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spelling help needed...

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I need some ideas to help our daughter, she really struggles with spelling and is behind. we work on word lists, we have tried several programs and still it just isn't sticking. we have lots of tears and frustration and what makes it worse it that her younger sister spells 2 grades ahead and has just got spelling. Spelling was hard for me as a child too and remember being so frustrated as well.


I would love some ideas to encourage her and help her out...




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Well what do you think is causing it? We did all sorts of things over the years, but when I finally had my dd's eyes checked it turned out she had the visual memory of a 2 yo. Well duh, no wonder spelling (a visual skill) wasn't sticking!


There are various approaches like kinesthetic and visualization, however my dd's ability to visualize didn't kick in until we did vision therapy for her vision problems (convergence, focusing, etc.).


She was actually at or above grade level before that, but we worked on it a LOT. We did a lot of dictation, so she was seeing the whole word in context. She learns best in context, in narrative, not in isolation. She'll remember some word she read in a book and how to spell it, because the word had a context. For us dictation gave that context. We did a lot of SWR (parts to whole), so then dictation balanced it out. I used the sample sentences in SWR. One approach alone was not enough to get her there. Anyways, I dictated those sentences or literature, just shaking things up and keeping it fresh. It was a team effort, not a test, and I would ask before every word whether she knew it. In retrospect, might have even been good to ask her to visualize each word first, hmm. Anyways, that way it was never a test but a team effort. I wanted to slow her down and get her to ponder whether she knew the words or not.


There's also kinesthetic memory you can get to kick in. I think the Eides have talked about this on their blog. Typing helps kick in kinesthetic memory of the spelling.


When we did dictation, the other thing I did was to have her go back and read aloud the sentence she had just written. That way she was SEEING the WHOLE. I also did other things that let her see the whole words in context. We did the Calvert spelling, which at the time was cds and now is online I think. If you have an ipad, you could probably find good apps for spelling these days.


Really though, for us the key was figuring out how my dd was thinking. She needed the whole word, in a context, done lots of ways, with lots of repetition. Ditto for her math facts btw. No insta-learn with her, oy. We spent a lot of time on it when she was little (frankly, sometimes 45 minutes plus a day, when you consider the dictation, etc. etc.), but it really paid off.

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I know how you feel! We jumped into a k12 Virtual Academy this year. I was so scared at the beginning of this year that my dd was going to be FAR in over her head in spelling. She has always struggled with spelling, winding up with only consonants, or letters all jumbled up because she was reading based purely on visual memory rather than actually *looking* at the letters in the words on the page. I pm'd ElizabethB after reading her thoughts in a literacy thread, and she oh-so-helpfully posted this thread for me.




I bet you'll find something useful at her site (linked in her sig) as well.


eta: I forgot to say that I have been TREMENDOUSLY pleased with the results! DD missed a few words on her first spelling test last week, but it was due to writing "problim" for problem (thank you Southern drawl, lol) and "publick" for public. At the beginning of the summer, she'd have written "pbrm" for problem and "pb" for public. She had 20 words to handle, but she did it! I was nervous because I figured she'd fall back on trying to memorize the look, but she didn't. All that syllabary work paid off, and she was able to actually focus on the phonetics rather than simply memorizing.

Edited by ravinlunachick
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I use AAS with my DD, it seems to be working pretty well.


To help her with her weekly spelling words, I've been writing them on a flash card for her in a colors (red or green or orange). We go over it and I ask her to take a mental picture of the word. This seems to work well for her.

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Dianne Craft has an interesting plan for kids who struggle with spelling. I haven't tried it, but it seems like it might work.




Do not teach spelling using the writing or auditory gates as they are generally blocked in bright, yet struggling children. Rather, teach them how to use their photographic memory to easily store spelling words to long-term memory. These children feel smart when you they learn this way. It may seem like more work at first, but it is immensely successful and much more fun for you and the child. Spelling will become much easier as you go along through the year.


On Monday of each week, use the "most commonly used words" list and words from the child’s daily writing that they have misspelled (not words from a regular spelling book) to give the child a pre-test to find out which words aren't known to make your spelling list for the week. Since many of these bright youngsters have a writing glitch, give them the test orally (you can write the words for them if you want). This way, you'll really find out which words they don't know, not which words they could write correctly. Remember: kids with a writing glitch often inadvertently leave out a letter in a word when they write it.


When you have identified between 10-to-15 words that the child doesn’t know (these words can also be taken from the papers they write), make up cards for these words, working with your child. Write the letters that they spelled correctly in black magic marker on the cards. Write the letters they misspelled in color. You often have to put a picture on those tricky letters. For example, in the word “Saturday†make the “u†be a swimming pool with a stick figure person diving into it. You can glue stars, marshmallows, M&M's, etc. on letters that don't want to stick in the memory. At first, the cards will be quite elaborate as you are training your child to use his or her photographic memory. You will find that, after several weeks, you need to put less and less on the words and the child will still remember it.


Once the cards are made, have your child sit in a chair with his or her eyes in an upward position. Put the card up high in the air, point out a few letters or pictures, and direct the child to take a quick "snapshot" with his or her eyes. Do this for "five looks" then take it down and ask questions about the colors and pictures of the letters. Then, ask the child to spell the word forwards and backwards. Backwards/reverse spelling is extremely important to this process: if the child can't easily spell the word backwards, he or she isn't seeing a picture of it and the word will quickly fade in his or her memory, even if he or she passes the weekly test. If the child continues to get a letter wrong, put more “jazz†on that letter either by using more pictures or a silly story. If you are working with only one child you can do this process for every word, every day, and then take the test on Friday.


If the child is struggling with the word, always direct his or her eyes upward to access the photographic memory. If he or she is still struggling then offer some visual clues like "What are the colors of the letters?" The colors often will pull up the letters in their mind.


If you are teaching more than one child, after showing the cards individually on Monday, you can put the spelling cards up high on a wall that the child looks at regularly throughout the day. Each day, have him or her turn her back on the cards and tell you colors, pictures, and how to spell each word forwards and backwards. If a certain letter continues to be difficult to recall in a word you will need to put more "Velcro" or "glue" on the word using emotions, humor, color, etc. so it will stick in the child’s mind more effectively. Often, the child can come up with these extra, silly visual cues.


Remember: five “looks†at each word, five days in a row.


As the year progresses, the child can write the spelling words in good sentences each week. The writing process will become easier by performing the daily writing eight exercises. You can do this sight word spelling program along with any phonics-based spelling program. To receive a list of the 500 most commonly-used words to use as spelling words, email me at craft@ecentral.com.


Some mothers and teachers make the mistake of making the spelling words on small, index-size cards and use light, pastel colors for the letters or make every letter in a different color which gives the child no pattern to take a picture of. This consistently leads to the failure to store the words in the child’s long-term memory. The child will only remember the words long enough to pass the end of the week spelling test. This, of course, is definitely not our goal.


Remember, BIG, BOLD PATTERNS and humor if necessary for memory grips. Strong “Visual Velcro†is what these children need.

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