Children have such a diversity of needs—especially when it comes to spelling. If you are wondering when is the best time to start teaching spelling to your child, this post is for you! And since there are no “one size fits all” answers to this question, we’ll explore a wide variety of situations. Let’s dig in!
Before we talk spelling, let’s look at reading for a moment.
Can your child easily read these words?
If those words were easy for your child to read, he’s ready to start spelling instruction. All About Spelling Level 1 is the perfect place to start.
If your child can’t read those words, hold off on spelling lessons until he can read at this basic level. For most kids, spelling comes much more easily after they know how to read. (We’ll discuss a possible exception later in this post.)
For example, in All About Reading Level 1 a number of important reading skills are thoroughly and systematically taught. Students learn the sounds of the phonograms and learn how to blend these sounds into words. They gain phonemic awareness skills like rhyming and alliteration. They learn how words work.
This strong foundation in reading paves the way for an incremental introduction of spelling skills and strategies that help students become successful spellers.
Reading requires decoding. Once a child learns that the phonogram AY always says /ā/, reading words like stay, display, and mayhem is easy. But spelling requires encoding. Consider the sound of /ā/, which can be written as A, AI, EA, A-consonant-E, EIGH, EI, EY, and AY. Can you see why it may be easier for a child to read the word neighbor than it is for him to spell the word neighbor?
Acquiring the skills required to decode words provides the foundation students need to learn to encode words.
This visual memory will enable your child to see when they’ve misspelled something. It also helps determine whether to spell height as height or hite, and how to choose between homophones such as merry, Mary, or marry. Learning to read first provides a “scaffolding” approach to learning spelling.
Before the age of 6 or 7, the bones in a child’s hands are not fully developed. The physical act of writing with narrow pencils can put too much strain on little hands. It’s fine if young children want to do some writing, but we recommend not requiring prolonged writing before this age.
Successful spelling requires a combination of four main spelling strategies—visual, phonetic, rules-based, and morphemic—and reading gives your student a strong start in all four areas.
While you don’t want to start spelling lessons too early, you don’t want to wait too long, either.
This is an important point. Some programs recommend that you delay spelling instruction until the child is in third grade. Assuming your child can read at the basic level, third grade is too long to wait. Here’s why:
Ideally, you should start teaching spelling by the end of first grade. But if your child is older than that, don’t despair! All About Spelling is perfect for older kids as well.
Some kids are actually able to wrap their minds around spelling more easily than reading. These kids are usually very analytical, and some of them have tried to learn to read so many times that they are frustrated with the whole process. Most often, their previous reading programs have let them down and they feel like they’ve hit a wall. But when they start fresh with All About Spelling, it’s like a light bulb goes on.
Instead of trying yet another reading program—and fearing they’ll never be able to read—a fresh start with spelling might be exactly what they need. It’s not normally the way it works, but for some kids, learning to spell actually makes reading easier! We’ve heard from many delighted parents and tutors who report that their students’ reading level increased a couple of grade levels as they worked through All About Spelling. That’s what I like to hear!
We just considered a variety of scenarios, but for the vast majority of students, the answer to “When do I start?” is very simple: If your child can read, it’s the perfect time to begin spelling instruction. Just don’t wait too long!
If you ever have questions about timing and placement for your specific situation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re here to help!
Photo credit: The Unlikely Homeschooler