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Desperately need advice for my 10-year-old son who struggles with spelling

(19 Posts)
mixandmatch123 Wed 24-Sep-14 11:27:05

Hi - I am really worried about my 10-year-old son. He finds literacy really hard and has been put in the bottom group in his class. However he does really well in Maths.
I get him to read a few pages of a book most days but he has no interest in reading - although he is a fairly good reader.
His spelling is pretty bad. He spelt 'two' as 'tow' and 'hours' as 'house ' yesterday.
He is very articulate but he doesn't seem to be a visual learner. His brother who is eight spells really well and is given a list of spellings to learn and he only has to look at them once and he knows them.
Does anyone have recommendations on any good computer spelling programmes he can do. I am wondering about getting him extra tuition for literacy. He finds comprehensions difficult. I did a degree in English Literature and am a journalist and feel I can do extra work with him - however I do work four days a week and we have three children so it is tricky fitting everything in. Am worried that he is going to start secondary school in a year and he won't be any good at the basics. Any advice much appreciated!

Laura0806 Wed 24-Sep-14 13:30:42

just wondering what school have said and if he has been assessed for SLD? xxThere are quite a few computer programs for literacy/ spelling but I would ask the teacher first before investing in one

Laura0806 Wed 24-Sep-14 13:31:29

sorry for the xxxx! Im half asleep, sleep deprivation from my youngest ( who is now not that young!)

mixandmatch123 Wed 24-Sep-14 13:51:56

What is SLD? I will ask the teacher about a computer programme for spelling - that is a good idea. I gave up with the teacher last year but this one is better.

elltee Wed 24-Sep-14 17:16:47

SLD/SpLD is the acronym for specific learning difficulties, covering eg dyslexia, dyscalculia and others. An assessment done by an educational psychologist/specialist teacher would help identify whether this is the case and what strategies might be helpful to him - which extends to which spelling apps/literacy teacher would help him most.


FlowersForAlgernon Wed 24-Sep-14 19:57:51

I can highly recommend spelling tutor. My DSs teacher recommended it, and it's helped my Y5 DS heaps.

It helps poor spellers, whether they have dyslexia or not.

Ferguson Wed 24-Sep-14 22:25:28

I was a primary TA for twenty years, and helping children improve reading and writing, and thereby spelling was something I was very involved in.

A book that COULD help, assuming dyslexia etc isn't the root problem, is reviewed in the MN Book Reviews. Under the "Children's educational books and courses" section, the Oxford Phonics Spelling Dictionary is described, and there is a link to view sample pages from it, and purchase if you so wish.

It is a colourful, entertaining dictionary and includes many 'hints and tips' to help support Phonics. A 10 yr old can easily use it on their own, or to help his confidence, you could share it with him in the early stages.

Mashabell Thu 25-Sep-14 08:40:08


If he finds comprehension difficult, i would concentrate mainly on improving that and on expanding his vocabulary.

My son was good at maths but a hopeless speller.
My advice to him (as an English teacher) was to concentrate on what he wanted to say and to write copiously - without worrying too much about the spelling, and reassuring him that it would come eventually.

For some pupils, and especially the more logically minded ones, the inconsistencies of English spelling are beastly.

Having a good look at the words he has misspelt when he gets back written work is helpful, along with picking out a few and tackling them with the old LOOK SAY COVER WRITE CHECK method.

I also kept drawing his attention to the stupid bits of the words he misspelt, blaming his problems mainly on the inconsistencies of English spelling (e.g. tWO). It worked for him. He got B for language and A for Lit in his O levels.

maizieD Thu 25-Sep-14 19:49:39

He is very articulate but he doesn't seem to be a visual learner.

Spelling is not a visual skill. The basic skill needed for spelling is the ability to identify the individual 'sounds' which make up the spoken word and to write the letter or letters which represent those sounds, in the order in which they come in the word. This method is entirely logical as this is how written 'words' were originallly developed; by assigning a symbol to each 'sound' and writing those symbols in the order in which the sounds occurred in the word.

Unfortunately, because English is a mixture of words from many different languages which in many cases retain the sound/symbol correspondences of the originating language (which differ from language to language) English does not have a simple sound/symbol corrrespondence system. This complicates learning to spell but it is not impossible. Also unfortunately, many teachers do not understand this simple principle and try to teach spellings by expecting children to memorise the letters in a word and the order in which they are written. This method does nothing to help children understand the logic of spelling and favours only children with excellent memories.

