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IS there 'a condition' where a DC can spell words, 'stand alone' then gets them wrong in writing...

(45 Posts)
Erebus Sun 25-Sep-11 13:46:46

...*every time*?

Coz DS2 is like this! An example: This morning he learned a list of 12 words, via the 'look/cover/write/check' method. All 100% correct. Then I got him to spell the 4 or 5 similarly 'complex' word he got wrong in a written piece of h/w yesterday (Y6, his teacher takes no prisoners: spelling mistakes = a complete re-write in break time!) and guess what? He made exactly the same mistakes as he'd originally made. Despite having apparently 'learned' them when I corrected his writing and he'd rewritten it out correctly!

However, I bet if I asked him to re-spell the list of words a few hours later, he'd get most if not all right. It's as if he can spell words if they are read to him, 'stand-alone' but can't if they're in the body of some text.

We have a similar problem with capitals at the start of sentences. Yes, he knows the rule. No, he rarely applies it. But yes, mum, I know!


spanieleyes Sun 25-Sep-11 14:00:10

Yes, it's called being normal! Children very rarely spell words they have learnt for spelling tests correctly in their free writing. I think it's because they don't make the link between the word they have learnt for a test with the same word when used in context-one reason why spelling tests can be a complete waste of time!

Feenie Sun 25-Sep-11 14:21:38


lisad123 Sun 25-Sep-11 14:25:30

I was like this as a child and also now as an adult blush
I'm dyslexic and can tell u a word is wrong but cant spell it right!! I hated spelling tests as a child sad

RedHelenB Sun 25-Sep-11 14:30:05

When writing you are concentrating on many more things than spelling (composing your sentence, thinking about punctuation, handwriting etc) so it's no wonder that there is a discrepancy.

cat64 Sun 25-Sep-11 15:05:09

Message withdrawn

cat64 Sun 25-Sep-11 15:05:46

Message withdrawn

CustardCake Sun 25-Sep-11 16:22:06

Children see learning for the test as a whole different skill to learning for the sake of writing their own sentences (well my kids do). It is totally normal for a child to get 15/15 in the test every week and yet spell the same words incorrectly the next time they have cause to write on in a story.
Spelling tests rely on hearing the word and devoting 100% focus to recreating it on paper. Writing is about getting ideas down so spelling and grammar can go out of the window as concentration shifts to thinking of ideas and language.

With my two, I reckon if you assessed their spelling age using an old fashioned spelling test, you would assume that they were working well over a year ahead (DS more like 3 years ahead) of their actual age. If you assessed their spelling age from a story they had written you would assume they were barely literate half the time!!

ASByatt Sun 25-Sep-11 16:24:09

It's very very common I'm afraid!

Plus I would say that all children can spell better than they can write, IYSWIM?

maizieD Sun 25-Sep-11 16:44:20

I hate to seem that I'm banging on about this all the time, but it is very often because children haven't been explicitly taught how the sounds in the words are represented by the letters, so the exact placing of the letters has no significance for them.

Look, Say, Cover, Write and Check is a hopeless method of learning spellings because it just doesn't make the connection between letters & sounds explicit. What is more, children learning this way are usually encouraged to use letter names, so they are trying to 'learn' a letter string; the sequence of the letters 'learned' this way is very easy to forget! So we get spellings like 'waht' for 'what'.

Kinaesthetic memory plays a large part in 'good' spelling as each word has a unique 'feel' to it when written. If a child habitually spells a word wrong then they will develop a strong kinaesthetic memory of the wrong 'feel' for a word! So, while they can get it right for a spelling test where they are concentrating on each word, when writing they will be thinking more about what they are writing and the old, habitual spelling will be used.

I suggest that for learning spellings the child first breaks the spoken word into its component sounds (no 'Look' at all), then works out how each sound is spelled. Write the word, sound at a time, saying the sound as it is written. Check by decoding and blending it to see if it actually 'says' what it is meant to say.

Practice writing the word like this several times, to reinforce the kinaesthetic memory of the correct 'feel' of the word. (Our old fashioned teachers were on the right lines when they made us write out incorrectly spelled words 10 times correctly!).

ASByatt Sun 25-Sep-11 17:04:14

Hmm maizie I do mostly agree but feel that a stage needs to be added whereby the sounds are turned into letter names because otherwise children end up stuck at 'wot' and 'fier' etc and wanting to write 'ch' or 'ee' phonemes for example still leaves them with spelling choices.......

but yes yes to developing the 'feel' of writing the word.

mrz Sun 25-Sep-11 17:09:49

ASByatt could you explain how using letter names rather than sounds prevents a child writing wot and fier?

