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Help, my 11 year old can't spell


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Hello,

I'm really concerned about my 5th grader and the fact that she can't spell words. This does not just include difficult words, but easy words that you can phonetically sound out and spell correctly. She is a wonderful reader. She reads and comprehends above her grade level. She also writes well, by which I mean her stories are very interesting and well thought out.

She just can't spell.

A few examples:

bridge - bringe

mention- manchim

pond- poud

She frequently spells they- the, as well as and - in.

Is this normal still for 11? Should I be concerned? Is there a spelling curriculum that you love that maybe she would benefit from?

Thanks for your help!

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My oldest was about that level at age 11 - she has dysgraphia. She was also a way-above-grade-level-reader. At her neuropsych testing in 7th or 8th grade, she tested at early 4th grade in spelling and 12th grade + in all areas of reading.

We had tried several things, and All About Spelling was the key to the start of spelling. She made the most strides in the first two books of that (done about 4 or 5th grade), but stalled out. She had made it through book 5 by the time she was tested. 

She switched to Apples and Pears Spelling book B, did book B & C in 8th/9th grade. She did great with this program. 

After that, she was good enough to get the spelling close enough for spell check. She won't ever be a fantastic speller, but she's functional now.   

 

I ended up using Apples and Pears Spelling with my youngest as well as she seemed to have many of the same struggles of my oldest. She is a great speller now and loves the program. She's a little sad that spelling isn't a subject anymore (she finished the program last year).

 

Edit: the other program I hear often discussed for poor spellers is sequential spelling. I haven't ever used that one though, so I can't tell you anything about it. 

Edited by historically accurate
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22 minutes ago, historically accurate said:

My oldest was about that level at age 11 - she has dysgraphia. She was also a way-above-grade-level-reader. At her neuropsych testing in 7th or 8th grade, she tested at early 4th grade in spelling and 12th grade + in all areas of reading.

We had tried several things, and All About Spelling was the key to the start of spelling. She made the most strides in the first two books of that (done about 4 or 5th grade), but stalled out. She had made it through book 5 by the time she was tested. 

She switched to Apples and Pears Spelling book B, did book B & C in 8th/9th grade. She did great with this program. 

After that, she was good enough to get the spelling close enough for spell check. She won't ever be a fantastic speller, but she's functional now.   

 

I ended up using Apples and Pears Spelling with my youngest as well as she seemed to have many of the same struggles of my oldest. She is a great speller now and loves the program. She's a little sad that spelling isn't a subject anymore (she finished the program last year).

 

Edit: the other program I hear often discussed for poor spellers is sequential spelling. I haven't ever used that one though, so I can't tell you anything about it. 

@historically accurate This was extremely helpful! May I ask how you had your daughter tested for dysgraphia? Was it through your daughter's doctor? Thank you again for sharing.

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6 minutes ago, Noreen Claire said:

Have you had her hearing checked recently? Bridge/bringe and mention /manchim sound like a hearing issue. 

 

Fwiw, my DS11 can't spell either of those words, either. 

 

I also thought that it might be a hearing problem.

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23 minutes ago, KLoves6 said:

@historically accurate This was extremely helpful! May I ask how you had your daughter tested for dysgraphia? Was it through your daughter's doctor? Thank you again for sharing.

We went through her doctor. She recommended some people in our area. It was through a neuropsychologist. We met with him and discussed our observations; then she did like 5 sessions of testing, and then he wrote up the results. It was covered by our insurance at the time. Our current insurance does not cover it; therefore, my other children have not had any testing done. 

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Check for stealth dyslexia as well.  neurolearning (.com?) has a test that one can take to look for dyslexia.  ($40? per test?)

There are many symptoms for stealth dyslexia.  but you describe someone who might have stealth dyslexia.  A person can write , read, and comprehend above grade level, but may not be able to spell at appropriate level can be a case of stealth dyslexia.   

Sorry, I have no recommendations.  But after you take the test, they will email you with some suggestions on how to go forward. 

Does she stop and decode words she doesn't know when she reads aloud? 

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27 minutes ago, Noreen Claire said:

Have you had her hearing checked recently? Bridge/bringe and mention /manchim sound like a hearing issue. 

 

Fwiw, my DS11 can't spell either of those words, either. 

 

@Noreen Claire Thank you! I almost mentioned hearing as well. It seems based off the advice I'm getting, a phone call to our pediatrician is in order.

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15 minutes ago, desertflower said:

Check for stealth dyslexia as well.  neurolearning (.com?) has a test that one can take to look for dyslexia.  ($40? per test?)

