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My 9th grader is a terrible speller


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Ds15 has done years of spelling workbooks.  Last year, we used Spelling Wisdom to see if another method might help.  He always gets great scores on his spelling tests, and he reads for hours at night before bed, but it just doesn't transfer!  I'm trying to figure out if I should be trying to do something about this, and if so, what?  Is there a spelling bootcamp-type program for high school?  I see IEW has a spelling program for this level, so maybe we should try this??  The other day, ds spelled certain like "curtin".  His 9 year old sister told him how to spell it correctly.  I feel like I don't want him to go out into the world in a few years unless he can spell at least a little better. 🙂  Advice?

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I'm sure someone will have the magic trick out there. 

Here's my failures to share if some of that would help with those "eek I can't send them out" thoughts. My oldest is 25 y.o and a terrible speller. She has issues along with being gifted in intelligence. I considered myself homeschool failure about spelling.  In college, she used Word and learned to use spell check for things pointed out. And learned to have someone look over for wrong word but spelled correctly.  I often thought Logic of English would have helped her but she refused to try. It seems set up for adhd, engineering and asperger/high functioning autism. right?  The programs that were not a good fit included Spelling Power, Apples, and IEW's phonetic zoo.  She tried too hard and it was all jumbled. Anyway, she graduated summa cum laude in 3 STEM degrees where no one else could spell either.  and bought a house a few months ago and has a steady job in her field.  I get it that you have feelings with the not going out into the world. I felt like that. But hey. my oldest has done ok.  Oh, you want the worst case? Imagine this. true story. She's all excited on college graduation day.  Just won some award, and has the summa cum laude and everything possible. They had called her name and the awards just kept coming from the podium. anyway. She gets done with ceremony and posts on her social media with the excitement and joy of the day.  It was done very quickly from phone with major typos including misspelling engineering.   Thankfully, one of her nice friends helped her retype it within the same minute before too many people made fun of her. She had others proofread her resume and cover letters.  She uses spell check.  has multiple stem degrees, a full time job in the field, and bought a house last year.    So if you never get this part figured out, it's ok.  homeschooling still works.

Middle gal also in college. better speller than oldest but still..  this is my failure in language arts teaching. Well, at least with this one she has more diagnosed disabilities. Again, word processing helps correct it. She just can't apply the right rule all the time.  It's too much on her brain. both of them would have spelled curtin the way your kid did. it sounds right.  Sometimes, some right brain tricks and word play would help middle gal.   Then youngest has the most disabilities of all with autism and severe language delays.  She's my top speller.  It just looks right or wrong to her.  go figure. 

hope you find a good solution.  I just had to share my failure story with poor speller who did well in college and has a life.

 

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At this point, I'd give up and teach strategies for fixing, editing, and making sure it's close enough that spell checkers can catch it and notes are readable.

Maybe that sounds harsh... but I feel like that's the reality for some kids. I mean, it looks like you used many years of Spelling Workout, which is a phonics based spelling. He's a good reader, so it's not an unchecked reading issue. You tried Spelling Wisdom which uses more of a memorization approach. I do think there are possibly better programs, but really... he's in high school and you tried the two basic approaches that are out there and neither made headway. Assuming it's not so bad that it's impeding his basic ability to get words on the page in a semi-readable way once it's fed through a word processing program, I'd focus on editing rather than core spelling at this point.

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22 hours ago, jkl said:

The other day, ds spelled certain like "curtin".

Looking at his mistakes, they both involve choosing the wrong vowel spelling for sounds which have a *lot* of options.  (Plus he forgot to apply the phonics rule associated with hard 'c'/soft 'c' that would have narrowed down his options for the /er/ sound to "er" or "ir".) 

Is that his usual issue?  I mean, he successfully hears all the sounds and picks a phonetically legit spelling for each of them, only he often picks the *wrong* spelling, especially for vowels with a lot of choices for the spelling?  And does he tend to misspell words the same way in the same document, or does he have several different spellings for the same word in the same assignment?

22 hours ago, jkl said:

Ds15 has done years of spelling workbooks.  Last year, we used Spelling Wisdom to see if another method might help.  He always gets great scores on his spelling tests, and he reads for hours at night before bed, but it just doesn't transfer! I'm trying to figure out if I should be trying to do something about this, and if so, what?  Is there a spelling bootcamp-type program for high school?  I see IEW has a spelling program for this level, so maybe we should try this??

