My little girl was diagnosed with dyslexia last year, but she has always struggled a bit. Learning spelling words has been an ordeal, which means I have to get creative with teaching her.
She was delayed with walking and talking as a baby, so it makes sense that she struggles with hearing sounds -- so when her teacher last year (her last year of public school) expected her students to learn words phonetically, she had a difficult time with it. She never received more than a 50 on a spelling test of 20 words.
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This year, knowing Laura learns best with hands-on activities, I decided to incorporate hands-on activities with writing, saying, and spelling words aloud.
Writing Three Times Each
Laura, in the third grade, admittedly does not do any schoolwork on a computer. Physically using a pencil or pen and paper, writing out spelling words or math problems, helps improve learning and memory. An 2013 article in Psychology Today quoted a professor at the University of Washington who stated that students "wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard." Interestingly, the article went on to add that "school systems, driven by ill-informed ideologues and federal mandate, are becoming obsessed with testing knowledge at the expense of training kids to develop better capacity for acquiring knowledge."
Writing her words three times each, while saying them aloud, makes the connection between her brain and her hands in spelling the words correctly. Having her write the words neatly reinforces penmanship and intention on writing so that others can decipher her handwriting.
Laura loves -- and learns best -- doing hands-on activities. One of her favorite spelling word activities is using letter stamps and an (washable, just in case) ink pad to stamp the words on construction paper. I then have her write each word neatly beside the stamped word. This does two things: one, it helps her create words out of letters, and she makes the mental connection with handwriting.
I have a number of magazines I like and subscribe to, but I struggle with what to do with them after I've read them. Using kid-sized scissors and a glue stick, Laura either finds her spelling words in the magazines and glues them onto construction paper, or she cuts letters out and makes the words herself. Writing the words again reinforces what she has done. This is another hands-on activity that she loves to do. After she's completely finished with a magazine, it goes in the recycle bin.
I like these kid-sized scissors that have a safety cap, just in case. For kids who are left-handed, try these lefty scissors.
Using stickers shaped like letters, Laura sticks these on construction paper as another hands-on activity to learn her spelling words (with writing the word beside the stickers). At first, I dumped all the stickers into a large bowl for her to rummage through, but this became frustrating for her and time-consuming. So I bought couple of organizers like the ones used for small parts, stuck one letter per drawer, and had her organize the letters in the appropriate drawers. It just keeps this activity organized, which is important when you have other subjects to attack besides spelling.
I think it's important that Laura not only learn how to spell words, but also know what they mean. We use a good children's dictionary for her to look up her words, and their meanings, and write both in her binder. It's important to use an actual, ink-on-paper book, and not a website, so that kids can see and understand their world is full of words -- and they don't just exist in the virtual world.
Lastly, we only learn 10 spelling words a week. Twenty was just too much for her. It's crucial to understand your child and their capabilities, and to stretch them without killing their interest in learning. These five methods have helped my daughter not only improve her test grades (her lowest weekly spelling test has been a 90 so far) but also greatly increase her thirst for knowledge -- which is an all-around better goal anyway.
(C) 2018 Terrie Bentley McKee
Terrie, thank you for these methods. I always fall back on the tried and true - write them. But I am looking forward to trying some of these other methods. For my kids, we have been able to use the computer activities to prove they know the words after they have learned them.
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