Building a strong literacy foundation on which to grow and develop reading and spelling skills is important right from the beginning of a child’s learning experience. So many times when I work with struggling students at the late elementary level, I find that the issues will trace right back to those foundational skills from the early elementary level. It is hard to be a 3rd grade student who cannot accurately spell consonant-vowel-consonant words. It’s even harder to be a 4th grade student who struggles with three sound words. If a student cannot accurately spell words at the 3 sound level, most of the late elementary grade level demands will be way beyond their ability. And as a result, most of those students are most likely feeling badly about themselves in the process.
So, what should we do? How do we build a better spelling strategy? It is important to have your child connect the letter sounds with the letter names in order to spell a word. We teach students to “sound out” the words by isolating the sounds and blending into reading words. We need to do the same with spelling which requires transferring sounds into a written representation.
- Say the word your child needs to spell (tip)
- Ask your child to repeat the word. (“tip”)
- As your child to identify the sounds in the words out loud. It is helpful to have your child touch objects as they identify each sound. As the word tip has three sounds, your child might touch a lego (eraser, pencil, cheerio, etc) as they identify each sound. (/t/-/i/-/p/)
- Next, have your child touch each object again and name the letter that makes the sound. (t-i-p)
- Finally, have your child write each letter saying the letter name aloud as they write.
- Ask your child to read you the word they spelled. Praise their hard work!
What if your child makes a mistake? It would be best to to correct the mistake at the saying sounds/letters out loud stage. If your child changes the vowel between saying it out loud and writing the letters, then ask them to cross it out and begin the process again with identifying the sounds in the word. Our brain learns through the multisensory process of saying the letters while writing the letters so minimizing errors at that stage is important.
This approach to spelling will help your child hear and identify each sound and will make them a more accurate speller. Try it out, and let me know how it goes!