If a child is aware that the /o/ sound following a /w/ sound is often written with an "a" and they know that /w/ can be written "w" or "wh" they can work out the correct spelling

ASByatt Sun 25-Sep-11 17:55:18

Ah I knew someone would jump on my comments! smile

Please let me repeat what I said before - I would look to include an additional stage, I didn't say that I would use letter names rather than sounds, I would absolutely use both!!!!! - With sounds/phonemes first.....

mrz Sun 25-Sep-11 18:09:49

Not jumping on it just curious

mrz Sun 25-Sep-11 18:10:24

You still haven't explained how this helps?

PrettyCandles Sun 25-Sep-11 18:13:15

Erebus, are you talking about my ds1? wink

Same problem here, with both my older dc (youngest is pre-reading). And they are both in top sets for literacy.

I agree that context is relevant, because the only times my dc are consistent in the correct spelling, whether list or text, is when we have studied the word as part of a set of homophones - eg there/their/they're.

maizieD Sun 25-Sep-11 18:31:16

the sounds are turned into letter names because otherwise children end up stuck at 'wot' and 'fier' etc and wanting to write 'ch' or 'ee' phonemes for example still leaves them with spelling choices.......

But the child isn't in any way 'naming' the letter/s which spell the sound. They naming the sound as they write it - so they say /th/ as they write 't' 'h'. This associates the 'sound' with the 'feel' of it in that particular word.

Later I have no quarrel with the use of letter names if the person using them is an expert speller, but it is just as easy to identify letters by the sounds associated with them as it is by the name associated with them and I don't think children should be discouraged from doing whichever makes spelling easier for them.

ASByatt Sun 25-Sep-11 19:26:55

maizie - ' but it is just as easy to identify letters by the sounds associated with them as it is by the name associated with them and I don't think children should be discouraged from doing whichever makes spelling easier for them'.

But you see - and this is in response to mrz too - I feel that this is where the opaque orthography of English is unhelpful, because IME some learners do find it hard to remember more than one spelling choice for a certain phoneme, so the requirement to turn phonemes into letter names serves as a reminder that identifying the phonemes is not the final stage in writing the word, if that makes sense? (Be gentle with me pls, it's Sunday night!)

But really, I agree with so much of what you're (both) saying and don't wish to split hairs. Essentially, as you say, it's important to acknowledge (and make use of!) what works for that particular child/young person.

mrz Sun 25-Sep-11 19:32:53

Letter names are fine if you already know how to spell the word (if I were to spell something out to an adult I would use names) but not really helpful if you don't and unfortunately as the OP says even children who regularly get 100% in tests by learning the whole word can rarely apply it independently.

ASByatt Sun 25-Sep-11 19:34:15

I am absolutely not talking about rote learning of the whole word using letter names.

ASByatt Sun 25-Sep-11 19:35:04

Sorry that sounded snippy - not intended!
Can you believe that I'm madly trying to finsih sorting loads of stuff for tomorrow morning.........hmm

mrz Sun 25-Sep-11 19:41:31

I'm trying to adjust my maths planning now I know my class don't understand numbers hmm

ASByatt Sun 25-Sep-11 19:50:05

Eeeeek that sounds like good fun! grin

Good luck.......

cat64 Sun 25-Sep-11 21:24:10

Message withdrawn

dottyT Sun 25-Sep-11 21:37:18

Erebus, have you checked for dyslexia? because while some of this is normal, what you are reporting is also a feature of many people who are dyslexics, as lisad points out, which can be quite difficult to identify until about this age. Our DS, highly articulate, can recall complex words when tested by us; has a reasonable chance in a spelling test, and limited chance in writing more generally. The little words have almost no chance at all of being right. No caps, limited use of full stops. We were told he was stupid or idle and although can recognise elements of that and of boydom, it's not the full picture. His wonderful secondary school tests all y7s for dyslexia and bingo. He walks tall thanks to the equally wonderful ed psych saying he wasn't stupid but he would have to work hard for the rest of his life and focus more and it was just tough but he could do it. Never have I seen such a change. Most, not all, of the teachers are very understanding; he is now laptop happy and gets more time in exams. We have to use other mechanisms on a whole range of things.

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