Teaching Spelling
Spelling, having been sorely neglected in our homeschool thus far, is becoming more of a focus in our day. I have been going through my materials and am putting together a decent spelling program I thought I would share. If I can get my scanner working, I'll upload pictures of this later.

One of the common methods of teaching spelling in the public school system is through copywork. The student is asked to copy each word five times with the hope that this repitition will set proper spelling in the child's mind. I abandoned this practice early on as it never served to improve anyone's spelling. If you watch a child do this assignment, it is clearly a methodic, routine task done without thought. Children rarely copy each word...they vary what they do to combat boredom, at one time copying all the first letters in a line, and perhaps even doing them out of order.

So, what we are trying to do is develop a routine which emphasizes good spelling, gives time for practice but does not become so routine as to allow my daughter to "turn off" her brain while completing her spelling practice.

The first lesson begins with a pretty faithful following of the spelling program lined out in Writing Road to Reading. I like this because it begins with the spelling rules of English, teaching the principles explicitly. We start with the spelling rule and look at the words as examples of these rules. She copies the word twice using the WRTR markings to help her analyze the construction of the word.

The second lesson, we review the rules and practice spelling. I took a file folder and divide it in three sections. The first says, "Look," the second says, "Write," and the third says, "Check." I cut the front of the folder in these three section so the flaps can fold down and reveal her paper. She copies the word in the "Look" section and studies it. She then closes that flap, opening the "Write" flap. She writes the word from memory. She then checks to see if she got it right and copies the word again in the "Check" section, whether she got it right or not.

The third lesson is a word search. I use my spreadsheet program to type the words in the grid and then add extra letters. Since she is learning to read and the left-right progression of print is still important to continually emphasize, all her words are written in that direction (nothing backwards, etc.) She searches for a word, circles it, crosses it off the list and then copies it on the line underneath. This, too, encourages the child to look at each letter as he searches and then copies.

The fourth lesson is a test. Any word she spells correctly is dropped from the list and we add some to keep the list at 10. Right now, we are just working through the Ayer's list in the back of WRTR and supplementing with words from our studies, particularly if they are related to the spelling rules being studied.

Another good activity which we have not done yet is the word sort. This is generally used as a vocabulary lesson, but I prefer using it in spelling. Right now, we are working on the various jobs of the silent "e," for example. I could take several words, each demonstrating a different job for silent "e." I would then give her a chart with the headings for each job and have her sort the words accordingly. This helps the child recognize common principles in the words being studied and encourages him to apply these principles to words besides those in the spelling list. Since I would use words not just in "the list" for this, it helps show application beyond spelling practice.

Do you have any good tips for teaching spelling to your children? Let us know!

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