Spellings are rather troublesome for many of us to work with, more so for our children! This is mainly because we often say a word quite differently than we write it. So, here are a few tips that can help you equip your child to make spellings easier.
Tip 1: Write, re-write and remember
This is a lovely technique that can be excellent practice for your child because it is visual and relies on recalling.
- You will need to make a chart with 3 columns labelled ‘Write, Re-write and Remember’.
- Then fold over the “remember” part so that only the first two columns are visible
- Say the word that you want to learn aloud.
- Write it in the first column, saying the letters as you trace. Say the word again. You can even spell it aloud.
- Go to the second column, say the word, and re-write the word in the same way.
- While the rhythm and the sound and the feeling are fresh in your mind, flip the paper over and say the word and spell it out.
- If it’s a hard word, put it on the list (the Write column) more than once. If you feel confident and would like to challenge yourself or your child, write and re-write TWO words, and try to remember them both before you flip the page over. However, if you can’t remember it, do it one at a time because you want to practice the words RIGHT, not make guesses!
- After you’ve done all the words this way a few times, start doing them two or three at a time, and when you feel like you know them, do the list again!
Tip 2: Using memory tricks and Mnemonics
Memory tricks or mnemonics are really useful to remember tricky spellings. For eg. the words stationary can end with an -ary and -ery. So how to you ensure you are spelling it correctly?
One easy way to remember is to come up with memory tricks. For instance, the word stationery refers to pens, pencils, paper etc. As there is an ‘e’ in ‘pen’ and it is an item of stationery, we can try to remember that stationery has an ‘e’ just like the word ‘pen’ has an ‘e’. Whereas the other ‘stationary’ does not have an ‘e’ and refers to ‘not moving’.
Similarly, for the word principal, should we use -al or -le at the end? So here is a memory tip, remember you and your pal (or friend) have the same school Principal. You can also think of words within words for such memory tricks like believe has a lie in it, so you must never believe a lie – this way you can remember that believe has an -ie not -ei.
It is fun to create such memory tricks. And you can ask your children to share their tricks with friends, family and even teachers so that they remember it better. And of course, there are no rules for these, so you can make any that makes sense to you.
Tip 3: Use a recorder to test and practice the meanings of words and their spelling!
The next tip is children could use a tape recorder or a phone recorder to test themselves and to practice using words.
Here’s how they can do it. Read the words — be sure you’re pronouncing them right — into the recorder. Record it like it’s a spelling test: word, example sentence, word, spelling. For example, you’d say
Put the papers in separate piles.
Spelled s – e – p – a – r - a - t – e.”
Play it back — and try to say the spelling before the tape plays it. This tip will help children practice without anyone’s help. This is also something that can be done once and then the tape can be re-use over and over.
Tip 4: Highlight the hard parts.
Some words, like separate, are only hard in some parts. So highlighting the hard part is a good technique for learning rules and patterns.
Ask your child to get different colour pens or pencils or markers, and get small cards. Write the words vividly, boldly on the cards — and make the ‘hard part’ a different colour than the rest. Make a mental picture of that card, read the word aloud and spell it aloud, and change the way they say the “hard part,” maybe saying it louder, maybe putting on a different accent. So, they’d write:
When they write the whole word, they should think about the hard part, what it looks like or sounds like. So, while they’re writing “separate,” they might be visualizing that bold, red A.
These cards are also easy to carry and can be used almost anywhere. Turn it into a family game for even more fun.
Tip 5: Learning through reverse chaining letters.
Learning spelling through reverse chaining letters is another effective trick. Here’s how the children should do it:
- Say the word. Then write it, saying each letter (be enthusiastic and expressive)
- W – O – R – D
- Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last letter. Say the last letter, but don’t write it.
- W – O – R – ____
- Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last two letters. Say them, but don’t write them.
- W – O – ___ ____
- Do that until you’re only writing one letter.
- Go back to the top. Read the word, then spell it out loud.
- Fold the page over so you can’t see the whole word. Say the word, spell it, and add that last letter.
- Fold the page back again. Say the word, spell it, and add the last two letters.
- Keep going until you spell the whole word.
- GO BACK AND CHECK — make sure you didn’t leave out a letter.
Adding variety in the way children learn spellings is a key factor in keeping them at it. A single strategy becomes boring too soon and children tend to lose interest. So, get them to try different techniques. However, don’t introduce all of them at once, as this can be overwhelming and not quite effective.
All of these are tried and tested methods so do try out these tips for yourself and let us know which one worked for your child in the comments.
Keep watching this space for more such tips and suggestions on improving your child’s English language and skills.
-Melisha Robinson and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council