First aid for spelling problems : this is how you help your child!


Does your child have trouble with spelling and would you like to help him or her practice? It was long thought that simply reading and copying words would help remember spelling rules. However, a good research shows that this isn't very effective at all. In this blog I explain what spelling problems are and I give you 6 tips to practice spelling at home.

How do children learn spelling?

There are several ways to learn spelling:

  • Read/overwrite words;
  • Choosing the right sound or letter in an open space in the word;
  • Spelling the word orally;
  • See a word for a few seconds, then write it down and then check the spelling.

Which method do you think works best for your child? I'll tell you what has been researched in this area. A research in 1991 shows that the latter method is the most successful for both good and weak spellers. In this way, children copy words, they have to remember and they immediately get a correction for mistakes. In this way, the word is better remembered with the correct spelling. In addition, the sounding of words (cutting the word into sound groups) before you write it down appears to be an effective way.

When does your child have a spelling problem?

Children with spelling problems have difficulty processing language phonologically. This means that they have difficulty linking spoken language to written language. They literally write down what they hear. Do you recognize this in your own child? This is often the cause:

Usually children try to memorize all the words and their spelling 'loosely'. But that's way too much to remember. That is why spelling rules are taught at school to apply to multiple words. Yet children often have trouble remembering (and applying) all spelling rules. Exceptions to a spelling rule, or words for which few or no rules exist are then extra difficult. Would you like to know what exactly is difficult for your child? Then do a spelling test available on then net to get a comprehensive error analysis from a specialist.

If there is no improvement after very intensive practice (e.g. 6 months of intensive practice), or if children score insufficiently on spelling tests for several years in succession, there may be another cause of the spelling problems such as or dysorthography.

Tip 1: practice spelling step by step

Practice with the same rules of school. Often, each teaching method has a glossary of spelling rules that will be covered in that school year. Or ask the teacher which spelling category your child finds difficult.

  • Step 1: Read the word out loud.
  • Step 2: Cover the word with a piece of paper or your hand.
  • Step 3: Chop the word into pieces.
  • Step 4: what is the spelling problem (which spelling rule belongs to it?).
  • Step 5: Write the word.
  • Step 6: check if the word is written correctly.

Tip 2: learn spelling rules

With a spelling rule you can learn to write many words correctly. Children learn spelling rules in class, but new rules are added every year. Often the problem with older children isn't properly applying the spelling rules. Onyou can read how the rules work. For example with knowing, listening and verbs.

Tip 3: make a cheat sheet

It often works well to create a cheat sheet with those rules: Write down or paste the spelling rule as learned in class on a page and write words that belong to this rule. You can use the cheat book when making spelling assignments in order to learn and apply the rules properly.

Tip 4: practice playful

This practice method is for children who have spelling problems, but not necessarily dyslexia. Your child follows a personal learning route, where the spelling rules are treated and explained step by step.

Tip 5: practice dictations

Dictation is a way of spelling that is often used in education. If you want to practice this at home; then focus on the goal of 'practising' words. You have two types of dictations. A practice dictation (aimed at learning the correct way of writing) and a checking dictation (aimed at checking spelling). So focus mainly on practice dictations at home.

Try to practice both visual and aural dictation (so let's see and hear). You first show and hear the word and only then write it down. Then you check together whether it's written correctly.

Tip 6: give constructive criticism

Not being able to spell well doesn't mean your child is stupid. Yet children often feel this way. With a spelling dictation, your performance is very black and white: the word is right or wrong. Therefore, when practicing, focus on what is going well. 'You have written the first words well, take another look at the third word (leave room for improvement).

Also compliment the process.

'You have practiced very hard and put in a lot of effort in this difficult assignment'.
'Yesterday you found this spelling rule difficult, but now you have already written 3 words that belong to it correctly!'

This way you practice spelling together in a positive way!

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