Thursday, January 13, 2011

A good speller

Each child has natural gifts in their schooling. Each child has obstacles.

For Jackson, that struggle is spelling. I should not even use the world "struggle" since it implies that he was strenuously engaged with the task of it. Quite the opposite, he hasn't in the past cared or noticed misspellings at all.

In his logical mathematical mind he loves the certainty and predictability of finding answers, but in spelling there are to many "exceptions to the rules" which frustrates him and makes him blow off spelling as a serious subject. So, here are a few things which has helped him this year:

1. I set our spelling curriculum to the side for a time. How did that help him? He needed to understand more about the importance of spelling in order to appreciate it and I needed it so I wasn't a screaming banshee every week when he spelled the same word wrong "again" (Can anyone relate??).

2. I took the time to explain what we are accomplishing with spelling. We are trying to communicate ideas clearly. I found that telling him this to be a simple, yet effective way for Jackson to understand there was a goal. We had a great time checking out books from the library about homophones, homonyms, and punctuation so he could see that how we write a sentence can completely change it's meaning.

3. I recently came across a book at a used book sale, How To Improve Your Written English. It was published in 1972, so I was somewhat leery of its advice since I tend to believe that the 60s and 70s were a time when modern theories on education were flourishing without much substance behind them. In any case, I liked what I read:

            The Secret of Good Spelling

  • A good speller believes that correct spelling is important. He knows, for example, that misspelled words often slow the reader down and make it hard for him to get the meaning. They may also cause him to judge the writer as ignorant, careless, or not very thoughtful of other people.
  • A good speller tries to spell correctly every word that he writes. But when he is busy getting his ideas down on paper, he concentrates on what he is trying to say. If they thinks of a word that is just right, he uses it, whether he is sure of the spelling or not. Later, when he checks his paper, he finds the word in this dictionary or asks for help with the spelling.
  • A good speller knows - and uses different methods of learning to spell. For example, he uses his ears to hear how a word sounds. He uses his eyes to scrutinize it - to see every letter in it. He uses his muscles to get the "feeling" of the word as he writes it. When a word gives him trouble, he puts it in his spelling corral (personal word list). He keeps it there and works on it until he has tamed it. No mere word defeats him!
  • A good speller  knows that many words are alike in certain ways - that they follow certain patterns.
  • A good speller looks for patterns, and he groups words according to patterns.
  • A good speller looks for the "hard spots" in words and works on these parts.
Now that we've been able to hammer out this foundation of spelling, it's been much smoother saleing, er, I mean sailing.

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