by Janny Jackson
I am SO EXCITED to be sharing this little “aha” moment with you!
To give you some background on our spelling struggles…
My son went to VPK and did half of a public school kindergarten year, before the pandemic shut the world down. You can read more about that here From Burden to Blossoming: Our Homeschool Story
While in public school he learned to read using sight words. Which was somewhat effective for reading, but in my opinion, I believe it hindered his ability to spell correctly.
I started officially homeschooling him for first grade, and while I noticed he was having some problems with spelling, I just attributed it to his age and grade level, no big deal.
But last year, for his second grade year, I started to realize he just wasn’t getting it. He would go to spell simple words like “of” and would spell it “ov”. His attempt at trying to spell words using the sounds he heard, almost always (and that’s not an exaggeration) would result in him completely misspelling the word, or just leaving letters out.
I had tried SO MANY different ways to try to help him, and nothing had helped him, long term, to be able to remember how to spell common words.
I will say this, I could be wrong about the correlation between sight words and spelling. It could be that he just wasn’t ready developmentally to get it. And that can be true for any kid with any subject. Sometimes difficulty with a subject will resolve itself over time and repetition.
BUT regardless, we were having a hard time. Until THIS.
For his second grade year we used The Good and The Beautiful Language Arts which assigned spelling words and used different exercises to help with spelling, such as a sand tray, or writing with a dry erase marker on the window, or doing movements while spelling, and of course repetition with writing and spelling aloud. None of these helped him remember the spelling of the words when it came time for me to quiz him.
The curriculum did do something that helped me come up with this idea. In teaching certain concepts, it would separate the word by syllables. Remembering that, and the realization that he wasn’t able to properly break down words to remember their spelling, I came up with this.
A lot of words are hard to spell because the sounds that we hear don’t match up to the actual spelling of the word (English is fun), and that is exactly what was tripping my son up. So instead of focusing on just repetition, I did that AND broke down the word by the SOUNDS. (This is in no way the “correct” way to break the words down by sound, but it’s how I did it.)
This was absolutely mind blowing and world changing for us!
THIS is why we homeschool. In the public school system, he would’ve been left behind, and left to struggle as the rest of the class moved on.
His ability to spell his spelling words correctly literally improved overnight. Having started this method, the spelling of his words had just stuck. By the end of that unit he had 18 spelling words, and was able to spell all but one correct, which had never happened before (again, that’s not an exaggeration).
This is what has worked for my son, and has since improved his spelling greatly in all of his writing. It has been incredibly impressive to see, and worth so much celebration.
We did a dictation passage today for one of his subjects, which has always made me cringe (to myself) a bit because of his spelling, but he only made a few minor mistakes today that were easily fixable, versus writing something I could hardly read.
Side note, I taught my daughter how to read by learning the sounds of letters first, and she was able to learn to read quicker than her older brother, and is able to break words down more effectively and spell better too.
Could that be a coincidence? Or maybe a difference in personality or learning style? Maybe. Either way, this has brought HUGE success to a long time struggle.
Do you have a struggling speller? I hope this idea helps. Or if you tried something else with your learner, I would love to know what technique worked best for you!
And, as always, thanks for being here!