March 19, 2009

How do you spell homeschool? Is that one word or two?

My friend Christy called today with a homeschooling question: Spelling. Her 12-year-old would like to be a better speller, but he just can't seem to remember some of those pesky blends like "is it ir or er?" They are working on words he routinely misspells, but she says he just can't get it and is very frustrated.

I told her not to worry too much, since he loves to read and reads all the time, but if he truly wants to work on his spelling, here's an interest-led opportunity! I had some basic suggestions from my bookshelf:

Spelling Power and the accompanying practice notebooks

We have gotten a lot of good out of this book, off and on, over the years. It covers spelling instruction for grades k-12, and is not consumable, so every kid in your family can use it for all 12 years of schooling. Very practical. The child takes a placement test which tells you where to start them in the book (if more than one child is using it at a time, mark their places with different colored post-it notes). They practice a list until they pass it and then move on to the next one. The book offers spelling practice suggestions, so it's easy to assign things or let your child feel the thrill of accomplishment by racing through the lists. But I wouldn't force feed this. Only do it if they like it and it helps.

I like The Natural Spellerby Kathryn L. Stout because it's a bare bones, grade by grade outline of a public school curriculum. Not a lot of lists, like Spelling Power,but it has all the rules and ideas to teach spelling k-12.

Then I thought, with all the things online now, surely you can teach spelling without buying books! So first I went to my techie friend who posts weekly about great learning sites and did a search for spelling. Sure enough, TopsyTechie had a Friday Hardwired Hit all about Spelling. I especially liked her link to Spelling City. Just enter your list and then choose "teach me, "test me," or "play a game." And at Skillswise you can pick a spelling concept to learn more about and practice with online games.

I also found a site called Basic Spelling Rules that has it boiled down to eight rules with online practice tests. And a site with spelling lists. This Internet thing sure comes in handy.

But a word of caution, especially for us methodical types. Sometimes we can make spelling too complicated and kill the joy of learning. I took an English pronunciation class when I was pursuing a masters in Teaching English as a Second Language (but didn't finish). The teacher had a whole system worked out for when to pronounce things a certain way, based on the spelling. It was so intricate, I felt sorry for the nonEnglish speakers who had to learn it!

If your child wants to learn spelling rules, let him, but being exposed to correct spelling through plain old reading will do the same thing in the long run.

What online spelling resources do your kids enjoy?


Unknown said...

Great spelling advice! Thank you for your assistance on the phone. It is such a help to talk specifically over issues.

Heather said...

y kids LOVE spelling City (they even set my son up with an account.) When they REALLY want to learn they do set out to get it. My middle child loves to read and goes around spelling everything she says so she learns them. My oldest does not naturally grasp spellings but will come to me and ask or use a spell checker--which is how both my husband and I learned to spell--when a spell checker tells you you spelled "their" wrong for the thousandth time you WILL get it. And my oldest, who never even intuitively sounded out to spell--she is finally doing it and getting it--because she WANTS to spell things right (she is 11.)

Penny said...

We love spelling city too! It makes it so fun and easy.

SiouxGeonz said...

_How to Teach Spelling_ by Rudginsky is one of my favorite resources for kiddos who struggle with spelling.

JoVE said...

Also there is that perennial give yourself (and hte kid) a break. Some people are naturally good spellers. Others always need to look stuff up. their whole life. This is just the way it is.

Seems to me that the really important skill is being able to recognize what you have misspelled so you can look it up. I knew someone in college who had a system for this as she wrote. She used squiggely (a word I apparently can't spell) lines to underline stuff she though might be misspelled as she went so she didn't break her flow. Then went through and looked all of them up.

Also, as with lots of things, practice improves. I do not mean drill (I never mean drill) but just the normal practice of reading and writing. Over time, more stuff will stick. People live for over 70 years these days. You don't have to be a perfect speller by 10.

Jena said...

Great points everyone. JoVe, you're right--the whole mastery by a certain age thing is ridiculous. We are in process our whole lives. Exposure is the key, like you said, knowing what doesn't look right and knowing how to look it up. Spell-checker is a great invention. I know it's really helped Meg. Heather--I'm laughing about finally getting "their." You're so right.

JoVE said...

Oh and you might like this post from a writer friend of mine, about the Grammar Police and the Grammar Mafia.

Traci said...

We use Spelling City a lot too. Emma loves the games. I was one class away from having a (would have been) third major in ESL!

Lisa said...

This is my first time visiting your blog (any my first year homeschooling my 2 daughters 5&7. Wow!!! What a resource you are. It's so nice to find someone with so much experience that is willing to share it. Thank you for that.

Unknown said...

I am going to use some of the online sources with my adult ESL students. They are always looking for rules to follow. Thanks Jena.

kw said...

Thanks for this great post! We are just starting with learning to read and how to spell. This post has been really helpful, thanks!

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