Listening to conversations between parents and teachers, it’s not uncommon to hear variations on the following theme:
“Oh, I know Sarah’s spelling is rubbish – I was terrible at spelling as a kid and she takes after me, I’m afraid!”
While this kind of thinking reassures children that not everyone finds spelling easy, it can also be an easy way out. When children think they’re not good at spelling, it becomes much easier to make more mistakes and blame it on the fact that “I’m just not very good at spelling”.
As all parents and teachers know, from a young age, children will watch their parents and other adults around them and will mimic them. Children often ‘inherit’ fears from their parents by seeing how they react to certain stimuli – a child who sees their parent begin to panic when a spider appears will also start to associate spiders with panic. In a similar vein, children who hear their parents say they are unable to spell will also start modelling that behaviour.
How you can support your child
Even if you’re not very confident with spelling, it doesn’t mean your children have to find it hard. There are plenty of things you can do at home to help them.
- Read lots at home. The more you read to your children, the more familiar they become with language. These words become recognisable and children are able to see when something doesn’t look quite right.
- Practise spellings with joined up writing. Schools encourage joined up writing because of muscle memory. When you’ve practised writing a word, it becomes automatic because your muscle memory remembers the movement and the shape of the word.
- Make sure your children know what the word means – give it context. If you’re asked to memorise a random nine digit number, you’re likely to find it hard because it doesn’t mean anything. If a child is asked to spell “yacht” (currently on the Year 5/6 common exception word list) but doesn’t know how to pronounce it or what it is, they’re just being asked to remember a series of five random letters.
- Look at where the word has come from and link it to other words. A child who is struggling to spell “medicine” may benefit from identifying that it has the same root word as “medic” or “medical” – suddenly that ‘ic’ in “medicine” makes a lot more sense!
- Add illustrations to letters to make them memorable. Turn the word “sheep” into a picture – your child may find it easier to remember a picture than a string of letters.
- Say the word how it looks. We know that the word “friend” is pronounced “frend”, but why not say it “fry-end” as you’re writing it? Just make sure you link “fry-end” to “friend”!
Children prefer to learn in different ways and as their parent, you are best placed to know how to help them. You know what motivates your child and can turn their favourite activities into learning opportunities.
Article by Emma from DoodleEnglish.