Helping your Learner with Spelling
Often students with dyslexia or other learning problems
seem to get to a point where their spelling progress slows
or plateaus. If this sounds like your student, don't become
overly worried and don't personalize your student's failure.
Even college graduates with dyslexia have a difficult time
with spelling, and many always will. In spite of other academic
achievements some students hit a brick wall when it comes
to spelling. Many of our tutors and students are familiar
with this brick wall. If this describes you, don't wring
your hands in frustration. There are coping strategies.
First, make sure your student has a good grasp of phonics
skills. Teach phonics with words that are relevant to your
student. For instance you might teach long vowel sounds to
a rancher using words like hay, rake, seed, etc.
Second, teach your student to break the word down into single
syllables or chunks. Chunking a word can make it much easier
to remember. A good example of this is phone numbers, which
we remember in 2 chunks; the prefix and the four-digit extension.
Third, concentrate your energies on what is possible, rather
than what might not be possible. Many students may not become
adept at spelling, but they can develop compensating behaviors.
For example, you and your student can develop a personal
dictionary. This can be done a number of ways. We have a
great handbook called Quick-Word here in the office. Your
student is welcome to have one of these helpful books, which
allows the student to record their most frequently used words
alphabetically for easy reference. If the number of words
needed is small enough, a 3 X 5 card can be used to record
the words for easy reference. Some students laminate their
card and carry it around in their pocket or wallet. This
technique can be especially helpful for words used when filling
out work applications or for words needed frequently in the
Another tool that can be useful is a pocket speller or the
spell checker on a word processor. Spell checkers are not
only an excellent tool for correcting spelling, but actually
teach and reinforce proper spelling. Students who haven't
made much progress with word drills often do well on a computer.
Pocket spellers can be purchased for a reasonable fee at
Radio Shack and other electronics stores. We are currently
working on a grant to purchase several models of spell checkers
for trial use by the students. We will keep you posted on
It might be wise to switch emphasis if your student is faltering
and becoming overly discouraged. Minimize spelling exercises
and concentrate on areas where it is possible for your student
to develop strengths. Focus on reading comprehension, vocabulary,
and especially reading for pleasure and meaning. You can
also allow your students to write their ideas, thoughts,
and feelings, with you available to serve as a spelling editor.
Your student may never become a skilled speller, but you
have achieved a measure of success when your student can
begin to read to their children, enjoy a novel, or complete
an application correctly, with or without a "cheat" card.
Good luck, spellers and "non-spelrz!"
--taken from 3rd Qtr. 1996 Words
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