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How Can I Help With Spelling Tests?

By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator

Question:

My granddaughter is having trouble learning and remembering her spelling words. She continuously gets as many as five out of ten wrong. How can I help her?

Answer:

There are many tips for helping with memorization of spelling words. Step one is to ensure that the phonics base is there and that your granddaughter understands the reason for the spelling of each word. Make sure she is able to sound out the words independently and knows the sound each letter is making. Repetition is the key, yet finding fun ways to make the repetition less cumbersome is the ideal.

The obvious and common methods include writing the words three or five times each. To make this prospect more fun, write on a white board or chalkboard. You can also set up groups to categorize the spelling words. Do this based on a phonetic sound: "short a words" or "words with a magic/silent e."

Another fun method is to write the words on index cards, cut them up into individual letters, and then try to put them back together like a puzzle. Some students learn well by spelling the words out loud. She can even do this with a ball and bounce the ball as she spells, or she can spell the words into a tape recorder and then listen back to her voice to review them. It is important to practice the spelling words continuously throughout the week and to take a practice test at home before the real test in school.

Finally, if you continue to find that spelling is a challenge, it is worth discussing with the classroom teacher and perhaps consulting a specialist. There are certainly learning disabilities that make spelling increasingly challenging (like dyslexia), and there are specific strategies to help children with those needs.


Allison Gardenswartz is the founder of a San Diego tutoring center specializing in gifted and remedial learning and test preparation studies. An educator for over 15 years, Allison is an expert in identifying and enhancing the learning abilities of school-age children. Allison now fully devotes her time to parent education, consulting and college counseling. Allison has a teaching credential and has taught for several years in various public school systems. She has three children: Jacob, 11, Sofia, 7, and newly adopted Ryan, who is 3.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

09/17/2008:
"I must take issue with what the article did and did not state. Good spellers are born that way. Typically they are interested in words and puzzles. Those that were not born with the knack for spelling can learn some strategies. The first , and most important strategy is knowing you do not know how to spell a word and knowing how to find out the correct spelling. Try doing things to connect with different parts of the brain: Sing the spelling pattern Use different colors for the ie vs ei, vowels, or other rules Make a dance like the YMCA song Associate the words with specific people (double m words with Mommy, dy words with Daddy, ow words with cousin Howie, etc) So many more ways, so little time...Just don't, please don't, make a child copy words over and over."
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