Teaching spellings and helping a child to retain the correct spelling

(30 Posts)
HappyAsEyeAm Mon 17-Mar-14 09:02:38

DS is in Year 1. He ahs spellings to learn at home every week,. They are always 8 words, with a common theme eg this week's words all have 'ou' in them. House, mouse, out - all the same sounding 'ou' (ie not ought, would etc).

He gets them on a Wednesday. I practice them with him on a Sunday and we have a brief run through again on the following Wednesday morning berfore school. He is then tested on them at school and gets another lot of eight.

What is the best way for me to teach them? This is what I do at the moment:

I write them all on the white board in the kitchen. I tell them that each of the words has the 'owwww' noise and those letters are 'ou' so they will be in every word. I point to each of them and say the word. Then I rub them out. Then I ask DS to write each of them in a pice of paper. I go through them one by one ie "Now DS, please would you write 'mouse. Mouse as in "A mouse lives in the skirting boards in nanny's house". He writes them. If they are wrong, (eg DS sometimes reverses b and d, or will get the spelling wrong eg not putting the 'e' on the end of 'house'), I correct him as we go along. After we've done all eight, I do the whole thing again. After that, I write them back up on thwe white board.

Critique away! Education is not part of my job, and I have no eperience of teaching.

I have noticed however that even if he does do well in spelling them in his tests, he does not retain the spellings at all. He will spell the words phonetically the following week and does not apply what he has learned.

columngollum Mon 17-Mar-14 09:13:59

Normally I would recommend the spelling programme apples & pears. But some experts on here have convinced me that it's stupid. But it might still help you.

Patilla Mon 17-Mar-14 09:15:53

Watching with interest as DS is a bit younger but I suspect this will be his issue as although bright with concepts, things like particular phonics digraphs can take ages to stick in his head properly when other kids just have to glance at them to remember them.

Mashabell Mon 17-Mar-14 09:42:17

What u are doing is fine.

Nearly all children make lots of mistakes when they first start learning to write. Nearly all also do much better in tests than when writing stories or doing other writing. It's hard for young children to concentrate on what they are trying to say AND getting the spellings right.

And as everybody knows, English spelling is beastly (bean/been, very merry). Learning words with the ou spelling for the /ou/ sound is fine, until children have to learn brown, down, towel as well. Choosing between them afterwards is not so easy.

That's why becoming a proficient speller of English simply takes years of practice, and nobody becomes really proficient in less than 10 years.

So however u practise, u can't do much wrong. As long as ds keeps practising.

Masha Bell

MrsSteptoe Mon 17-Mar-14 09:52:12

I'm absolutely no expert whatsoever, but DS is now 11, and spelling is something that's come gradually over his years at primary school, and has noticeably improved in the last 12 months.

We did a certain amount of look, cover, write, check, but the school were a bit hither and yon about issuing spellings to learn so it was never a very regular occupation.

I am convinced that in DS's case the factor that really made the difference was the fact that he's read much, much more frequently - and widely, but I think frequently is the thing - over the last year.

In the main, though, he'd learn a spelling one week, and then plough on getting it wrong again after having learned it for a test - gradually, though, the right spelling came back in time.

In other words, in my DS's case, it wasn't a neat linear progress of learning words and then you could leave that one behind and move on - more two steps forward and one back.


wishingchair Mon 17-Mar-14 09:55:24

My DD was hopeless at spelling in yr 1. Plus the spellings she was coming home with were insane. Things like perfume. But she couldn't spell 'what'.

She's in yr 3 now and is a superstar!

Mine are too little for this atm, but might it be worth going through them again at some point in the week?
And maybe the weekend after the test too, so the learning is spread over 2 weeks rather than half a week?

nonicknameseemsavailable Mon 17-Mar-14 10:51:00

it isn't unusual to learn them for the test but not be able to use them when writing independently. No idea how to help that though - sorry.

My personal approach is to do them briefly every day as then it reinforces them, I know others who split them out and focus on say 2 a day. I think it depends on the child.

MrsSteptoe Mon 17-Mar-14 11:02:15

it isn't unusual to learn them for the test but not be able to use them when writing independently. No idea how to help that though - sorry.

Exactly, nonickname - you said in two lines what I took four paragraphs to say blush. With DS, it came in time.

HappyAsEyeAm Mon 17-Mar-14 11:03:55

Hi nonickname, its me again. I agree that I need to do them more frequently. The white bnoard is nwext to the kitchen table so we could do them at a mealtime. Little and often seems the best way and hopefully he will get there in the end.

maizieD Mon 17-Mar-14 11:17:58

Don't write them first, ask him to break the word into its component sounds (it seems as if he is learning phonics at school, so he should be able to do this, if not, say the word very, very slowly and you will find that each 'sound' becomes clear).

