I’ll readily admit I’m one of those word-geek types who loves spelling and anything related. This is a topic that’s always come easily to me, but one I think is very important. Spelling—and writing—is important for clear communication. It’s an academic skill that crosses over into a life skill for our children. Here are some ways I am teaching spelling with my girls.
Ideas for Teaching Spelling
Dictation is a practice I learned from Bonnie Landry. To do dictation, you sit down with your child, a passage to be copied, a notebook, and a pencil. You read the passage aloud to your child, who copies it down. If your child is learning to write, start with short passages and spell any words your child doesn’t know yet.
We have used dictation with our history program. Connecting with History provides various passages related to the topics we’re studying. The girls copied these passages into their notebooks. When we started, I had to spell nearly every word for the girls. As we progressed through the word, they began spelling simple words like “the” and “and” without my help. Slowly, as we did more dictation, they learned more words.
Because dictation is done one-on-one with your child, you can follow their interests. Your child could copy the lyrics to their favourite song. Nursery rhymes and children’s poetry are also great sources for dictation, as well as Bible verses. You can also use a child’s dictionary to look up words with your child.
We’ve also used workbooks to teach spelling. Because I think it’s so important for my girls to learn how to spell well, I like the structured approach of a workbook. The girls learn words in word families (e.g., catch, watch, hatch) while also learning the somewhat confusing rules of the English language (e.g., i before e except after c…).
For this, we’ve used Catholic Heritage Curricula‘s workbooks. I appreciate their faith-based approach to spelling. They also use word searches, crosswords, and other word games to help kids have fun while doing spelling. And there are ideas for taking the spelling activities outside the workbooks.
Of course, as a word geek, I love word games. My girls also love board games of any sort, so I enjoy sneaking fun into our learning (or learning into our fun). We often play Scrabble Jr. You can also use Scrabble tiles to have your child spell list words, rather than writing them. Other simple games such as Hangman can be fun too.
If your kids enjoy computer games, there are tons of online spelling games. Reading Eggs also offers a Spelling Games app for iPad. You can also find spelling games, ideas and worksheets on Pinterest. Again, follow your child’s interests and pick activities or games that engage them.
Read, Read, Read
Reading is an important part of learning to spell. As children see words in context, they absorb spellings. I encourage my girls to read lots. I also read aloud to them and listen to audiobooks with them. Hearing the words while reading them helps the girls learn spelling and pronunciation.
Spelling in the Real World
Whenever possible, I like to make the girls’ schoolwork applicable to real life. Creating lists of spelling words or playing spelling games is fine, but children still need to understand why this is important.
One way I’ve encouraged them to practice their spelling is by writing letters to friends and family. They enjoy sending letters to their cousins (and of course getting mail back is always exciting too). This blends well with dictation, as I often sit with them to write the letters and spell any words they don’t know (and help them think of what to write beyond “I miss you”).
Both girls have also started diaries. They write in these very sporadically, but its another way for them to practice their spelling. I also encourage them to keep book logs, and to write down the titles of the books they are reading, along with the author and date finished. Any writing we do for other subjects—math, science, history—is a chance to work on spelling. Even mathematicians communicate using words!
This week, the girls have expressed interest in starting their own blogs. Sunshine has been writing short book reviews while Lily prefers to write about herself and her interests. Because I started blogging as a way to encourage myself to write, I see lots of potential in using a blog as way to encourage their writing. I can share their blog with both our homeschool teacher and family members, who can see the girls’ writing and encourage them.
Different Children, Different Spelling
In the end, your methods for teaching spelling should depend upon your child. As I mentioned, spelling has always come easily for me. Teaching Sunshine and Lily over the past two years has shown me how different children learn differently. Sunshine (now in Grade 3) still asks me to spell most of the words she writes. She’s an avid reader, but tends to learn more by sight and memory. Lily is more likely to sit down and write a note without asking for help. She’s also a good reader, and seems better at phonics. I tend to push Sunshine a bit more in her writing.
If something isn’t working with your child, move on. Find another method that does work for your child. And have fun.
For more spelling ideas, drop by the Canadian Homeschooler.
Do you enjoy teaching spelling? Do your children enjoy it or prefer other subjects? What ideas would you suggest for teaching spelling in your homeschool?