As we sat around the evaluation table with homeschooling families this summer, great questions surfaced.
"What about spelling?"
A common question with several potential right answers dependent upon educational philosophy, age, ability, and learning style.
In other words, as evaluators, we have seen many methods and curricula produce excellent spellers.
There is no right answer to this question.
There are options.
- Purchase a traditional, grade-leveled spelling curriculum. This is the first answer which comes to mind for most parents. Easy-peasy. Buy the curriculum. Done. Works well for some children and parents, alike.
- Choose high-interest or frequently used words. This method takes a bit more work, but is pleasantly effective. It works well for active, hands-on learners as well as learners with interests which saturate their days (like the fisherman who sees a need to spell the words bait, tackle, license, trout, shrimp, brackish, hook, sinker, shore, catch, freshwater, captain, salmon, carp, permit, marsh, or wade). Words of interest often return the greatest reward because there is a motivation to spelling--an email to Grandma, a note to the bait-n-tackle owner, a request to write an article for publication.
- Use objects of interest. Another wonderful option for hands-on, engrossed-in-an-interest learner. Using Dolch words, commonly misspelled words, or interest-based words, learners can use objects (think acorns, Matchbox cars, cereal and sand boxes) to spell. Stickers and foam letters make great teaching tools as well.
Play a game. My children enjoy engaging games. Games add spark to learning. When there is a less-than-favorite subject to learn--spelling is one in our house--I pull out Scrabble or Banana Grams. Making games can be fun, too!
- Compile a "I want to learn these!" list. Where there is intrinsic motivation, retention is not far behind. Whether learning a new skill or reading a book with intriguing vocabulary there are likely words the child wants to know. Use the words of interest to compile a "I want to learn these!" list, place it in a notebook, and whittle away at it each week.
- Use "commonly misspelled words" lists. This point has a few options. One option is to compare commonly misspelled words lists at a given level and find the most often cited misspelled words. The second option is to look over the learner's writing samples and compile a list of personal misspellings.
- Middle school lists abound. Info Please offers a compilation as does John Burroughs Middle School.
At the high school level consider the list David Skwire and Harvey S. Wiener compiled in Student's Book of College English posted on the Capital Community College website or Oxford Dictionaries list of common misspellings.
Though cliche, it is often true of learning
variety is the spice of life.
The truth is, classroom and home educators have used a combination of the above possibilities and been highly successful at teaching children this often dreaded and difficult skill: SPELLING.
There is not a tried-and-true method. Each child receives, stores, and retrieves information differently, especially with spelling.
Hence a individualized path is often necessary for the greatest retention.
And often, spelling which is intentional, real and relational is remembered.
Make. Every. Moment. Matter.