Then ask him to spell each sound in the order in which he can hear it in the word.

Get him to say each sound as he writes it; this promotes kinaesthetic memory of writing it (i.e the brain will remember what it 'feels' like, an important element in learning spellings).

CHECK that the word is correct by reading back EXACTLY what he has written.

Practise writing out each word a few times, still saying each sound as he writes it.

They sound like good spelling lists if they focus on one spelling of a sound. grin

maizieD Mon 17-Mar-14 11:22:17

He will spell the words phonetically the following week and does not apply what he has learned.

All words are spelled phonetically! I think what you mean is that he uses the wrong letter/sound spellings!

Practising writing out the words, as I said above, helps to promote automatic recall. That's why my old teachers many years ago used to make us write out corrections 10 times! Repetition is essential to learning.

columngollum Mon 17-Mar-14 11:28:31

And what happens when he comes to words which are traditionally mispronounced, like because, flavour, colour, Edinburgh and sword?

columngollum Mon 17-Mar-14 11:38:48

and are either beauty or bureau spelled the way that they are pronounced? Do we in fact routinely mispronounce them, given that they are in fact not English words?

maizieD Mon 17-Mar-14 13:21:40

He hasn't got there yet. He's getting lists of nice, phonically 'regular' words.

By that time he could well be self teaching as he understands the principles.

columngollum Mon 17-Mar-14 13:27:17

What are the spelling principles of words like sword, yacht, eye, one and twelfth?

HappyAsEyeAm Mon 17-Mar-14 13:41:50

column what would you suggest then? Your constructive suggestion was to try apples and pears, which I've looked at this morning as I'd never heard of it before. It looks good, and its something I will certainly consider. But you also say that it is stupid confused

maizieD Mon 17-Mar-14 13:55:51

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

columngollum Mon 17-Mar-14 13:58:55

It's fine, happyaseyeam. Use it by all means, if it's helpful for you. There are some "experts" who find it strange that people who think spelling by sounds is a fundamentally flawed way to behave should recommend a programme which arranges the spelling of words by the way that they sound. And, if that was the only thing that the programme did do, then it would indeed be useless. But, because it also focusses on how words are actually spelled it's of use to children having real problems getting to grips with basic spelling. Of course it can't deal with some of the more tricky problems, but then, neither can anything else save but memory and or practise. So, please go ahead and use it, if you feel that it will help.

HappyAsEyeAm Mon 17-Mar-14 14:00:21

I'm clueless, that's the problem. I just think that it might be worth a try. I am open to all suggestions though.

columngollum Mon 17-Mar-14 14:02:45

maizie, if you find making rational arguments irritating then that's your viewpoint. However, I'd stick to formal arguments rather than slanders and slurs, if I was you. That's the road to personal attacking, which as you know is not allowed.

If you have a rational point, do please make it.

CecilyP Mon 17-Mar-14 16:52:20

Apples and Pears is a remedial programme for children who struggle. Your DS is only in Y1, so I think it might be early days to be considering that sort of thing. I don't think your DS is particulary unusual in being able to learn words for a test but forget the spelling in his own writing. It all takes time - I think what you are doing goes way beyond the call of duty anyway.

HappyAsEyeAm Mon 17-Mar-14 19:58:34

Oh, I had no idea that it was a remedial system. I agree that he is still young, but O m trying to support him as much as possible at home, and just wanted to know how best to do that. Would you really not do any more than I am doing?

Mashabell Tue 18-Mar-14 07:21:55

All words are spelled phonetically! I think what you mean is that he uses the wrong letter/sound spellings!

If English was spelt phonetically, each sound would have just one spelling, as the International Phonetic Alphabet does. Finnish spelling is completely phonetic. Italian and Spanish close to it.

Nobody except SP evangelists would describe English spelling as phonetic. This is simply an attempt to deny that English spelling is difficult to learn, but the denial does not make the problem go away, or make learning to spell 'stole coal bowl' or 'much, money, touch' any easier.

If English spelling was 'phonetic' children would not be forever asking,
'Is it 'ou' as in 'out' or as in 'down'?

'Ee' as in 'tree' or as in 'tea'? 'Air' as in 'hair' or as in 'bear'? etc. etc. ....

There would be just one answer for each.
And learning to write English would take just a small fraction of the time it takes now, and English-speaking children would leave school far better educated than they do now.

columngollum Tue 18-Mar-14 09:20:29

No, masha. English is phonetic because phonetic just means the way English is. It's a bit like calling the language that any foreign tourists speak: Arabic when they're on the Arabian peninsula, French, whenever they're in France and English whenever they're in England.

