Children have such a variety of needs—especially when it comes to spelling. You want to get it right, so naturally you have questions about the right time to start spelling instruction.
When is the right time to start spelling?
My 12-year-old is struggling … where do I start?
My child is five, but he’s reading … is it too soon to start?
Since everyone’s situation is unique, you may have guessed that there are no “one size fits all” answers.
But these are all great questions that deserve a response. I’ll do my best to answer them here, but if you ever have questions about timing and placement, please pick up the phone and call us, or shoot us an email.
Here are recommendations concerning some more specific situations:
There are three main reasons to delay spelling instruction until after the child has begun reading. Here’s the rationale:
For example, in All About Reading Level 1 a number of important reading skills are thoroughly and systematically taught. Students review the first sound for each phonogram and learn how to blend these sounds into words. They hone their reading ability with phonemic awareness skills like rhyming and alliteration. And they gradually add additional phonogram sounds.
When students are ready for spelling instruction, the first steps in All About Spelling Level 1 quickly review these crucial reading skills, and then build on these concepts. A 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/. It can be written as a, ai, ea, a-consonant-e, eigh, ei, ey, or 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.
Reading helps a child establish a visual memory of many words, which acts as one of the first “rungs” in the scaffolding process. But spelling isn’t just visual, and relying on visual strategies alone is overwhelming for most kids. Successful spelling requires a combination of four main spelling strategies—visual, phonetic, rules-based, and morphemic. Building a strong reading foundation strengthens this core strategy and better prepares your child for spelling success.
This is an important point. Some programs recommend that you don’t start spelling instruction until the child is in third grade.
That is too long to wait. Here’s why:
Ideally, you want to 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. I’ve noticed that these kids are usually very analytical, and some of them have tried to learn to read so many times that they are just 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 that they’ll never be able to read—they have a fresh start with spelling, and everything begins to make sense. 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.
Do you have questions about the right time to start spelling instruction? When did you start teaching spelling in your homeschool? Comment below!
Photo credit: The Unlikely Homeschooler