Tip From: Susan Bubp, Adult Learner Services Mentor

Many of our students struggle with spelling issues; they are frustrated by their inability to spell even the simplest words. Although many of them will never become expert spellers, we can help them to feel that they have a better understanding of the complexities of English spelling by following some of these excellent suggestions found on LD Online.

  • Provide systematic phonics instruction that incorporates teaching of phonemic awareness. Although this kind of instruction alone will not be enough to make students flawless spellers, phonemic awareness and phonics knowledge form an essential base for accurate spelling in English.
  • Teach common irregular words from the earliest stages of spelling. It is virtually impossible to generate a complete sentence without common irregular words such as of, what, and were. Therefore, it is important to begin teaching these kinds of words early, as one part of a more comprehensive spelling program. Multisensory techniques involving repeated tracing and saying of words can be especially helpful for introducing irregular words.
  • Teach useful spelling rules. Although many English words do not conform to consistent rules, some generalizations are very helpful to students, such as rules for adding endings to words with a silent e (make, making) or to closed syllables that end in a single consonant (sit, sitting).
  • Teach spelling of important grade-appropriate words. Because many English words cannot be spelled solely through the use of rules or phonics knowledge, spelling instruction also should include studying a corpus of important words needed for accurate spelling at each grade level.
  • Emphasize activities that involve writing or building printed words with letter tiles, not oral spelling. Oral spelling activities, such as traditional spelling bees, usually are not as effective as activities that require children to look carefully at the printed word.
    Encourage students to use knowledge about root words and relationships among words to help them spell new words. Even when they possess this kind of knowledge, students will not always apply it spontaneously. It is very helpful to point out relationships among words and to illustrate how knowing the spelling of one word facilitates spelling of related words, as in the colony-colonist example.
  • Encourage independent reading to increase exposure to printed words. Independent reading cannot substitute for direct spelling instruction, but it can help to promote spelling knowledge–and of course, it is valuable for many other reasons as well.
  • Teach student show to use a computer spell-checker. Like independent reading, spell-checkers are not a substitute for explicit spelling instruction from a knowledgeable teacher. Also, students need some phonics knowledge in order to use spell-checkers effectively. Nevertheless, spell-checkers can be enormously helpful to struggling spellers and writers.