The logic goes like this. If you're on English soil, then whatever mother tongue you're speaking in must also be English because you're speaking it in England, therefore it belongs to England, therefore it's English. See? Easy, isn't it.
Now you know why all words are spelled phonetically. (because they're words.)

tiredbutnotweary Tue 18-Mar-14 11:21:56

Hi Happy, At my DD's school (also year 1) spellings are tested in sentences. Each week, while at school, she writes out her list of spellings for the week in a book with 3 columns.

We practice the spellings 3 times. Times 1 & 2 she writes out the words again in two of the columns. The first time I start reading the words out from the bottom of the list and the second I start at the top. She doesn't look at the words she's already written (these are covered with a piece of paper) so she's doing it from memory, however she always writes the wound she's working on at the top of the column first. The final time I come up with a few sentences, and she writes these into a separate book we have at home. I try and use at least three of her spellings words at a time and usually manage to keep it to 3 or 4 sentences.

For example last weeks sound was ee, one sentence was:

I saw the queen in the steep street.

This weeks sound is ar, one sentence was:

I worked hard to make a smart card.

As you can see I make these sentences up at the last minute so their not the best sentences but they do the job! The benefit of this is that you can add common high frequency words into the sentences and it's a good opportunity to practice starting with a capital and ending with a full stop etc.

How much this is helping her spelling though I am unsure - I struggle with spelling, DH is a good speller (he sees the words, so good visual memory). I suspect DD has a good dose of DHs visual memory and this is standing her in good stead. However, my understanding is that writing the words in sentences is the best method for helping the spellings to stick.

It is worth remembering that if a young child is working hard on creating a story then spellings often go out of the window. I have noticed some very creative spellings when DD is writing a story, which if I asked her to think about, she could spell correctly, but her brain power is focussed on other things and of course that's quite understandable!!

HappyAsEyeAm Tue 18-Mar-14 12:17:14

Wow tired I am impressed that your DD (same aschool year as my DS) is able to write the correct spellings of all of the words in a sentence. Of the two sentences you used, I think he would only be able to spell "I, saw, the, in, to, a". He would make a stab at the others but they probably wouldn't be right. I get your point though, and its a good one. It stops him seeing the spellings words in isolation.

I have posted previously about a feeling that DS might be dyslexic, but he's too young for us to be sure (I am in contact wth an EP with a view to getting his assesed at an appropriate time). I am a good speller too, as I see words (visual memory) and have always found spelling very easy. It is hard for me to see him struggle and all I want to do is help him and be aware of other ways in which I could do that.

tiredbutnotweary Tue 18-Mar-14 18:43:30

As I struggle with spellings, DDs spelling ability amazes me, however I have also heavily reinforced phonics, so if she knows how to spell work, she knows how to spell worked because I've reinforced the ed ending for d and t sounds at the end of words. Although she has therefore spelled felt as felled for example because she knows the former rule and not the latter spelling. She needed help with another sentence to spell 'removed' - it's really hard to get random words like car, tar and arm into a sentence grin

That's why I hesitated to say that writing sentences will definately work because I suspect DD has the ability to learn spellings more easily due to her visual memory. On the other hand she has on occasion practised her spellings by writing the words only and those are the occasions she's got a few wrong - so I do think it helps to embed them more securely.

Out of interest does your DS write in cursive or does he print? If DD's school hadn't taught cursive from the start I think she would have really struggled much more with letter reversal etc - she still does with numbers, both writing and reading them at times.

HappyAsEyeAm Wed 19-Mar-14 10:55:33

tired DS writes in print. That's how he started to learn to write. Some of the children in his class (though not him, I think its the more able children) are learning cursive writing. He reverses some letters (b and d especially), and we are re-inforcing how he should start to write a 'd' ie starting at the top of the curve, ratehr than starting at the top of the vertical and then having to decide which way round to curve should go.

Anyway, I digress smile

I will definitely start asking DS to write the spellings words within the contxt of a simple sentence. A very simple sentence!

Mashabell Thu 20-Mar-14 09:05:13

I suspect DD has the ability to learn spellings more easily due to her visual memory.

And u ar spot on!
Really good spellers (like my daughter and 2 granddaughters) don't have to work at it, because they have good visual memories. None of the males in our family have been so lucky.

They just have to work at it, and it seems to be mainly how many times they have written a word 'correctly' that makes it stick. So any games and exercises that involve that are helpful. And the tedious LOOK SAY COVER WRITE CHECK.

Phonics is utterly useless for memorising 'played - paid', 'wait - mate' or 'blue shoe flew through to you too'. Even less with 'blew/blue' and 'to/too'.

I found drawing attention to the stupid tricky letters far more helpful with really weak spellers, and blaming their problems on the stupidities of English spelling.

I am getting more cross about those, the older i get. We should not be flummoxing children with phonically nonsensical irregularities like 'bed - said', 'send - friend' or 'men - many'.

There is no RIGHT way for learning to WRITE English that works equally well with all children because too many words are spelt wrongly in dictionaries.

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