Yet another spelling question - Sorry!

(13 Posts)
oompaloompaland Thu 12-May-16 12:50:05

My Y5 DD is struggling to remember her spellings. She's in the lowest group for spellings at school and, whilst she can remember her 10 weekly words for her tests, a few weeks later it's as if she has never seen them.

She's a bright girl. She had to pass a tough entrance exam to get into the school and is in the top set for maths, and middle for English. All aspects of her English, apart from spelling, are very good. She loves school, but is becoming so demoralised at the spellings, and I'm at a loss to know how to help. Knowing over the years that it's her weakest subject, we have done daily spellings during holidays and weekends, repeating them over and over. She has been praised, rewarded, bribed (on occasion), but still nothing helps the spellings to stick.

I dearly want to help her, but after years of trying it feels like we're banging our heads against the proverbial. She's not a big reader, although dutifully reads for 30 minutes every day as part of homework. Does anyone have any suggestions?

StarUtopia Thu 12-May-16 12:55:28

Spelling tests are pointless. Learning spellings are pointless.

She needs to read. Therein lies your/her problem. Good readers are always good at spelling. They learn to recognise how words are spelt and can see when something is spelt incorrectly.

I might add, I'm a teacher and I still think spelling tests are a waste of time. Think about it. Even if you actually did learn (and retain) 10 spellings a week for the school year. That's only 380 or so words a year you can spell. A tiny dot in how many key words there actually are!

Find something she is interested in reading. Hard task I know! What hobbies does she have?

parrotonmyshoulder Thu 12-May-16 12:59:34

I'm a teacher too. Good readers are NOT always good spellers!

My DD is dyslexic and a fabulous reader (though it was hard at first). I've worked with lots of children who are good readers and terrible spellers.

It is true that many non or poor readers are also poor spellers. But reading is not always the answer!

Teach her to use a spell checker or spelling dictionary.

parrotonmyshoulder Thu 12-May-16 13:00:00

I do agree with pp that spelling tests are a waste of time though!

littleGreenDragon Thu 12-May-16 14:06:20

Apple and pears had made a lot of improvement for mine.

Some word need a spelling pronunciation- how they sound and how they are written doesn't match possible due to drifting over time and other words need some unusual parts of them highlighting and remembering.

No quick solution though - and yea there are times when I think my eldest is never going to be a decent speller despite all our work together.

maizieD Thu 12-May-16 16:51:12

Spelling becomes much easier if you think about breaking words down into their component sounds (or syllables, if they're long) and spelling each sound. While there are some 250,000+ words in the English lexicon there are considerably fewer 'sound spellings' (about 180 common ones plus some less common) to learn. This considerable lessens the load on memory.

The hardest part is remembering which sound spelling is right in a particular word, as some sounds can be spelled in a variety of ways. But most words only have one or two sounds in them which require knowledge of the correct way to spell them. so it is still easier to learn by 'sounds' than trying to remember a letter string for the entire word.

I agree that extensive reading can help in that it usually makes it easier to see if a word 'looks' right once it has been written, but this doesn't inevitably follow. Some people just don't seem to have that sort of an eye for detail.

Writing out a problem word many times (preferably saying each sound as it is written) helps as kinaesthetic memory (muscle memory) has an important role in spelling.

The Apples and Pears programme mentioned by a previous poster is good because it works on the skills needed for good spelling.

'Learning' words by chanting the letters in them is probably one of the most useless ways of learning to spell. sad (and so is the popular Look Say Cover Write & Check strategy)

bruffin Thu 12-May-16 16:57:34

Starutopia
Being a good reader does not make you a good speller. Ds reads well and had excellent comprehension skills, but cant spell. He would spell same word 5 different ways on the same page, even if the word is correct at the top of the page.
He was ok at spelling tests if they were done om sounds ie"ough" words. He can also spell out loud netter than on paper.

irvineoneohone Thu 12-May-16 17:11:38

I do agree with maisieD, being a good reader really helped my ds. He writes something, and he instantly recognise, "that doesn't look right", if he spelled wrong. When he gets his spelling list, I test him if I remember, and he always seems to break down words in syllables, to check he is doing it right, even though he already know how to spell the word.

chilipepper20 Thu 12-May-16 17:16:51

I'd say spelling comes with lots of reading, but I know nothing about primary education.

At least with lots of reading you get something else out of it.

BertrandRussell Thu 12-May-16 17:22:22

My dd always got 100% in spelling tests but couldn't spell the word the next day. She got excellent GCSEs and A levels and is currently at a very well regarded university doing a degree in an "arts" subject. She still can't spell very well. No special need of any sort that we know of- she just can't spell. Hasn't held her back. She just has to remember to look up words and not rely on spell checker.

oompaloompaland Thu 12-May-16 18:07:13

That's fantastic. Thank you everyone. I shall look at the Apples and Pears programme, but it is also comforting to know that a) we're not alone and b) the Look Say Cover Write Check system/weekly spelling test is not useful (having struggled through the former for years and finally given up on it, and hating the latter). smile

eyebrowsonfleek Thu 12-May-16 18:23:39

My son is a y5 weak speller.

His school have moved from spelling tests in ks1 to doing lessons on spelling rules. The sort of things they do is ie/ei/ea lesson and discussing words like sieve/ceiling/seam.

He sometimes gets literacy homework where he has to fill in the blanks of words like abundan__ with ce or se.

Ferguson Thu 12-May-16 20:06:20

UNDERSTANDING some of the rules of spelling can help. An effective book to support this is the Oxford Phonics Spelling Dictionary. Search MN book reviews with my name and Phonics for more details:

An inexpensive and easy to use book, that can encourage children with reading, spelling and writing, and really help them to understand Phonics, is reviewed in the MN Book Reviews section. Just search ‘Phonics’ and my name.

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