Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Making spelling fun

Making spelling fun

Ways for you and your children to enjoy spelling together and so help improve your children's spelling skills.
The English language is spoken by people all over the world but it's not an easy language to spell correctly. There are far too many exceptions to the rules. But there is one rule that has no exceptions - children learn far more quickly and easily if they are enjoying themselves. So the most important thing to bear in mind when helping your child with their spelling is to have fun together.
The National Literacy Strategy identifies the words that children need to be familiar with if they are able to make sense of the books they read. All schools are aware of these words and will focus on them. In addition, nearly every school will give children lists of words to learn to help them become better at spelling. However, many of these words do not follow a regular pattern and others can be easily confused, eg. write and right. Therefore, it's important to find ways of helping children to understand how to spell them accurately.

What you can do as parents
You have a real part to play in supporting the work being done by schools in teaching spelling. Teachers can introduce children to new words and show them how to remember how these words are spelled, but there's only so much time they can spend on this. You can make a difference to your child's spelling by taking the trouble at home to reinforce the work being done in the classroom.
But how do you do this well? Many people will think back to their school days and remember being drilled in rules such as 'i before e except after c' and so on. These rules still have a crucial role to play but they don't give the complete answer. Neither does getting children to memorise lists of words without trying to look for patterns or meanings. What children actually need is to be given a series of strategies that will help them to make sense of spelling. This leaflet gives you some useful ideas and tips that will do just that.
The most important thing to do
Ø Encourage your child to attempt to spell new words and praise their efforts. Don't just point out their mistakes, first tell your child what he or she got right in their attempt, before helping them to make corrections. And never just spell words for them.
Ø Encourage your child to try spelling the word in parts, by breaking it up into syllables and sounding it out. Look for compound words, (eg. flowerpot, newspaper), prefixes (eg. antisocial, unhappy) and root words (bene - beneficial).
Ø As for those school spelling lists, there are two good ways to study them. One is the 'look, spell, see, write, check, write' method. The other is the 'look, say, cover, write, check' method. Both are useful ways of helping your child remember new or difficult words.
`Look, spell, see, write, check, write' method
First, get your child to look at the word and read it aloud. Second, have them spell the word out loud. Now ask them to look carefully at the word, trying to picture it in their mind, and then tell them to close their eyes and 'see' the word. Now have them 'write' the word from memory, check it for accuracy, and write the word two more times. Writing the word down three times helps to fix it in the memory.
`Look, say, cover, write, check' method
Here your child looks at the word and then says it out loud. Then the word is covered and your child writes it down from memory. When they've done this, they check to see if they have spelled the word correctly.
Tips for helping younger children
with their spelling
· Have your child write the words they have to learn in ABC order.
· Give your child some coloured crayons and paper. Tell them that you want to turn their spelling words into beautiful rainbow words. Let them write their spelling words with a crayon. When they have done this, go over each word again using a crayon in another colour. Now go over each word once more with another colour. (Do not use black or brown crayons.) By the time they have made a rainbow word with the different colours, the repetition will have helped them learn how to spell it. A variation of this activity is to write the words with coloured chalk on black paper.
· Write each spelling word on two index cards and play a matching game together.
· Let your child use their finger to write the words on your back and then try to guess what word they have written. Now reverse the process.
· Take turns to write the words in the air and see if you can read what each other has written.
· Have fun together by finding unusual places and ways to write the words. For example, try writing the words in sand, whipped cream, shaving foam, in bubbly bathPlay the 'plasticine writing challenge'. Flatten a piece of plasticine and use a pencil to 'write' a spelling word in it. Now look at the word together and note any patterns, eg. 'might' has a silent 'gh'. After a while, smooth over the plasticine and challenge your child to write the word from memory.
· Encourage your child to draw pictures of their spelling words and to write the word underneath it.
· Give your child a newspaper, magazine or comic and see if they can find their spelling words.
· Cut a picture from a newspaper or a magazine and encourage your child to use their spelling words to write a sentence or story about the picture.
· Make your own flashcards to study and review the spelling words with your child.
Spelling strategies for older children

