why spelling practice needs to be supervised.
Teach Only a Few Words at a Time
A long list of 20 words, or even 10 words, is overwhelming to a poor speller. Break the list into manageable chunks by practicing smaller sets at a time. Be sure to keep some of the easier words within the smaller set, so your student will feel some success during each spelling practice.
Use the Spelling List in Writing Activities
Any writing activity is a great way to practice spelling words in a more authentic way. Encourage children to keep a writing journal and assign a small set of spelling words to use during journal time. Or have them write silly sentences using their spelling words, or MadLib stories.
Most of all, as a teacher, when writing in front of the children, think out loud about how you are spelling specific words that are on the spelling list or that correlate with the sound-spelling pattern being learned.
Use Manipulatives and Hands-On Activities
When children are first learning how to read and spell, they don’t learn well by sitting and simply copying words with a pencil. They need to move and maniuplate the letters that make up the spelling words.
This is one of the reasons why children are so fond of writing trays filled with salt, shaving cream, or cookie sprinkles, and why they love making letters out of pipe cleaners and blocks.