Teaching English Spelling

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The traditional method of teaching English spelling is to send home a list of words each week and give a test covering the material. Some children succeed with this routine, but many others don't because they forget the correct spelling right after the quiz. A newer way to teach the subject is to skip rote memorization and instead explain to students the rhyme and reason of spelling. When they understand patterns and similarities among words, they're more likely to spell them correctly in the future.

  1. Lump Words Together

    • Rather than giving kids 10 separate words to spell each week, introduce word groups or patterns. Let the children "discover" the patterns; if they're studying "ie" vs. "ei," give them several word cards with examples of both spellings (for example, "receive" and "pie"). As they group the cards, they'll notice that "ei" nearly always follows "c." You don't have to drive home the point; they'll find it themselves.

      When you're studying a pattern, ask the children to look for words that follow the pattern when they read books, signs or even comics.

    Play Games

    • Use fun activities to teach a spelling concept. If you're teaching the short "a" sound, make a wall of word cards that children can add to all the time. Play bingo or make board games with words that contain the short "a" pattern. Buy or create puzzles with different initial consonants that kids can place before the short "a" (for instance, they can form the word "bat" and then replace the "b" with a "c" for "cat."

    Test Time

    • If the class studies patterns, you shouldn't have to send home spelling words in anticipation of a test. At the end of a unit, have the children write the spelling for eight or 10 words that follow the pattern you've been discussing. Even if they haven't seen the exact word before, the goal is for them to remember the concept in order to spell the word correctly.

    Electronic Help

    • Short on time? Find help with teaching spelling by ordering a kit that contains manipulatives such as letter tiles, plus an instructional CD-Rom. (See Resources.) You can also use online games and activities to reinforce spelling concepts. On SpellingCity.com, you can type in words that follow the pattern of study, such as hot, pot, lot, rot and cot. The website generates sentences with blank spots, and you match the correct word to the corresponding sentence.

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