There are many symptoms for stealth dyslexia.  but you describe someone who might have stealth dyslexia.  A person can write , read, and comprehend above grade level, but may not be able to spell at appropriate level can be a case of stealth dyslexia.   

Sorry, I have no recommendations.  But after you take the test, they will email you with some suggestions on how to go forward. 

Does she stop and decode words she doesn't know when she reads aloud? 

@desertflower Thank you! I have not heard of stealth dyslexia.

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You can review all the phonetic spelling rules while working through my syllables lessons.

http://thephonicspage.org/On Reading/syllablesspellsu.html

Spelling Plus works on the most common 1,000 words by rule and pattern. Many struggling spellers need something with more repetition like Apples and Pears or may need to use it in a different way, but if she hasn't been taught the rules and patterns it may help while focusing on the most frequently used words.

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My daughter was like that.

What helped her was three things, one inadvertent:

1.  Copywork.  I know that’s supposed to fade out in third grade, but I kept assigning it through about 7th or so.  It was the only thing that made her pay attention to spelling, because I was a bear about requiring redos for any mistakes.

2.  Phonetic Zoo:  It’s unlevelled, and it teaches simple phonics plus exceptions, and it’s an audio program which helps with remembering the rules.  

3.  Spell check.  Once I started to let her do compositions in Word, the frequent feedback about misspelled
words and the suggestions of possible spellings taught her a lot of correct spelling.

 

What I didn’t do—I didn’t require perfect spelling in compositions, because that just drove her to avoid using sophisticated language and words in her comps.  This is not true for everyone, but it was true for her, and if I had done differently it would have cramped her progress in composing good essays, prose, and poetry.

Something else that was helpful was pointing out that she was spelling perfectly all the time in German class.  She was not particularly good at German, but it’s a very phonetic language compared to English and so she did spell it well.  She had internally given up on spelling correctly and believed herself to be incapable of it, so this experience with German was good for her attitude.

She did write a free verse about it though.

As I recall, it was something like.

The author sits, 
Nagged by his mother
To spell correctly.
”I FORGOT MY POEM!” He screams.

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Others have suggested checking her hearing and I agree.

If that turns out not to be an issue, than I suggest using the curriculum All About Spelling with her.  It's easy to use and can be done after school, and covers some phonics spelling instruction she may be missing (the phonics needed to read a word correctly are not always the same as what is necessary to spell it correctly.)    

To save money, you can usually find the first couple levels of All About Spelling used on Ebay for less than on their website.   It sometimes doesn't come with the cards, but all the words on the practice cards are listed in the book and can be written out on index cards and used that way in stead. 

Edited by goldenecho
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On 2/26/2021 at 3:49 PM, Noreen Claire said:

Have you had her hearing checked recently? Bridge/bringe and mention /manchim sound like a hearing issue. 

More specifically auditory processing. Op would look for an audiologist who specializes in auditory processing and have the testing done. It will probably turn up something. If the errors were purely due to vision, they would be more phonetically regular. 

Did this dc have any speech issues early on?

 

17 hours ago, EKS said:

Things to consider:

  • Hearing
  • Auditory processing
  • Vision issues
  • Dysgraphia
  • Dyslexia (google "stealth dyslexia")

Yes, while she's at it op would be wise to get her vision tested. If you go to a developmental optometrist, which you find through COVD, they can do a regular annual type visit but *screen* for developmental problems. Or some will do their whole developmental vision eval in as part of a regular appointment. My dd at that age had spelling problems due to developmental vision problems that were tanking her visual memory. 

However I don't think you have *one* thing going on. It usually takes a while to get into a psych and the audiologist will be faster. I would hit the audiologist and optometrist while you're waiting to get into the psych. In fact, around here many psychs are not seeing people in person at all. So the audiologist and optometrist are things you can get done while you wait. You will be well advised to do all three. Also have her checked for retained primitive reflexes while you're at it, because many kids with this mix will have them.

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You've gotten great advice.  I'd also pay attention to see if there are any glitches in her speech - it goes along with the hearing issue.  As a funny example, my kids were slow to read/spell 'get' correctly because we are southern and pronounce it 'git'.  It's kind of amazing that we ever learn pin/pen because they are said the same way.  I also encountered issues when I tutored with kids who said 'dat' instead of 'that' so they couldn't spell 'that' and didn't recognize it in context.  I'd imagine that lots of kids encounter minor regional dialect issues, but maybe listen and see if she has any phonemes that she isn't saying correctly?  One of my kids had some speech issues and consistently didn't say certain sounds properly.  They learned to spell so that the words matched what they read instead of what they said, but the speech therapist asked about their reading/spelling several times over the years because it's a common problem.  

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