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Spelling/writing help for a 4th grader? (tutoring student)


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Hi all! 

I'm tutoring 2 little girls after school; the 4th grader reads beautifully, has great comprehension, needs a little support with math but otherwise strong there, but her spelling/writing ability is stuck at really a late K/early 1st grade level. 

I'm not an expert, but it could be dyslexia, where she's learned to read via sight words but just cannot get the words down on paper when having to write. This is things even like number words, etc. and copying things from a reading text to answer worksheets (the difficulty copying is what makes me wonder about dyslexia, that's one of the trademarks as I understand it). 

So, I have Barton, and will be using that with little sister, and have used it before to aid with spelling in a kid with a minor slow down/delay/difficulty, but am wondering if there's something better suited for targeting *just* the spelling side of things??  

Would All About Spelling be good for this? Something else? 

I'm not in a position to do any formal testing or evaluation - I have administered the Fry Reading Level test, sight words test, and am going to do the nonsense words test on a whim, in case her ability to decode is as low as her ability to spell - she does rush/fill in based on context when reading (so, gets the words right, but looks ahead/guesses the context and may create a sentence that contains the right components but not as written, if that makes sense...). 


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You might look into Reading And Spelling Through Literature.  It's a wee bit cheaper than AAS, but it did what I needed it to do: slow my kid's brain down to focus on the construction of a word.  I broke it down into a review of the phonemes, and then every day we'd do 10 words together. I'd say the word, he'd repeat it.  I'd ask him to break it into syllables.  From there, we'd go through the sounds of each syllable and he'd write them and mark them for specific rules.  We skipped the reading literature part of the book -it was focused on the first four Elson readers and he didn't need it.

It wasn't so much a program that taught him specifically how to spell a set of words, but it taught him enough to memorize the rules, mark new words he came across, and then spell them independently based on what he knew should happen.

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Oh, I'll look at that! Thanks! That's kind of how Barton tackles spelling, too. I've just never dealt with a kid with such a big gap between reading ability (totally on grade level, or a little above) and spelling/writing ability (nearly non-existent). And not my kid, so I can't do a ton, but want to make the most of the tutoring time I have. 

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Yes, this could be dyslexia. We had DD18 tested between third and fourth grades. She could read on grade level by then (after years of frustrating effort by me as her teacher), but her spelling was so poor that her words were incomprehensible. The solution for DD was hiring an OG tutor and then sending her to a private dyslexia school for a few years. Now her spelling is sometimes iffy,  but sooo much better.

One of the issues with DD that I noticed as I worked with her early on is that her skill at comprehension hindered her progress at decoding, because she could totally guess and get it right 95% of the time. When working with her, I had to cover any pictures on the pages, and I used an index card to cover all but the word that she was reading (often I would only show a portion of the word, because she would guess the word instead of sounding it out).

Have you listened to the Sold A Story podcast? It wouldn't help you craft a solution but is an excellent expose of the trouble with reading instruction in many American public schools. Someone like my DD or your student could totally guess their way through that type of reading lesson, because guessing and using pictures for context clues is encouraged as aiding successful reading. 

Anyway, if you can, using Barton with her (or another OG program) would probably make a difference.

I know that YOU cannot have her tested for dyslexia, but if you can, it would be good to encourage her parents/caretakers to consider it. If she is a public school student that you are tutoring after school, please recommend that they request the school to evaluate her.

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  • 4 weeks later...

This may also be a writing disorder.

Dysgraphia affects motor skills and spelling. Written expression disorder would be problems translating/organizing thoughts to writing. There can be writing fluency problems too, which would be speed/efficiency. 

Can she verbally answer questions but not be able to write the answers?

Are her letters legible and appropriately aligned/spaced?

Can she remember how to form letters without copying?

Is her writing pace slow? 

If there’s a problem with writing, it will likely affect spelling if it’s written by hand. You may try having her type or use tiles for spelling to see if her spelling improves if you remove the handwriting.

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