I'm afraid that computer programmes are not particularly helpful for improving spelling as they rely on visual memory and do not emphasise the relationship between discrete sounds in words and the way that each is 'spelled'. Additionally, good spelling involves the use of kinaesthetic memory as every word has a unique 'feel' to it when written. Picking out letters on a computer keyboard does nothing to develop kinaesthetic memory of the hand written word and is of little benefit unless the child is only ever going to type everything they write (as clearly it will eventually develop kinaesthetic memory of typed words).

Look, Say, cover, Write & Check is not a good way to 'learn' spellings, particularly if letter names are used instead of sounds. I would suggest initially concentrating on getting your son to break words into their component sounds and then try to spell each sound in order. Start with words containing simple letter/sound correspondences so that he really gets the idea of the logic. If he can already do this you could use a modified version of Look, Say etc.

Say the word and identify the sounds in it
Look at the word to see how each of the sounds is spelled (there's usually only one unusual sound spelling in a word so concentrate on that)
Write the word, saying the sounds as each one is written
Check by sounding out and blending the word exactly as written (not what the child thinks he has written)
Visual check if needed

If you want to use ICT text to speech programmes are quite easy to obtain nowadays and are brilliant for emphasising the relation between letters and the sounds they spell as they will read back exactly what has been written. You do have to use one with a British 'voice' as US voiced ones will 'read' the words with a US accent; not helpful...

I appreciate that some children still find it difficult to remember the correct spelling for a particular sound if there are a number of alternatives, but phonetic spellings are a big improvement on collections of letters in random order.

FlowersForAlgernon Fri 26-Sep-14 00:59:56

maizie - you are too quick to write off modern spelling programs. Have you looked at Spelling Tutor?

I think it addresses all of your points.

Of course spelling is a visual skill - otherwise how do you know if you should write 'hear', 'hair', 'hare', or 'here'. Phonics can't tell you which of those words are right.

Spelling Tutor doesn't ask you to type, it asks you to write.

If you get the word wrong it teaches you about phonics ( it says stuff like 'ay', 'ai', and 'a-e' are the most common ways to spell the 'ay' sound.)

Instead of relying on visual memory it uses spaced repetition to get you to learn a word.

Spelling phonetically is still spelling wrong. I want my DS to spell correctly not phonetically.

Mashabell Fri 26-Sep-14 06:33:50

For the 332 words with 2 or more spellings
hear/here, so/sew/sow, through/threw
phonics is completely useless.

For many others too:
speak - speech, seize - siege, you - use .....

And this has nothing whatsoever to do with English being a mixture of different languages, as Maizie claims. Very few words cause difficulties because they retain their original spellings (bubble - double).

The main cause is deliberate or careless disregard of spelling consistency by early makers of spelling lists and dictionaries, especially Johnson. They paid no heed whatsoever to ease of learning.

jorud Fri 26-Sep-14 10:03:07

Make spelling fun. You should try word families - words that are linked by a letter pattern and meaning -

Link 'two' with the other words relating to 'two' - twin, twenty, twelve, between...

Also could link house with mouse. There's a mouse in the house. You say he might not be a visual learner but try using pictures and drawing a house with a mouse with the letter patterns in there.

Make it fun

jorud Fri 26-Sep-14 10:07:09

Link for the post above should be

Hakluyt Fri 26-Sep-14 10:11:07

This may or may not be helpful- but if it is just spelling.... My dd was always a dreadful speller- she had a "textails" folder in year 9! But it hasn't stopped her getting 3As at A level including English. If it is linked to other literacy issues then obviously take it further. But I just thought a little positive story might help.

Effjay Fri 26-Sep-14 20:06:45

Squeebles spelling app for Iphone/etc is really good and fun too

agiantwoman Fri 26-Sep-14 22:45:30

I had a look at that spelling tutor link...there's a spelling mistake on the page headed schools...

Feenie Fri 26-Sep-14 23:17:32


agiantwoman Tue 30-Sep-14 16:46:45

The mistake's been corrected now...what a coincidence.

mixandmatch123 Wed 01-Oct-14 11:12:15

Thank you so much for the suggestions and words of comfort. I have got some comprehensions from the school to do at home with him. I will also take a look at the spelling programmes suggested. Much appreciated!!

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