Colour blends
Have your child write down their spelling words. Ask them to colour all the short vowels yellow, the long vowels blue and all the blends green.
A race against time
Take the role of quizmaster and set your child a time limit for the completion of each of the following activities and award points for each correct answer.
· Write each word five times.
· Write the words in alphabetical order.
· Write the plural of each word.
· Write the opposite of each word.
· Write a sentence using each word. See if your child can write a sentence with two or more spelling words. Award a point for each word he or she uses.
· Finally, cover up the words and test your child to see how many of the words he or she can spell correctly.
When your child has learned their spelling words and is confident they know them, write them down in a scrambled fashion and set your child the challenge of unscrambling them again, eg. denlysud = suddenly.
Crossword puzzles
Work together with your child to create a crossword puzzle using the spelling words.
Word search
Make a word search using the spelling words and ask your child to do the same. When you have both finished making your word search, swap them over and see if you can find the hidden words.
Let your child use Scrabble tiles to spell the words. Then ask them to add up the score for each word. Which word is worth the most points? The least? When you have done this, why not play a proper game of Scrabble? It's an excellent game to play as it really makes you focus on words and how to spell them.
Shannon's game
This game is rather like Hangman except that the letters have to be guessed in sequence, eg.
Start by writing the first letter of a word. Then put down dashes to represent the other letters. Let your child have five guesses (or ten if they are not confident) for the next letter. If he or she doesn't guess correctly, put the letter in for them and go on to the next. Continue until the whole word is completed. As an extra prompt for guessing letters, it may help water or on the condensation on a bathroom mirror.your child to have the alphabet written out in front of them. As your child gradually grows in confidence, you can begin to cut down the number of guesses they are allowed.

Word hunt
Give your child a dictionary. Then read out the words they have to learn to spell. Now see how quickly they can find these words in the dictionary.
Another good way of engaging your child's interest is to set them a challenge of some kind, which involves them working with letters.
Take a letter
For a real challenge, have your child use the letters of the spelling words to make sentences. For example, the word 'young' could become 'yellow otters understand nuclear gadgets'.
A skeleton story
Explain to your child that the spelling words are going to form the 'skeleton' or framework on which they will construct a story. For example, if they had the following ten words: traveller, storm, castle, dwarf, candle, stairs, bed, shadow, scream, breakfast - they could use them to make up a story like this.
The weary traveller was caught in a terrible storm. Then, in a bright flash of lightning he saw a gloomy castle. He ran to it and knocked on the door. The door creaked open but there was no one there. Then the man looked down and saw a dwarf holding a candle. The creature told the man to follow him and led the way up some rickety stairs. They walked into a small room containing a four-poster bed. Cobwebs covered the pillow but the man was so tired he soon fell into a fitful sleep. Then something woke him. He opened his eyes and saw a huge shadow on the wall. He gave a terrified scream but then saw it was made by the dwarf who said, 'Sorry to disturb you but I forgot to ask what you want for your breakfast.'

How to remember spellings
It is true that we remember what we want to remember. It is also right that practice is vital for memory and that the easiest things to remember are those we have found out for ourselves. So you need to remember these points when helping your children to remember their spellings.
However, it's a fact of life that we tend to remember best the things we have just learned. So don't be surprised or cross if your child forgets how to spell most of the words you worked so hard on together the week before. Just build in some time to look at these words again.

Using mnemonics
An effective way of remembering how to spell words is to use mnemonics. A mnemonic is really a trick that jogs the memory. When your child has a spelling to learn that he or she can't seem to grasp then making up a mnemonic together may be the answer. For instance, if they were struggling with the word 'weight', which does not match the 'i before e except after c' rule, then the mnemonic 'What's the weight of eight people?' might help them. Another mnemonic could take each letter of the word weight and make a simple sentence with them -'Which elephant is going home tonight?' Making up mnemonics with your child is fun and allows them to find enjoyable, creative solutions to remembering hard spellings. Here are some other examples of mnemonics you could use with your child.
· Piece - I would like a piece of pie.
· Believe - Never believe a lie.
· Separate has a rat in it.
· Build - U and I build a house.
· Because - Big elephants can't always understand small elephants.
· Miserable - A miser is always miserable.
· Bicycle - Don't ride your bicycle in icy weather.
· Hear - has an ear in it.

Key things to remember when helping your child with spellings
1 Practice makes perfect.
Practice only makes perfect if you're practising it right. Each time your child spells a word wrongly, they're 'practising' the wrong spelling.

2 Don't try to learn all the words on a spelling list at once.
Even if your child wants to learn them all in one sitting, encourage them to practise a few at a time. Find out what works best for them - it may be one or two words or as many as three or four. Each time they learn another word, go back and practise the ones they've learned before it, because practice makes perfect.

3 Review the words they know.
If your child already knows some of the words on the list, have them practise them once or twice each before you start tackling the ones they don't know yet - it will help boost their confidence.

4 Encourage your child to use the words they've practised.
That's the reason for learning them in the first place. Words learned on their own are soon forgotten. So encourage him or her to keep a notebook containing all the words they've learned to spell. This will be their personal dictionary and they will be more likely to use it than a conventional one. Let your child write sentences and stories using these words. They can look the words up in their notebook to make sure they're still spelling them correctly. Besides, using them is practising them and, as we all know, practice makes perfect.

content from http://www.scotby.cumbria.sch.uk/Early%20Learning/parental%20Advice%20Leaflets/making%20spelling%20fun.doc

Hi, I've just discovered your website, and it's great. Thanks. We are a waldorf (mostly) homeschooling family of 4 in Marlborough, keen for other NZ contacts.
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