So he's done a workbook program and a studied dictation program.  Both are pretty visual-centric, and he did fine with the programs, yet it sounds like he still has problems visualizing the words when he goes to write them "in the wild".  I do see dictation recommended a lot for getting spelling skills to transfer to "in the wild" spelling - Spelling Wisdom didn't seem to help at all, though? 

IEW's program is more auditory-centric, so it would be a different thing to try.  I know I read on here recently about someone who had spelling success with having their dc do spelling orally.  Before you start another spelling program, perhaps you could try making a list of the words he misspells in the wild and have him spell them orally with you several times over the course of a week or something?  Or does he misspell too many words?

It might also help to have him do the Spell to Write and Read technique of "think to spell", where you don't schwa unaccented vowels when spelling, to help you remember the spelling.  Like with "certain", think /ser-tAYn/ to remember the "ai" spelling.  It might also help to have a chart with the most common spellings for a given sound listed in order, so when in doubt, he can go with the most common spelling; e.g. for /er/, "er" is the most common spelling, more common than "ur", and it would have helped him with "certain".

~*~

In terms of high school bootcamp spelling, most programs I know of take a morphographic approach (spelling by units of meaning, like "real + ize + ing"), which is also different from what you have tried.  I've done Spelling through Morphographs, a year-long course, with my older two in middle school, and I do really like it; unfortunately it suffers from educational pricing and the price of used copies fluctuates a lot - sometimes it's about $40-50 for each of the two presentation books, and sometimes it is way more; right now it is $40 for book 2, but nearly $200 for book 1 <yikes>.

Megawords is one I've seen people use for high schoolers and is supposed to be good, and it's in print.  Apples and Pears is another program good for remedial spellers, that uses a *lot* of repetition to help cement spelling.

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On 1/18/2021 at 1:31 AM, Farrar said:

At this point, I'd give up and teach strategies for fixing, editing, and making sure it's close enough that spell checkers can catch it and notes are readable.

I agree with Farrar.  My dh is talented in his field and has always read, but he has terrible spelling. As long as your son is good at editing his work and using spell check, I think he'll be fine.

Wendy

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I don't know what to tell you other than my son has the same problem. My solution a few years ago was to make him learn how to type and he uses Word and spell checks, and then I look over his papers for spelling errors. He did do Spelling workbooks every year but he was good at finding patterns and doing them with little thought, and I've come to accept he isn't that great a speller. Some people aren't and at least we have spell check! I will say that he has gotten much better at editing his work thanks to the high output of writing he's had to do this year.

Edited by BookwormTo2
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I've got a poor speller, too. She was diagnosed with APD in 9th grade.  I don't think she ever differentiated between similar sounds. We decided to give up in 7th grade,  and work on picking the correct spelling on spell check. 

Things we tried in elementary-

Logic of English- she cannot remember the rules or how to apply them

Soaring with Spelling- get 100% on the tests,  then spell the words wrong in her writing

Apples and Pears- this one worked the best.  I don't see an older teen willing to use it, though.   

I did have her do Word Roots from CTC in 8-10th grades, and may have her do the 4th book next year.  I thought it was good for building words and breaking them into smaller chunks.  I have also looked at MegaWords, but she liked Word Roots better.  I think either would be a good choice.  

One other thing, I think its important to let your kid know that some people just don't spell well and thats okay!  My DD wants to be a writer-she is really creative!  With all our technology,  she will not be held back!  Do not let this hurt his self-esteem.  I try to be pretty matter of fact about it- shes not a good speller.  Own it, figure out a way to work around it.  Technology is great!

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My oldest struggled a lot with spelling.  We finally used Wanda Sanseri's Spell to Write and Read.  We started at level one and moved (quickly for a while) through the program.  The spelling rules really helped dd.  She has always been my "just the facts" learner.  She didn't want literature based or Charlotte Mason type learning styles.  She wanted a more straightforward approach.  

Also, dd learned ASL and that really helped.  Finger spelling tied together everything in a kinesthetic way for her. 

In way of encouragement......dd recently graduated university with a BS in Communications/Public Relations and a minor in Sociology and multiple honors.  Somewhere along the line, she learned how to spell, and edit 🙂

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Thanks for the responses everyone!  I am still reading them and thinking about what to do (if anything).  It's nice to know it's not that odd of a problem to have a high school kid who is a poor speller!

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I have one like that. We've been working our way through Megawords, but yes, I expect spell check and proofreading will be a part of his life. Luckily, spell check is ubiquitous so it's not a problem. 

Edited by Plum
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You might take look at Sequential Spelling for Adults.

If you end up using it, we found that having the student say aloud what he was writing down really helped.

Edited by EKS
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