What can a parent do to help improve his/her child's spelling?
You've probably guessed this by now, but some people are natural spellers, and some people are not. The good news is that spelling is not an indicator of intelligence. Many parents have told me that their child is a poor speller and it drives them crazy. More good news: tests like the NJSLA don't take points off for poor spelling unless written answers are unreadable. However, when students have spelling errors in their writing, it does take away from the reader's enjoyment of the piece.
There is no “magic bullet” to improve someone's spelling. However, here are a few tips that you can do at home:
Whenever your child is proofreading a piece he has written for school, have him circle any word that looks misspelled or that he is not sure of. After looking at the whole piece, have him look up the words in a dictionary (hard copy or virtual), use a hand-held spell checker, or ask an adult. While he fixes the spelling in his draft, he should also be maintaining a personal spelling list (a notebook would help). He should work on 5 – 7 words per week. Have him use a lined piece of paper with three columns drawn. He should copy down the words from the personal spelling list and PRINT the words, so all the letters are apparent. Your child should read the first word, say it, spell the word to himself, and touch each letter with his pencil, saying the letter. He should close his eyes and see the word in his mind, saying each of the individual letters again. After doing this for all the words, have the student take a break. Then have him come back, cover up the spellings, and print the word in the second column. If the word is correct, put a star in the third column. If the word is incorrect, circle the part of the word that is misspelled, repeat the above process, and print the word in the third column. (Taken from In the Middle by Nancy Atwell.)
If your child is a tactile learner, make felt letters and use them. If you can handle it, get finger paint to practice with, or clay. Get a keyboarding program for your child. The faster she learns to keyboard, the better! Spell check is not perfect, but it certainly is a good tool. We do have a word study program at school to show patterns, homonyms, and a variety of roots, prefixes, and suffixes.