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How to Handle Spelling Mistakes

Here’s a fact: Your child is going to make an occasional spelling mistake.

The question is: How will you handle these mistakes?

Now is the perfect time to think through the answer to this question—because the way you handle errors can make a huge difference in your child’s ability and confidence. So let’s dig in!

Right off the bat, I’d like to share my “thought filter” for dealing with spelling mistakes.

flow chart showing when to correct spelling mistakes

As you can see from the graphic above, there are really just two scenarios you need to be concerned with. First let’s zoom in on how to handle errors made during spelling lessons.

How to Handle Spelling Mistakes Made During a Lesson

When you’re in the middle of a spelling lesson, a mistake may seem like a reason for concern. But, in fact, every spelling mistake is a chance for your child to learn.

  1. Ask your student to carefully read exactly what she has written down.
    Often, she will be able to see and correct her own error.

  2. Determine the cause of the spelling mistake.
    For example, perhaps your child left out a sound or added an extra one, or perhaps she didn’t apply a rule, made a visual error, or forgot to think through syllables or root words. Talk through the reasons the word is misspelled. Doing this will help the correct spelling make more sense to her than if you simply correct the mistake without explanation. If you need to review a phonogram or a rule, now is the time to do it.

    It’s important to keep those spelling rules fresh in your child’s mind!

    • Demonstrate the rule by writing it out or using the letter tiles to spell the troublesome word correctly and explaining how the rule applies.
    • Have your child spell other words that follow the same rule or generalization.
    • Be sure to revisit that rule several times over the next few days until your student demonstrates mastery of it.
  3. Have your student spell the word again.
    First have her spell the word with the letter tiles and then once again on paper.

  4. Add the word to your child’s spelling review box.
    Leave the word in the review box until your child can spell it quickly and easily. Regular review of challenging words allows ample opportunity for the correct spelling pattern to be ingrained in your student’s mind.

If your child misspells many words during spelling lessons, that’s a sign that you should slow down the pacing of your lessons. You want to make sure she masters the current spelling patterns before you add more.

mom penguin correcting a child's spelling mistake

Outside of spelling lessons, it’s a different scenario. Read on to find out how to handle those types of spelling errors.

How to Handle Spelling Mistakes Made Outside of a Lesson

When your child is writing during free-writing time or completing assignments for other classes …

  • she isn’t working with a controlled word list but is probably using words that contain concepts she hasn’t learned yet.
  • you aren’t watching her write out each word.
  • you don’t want her to limit her word choices to avoid being corrected. Instead you want to encourage creativity and freedom.

So we need a different approach for misspellings that occur outside of spelling lessons. This two-step process will help.

  1. If you have already covered the spelling concepts related to the misspelled word, don’t rush to correct the word.
    Instead, write yourself a private note to review those concepts during your next spelling lesson.

  2. This is really hard for some parents, but once you’ve written your note, ignore the spelling mistake!
    Don’t mark up your child’s paper with spelling corrections, and don’t require her to correct it.

Note that you will be holding your student responsible for writing words correctly if they include concepts you have already taught, but at this stage, when the mistake is made outside of the spelling lessons, you won’t be stopping everything and making her rewrite. Wait until the next spelling lesson to review the related concepts.

Download the “How to Correct Spelling Mistakes” Quick Guide

You may want to download our “cheat sheet” and tuck it into your teacher’s manual for a visual reminder of the two main ways to handle misspellings.

learn how to handle spelling mistakes

Still have questions about correcting your child’s spelling errors? Here are a few more tips!

Common Questions about Misspellings

“My child looks to me for feedback as he spells. What should I do?”

When you dictate spelling words and sentences, don’t watch your child spell the word! Wait until he says he is finished spelling before you look. Otherwise, some kids learn to watch your facial expression to see if they are on the right track.

“Will the improper spelling become imprinted?”

One school of thought suggests that children should never see an incorrectly spelled word for fear that the misspelling will get imprinted on your child’s mind. The idea is that if a child begins to choose the wrong letter, you should correct the error right away so that the child never sees or writes a word incorrectly.

But there’s a flaw in this reasoning: when your child makes a mistake, he already thinks he’s writing the correct answer, which means he already has the incorrect spelling in his mind. Simply correcting his mistake and moving on may not accomplish the learning you hope it will. Worse yet, when you rush to correct your child’s spelling, it undermines his judgment.

You want your child to learn to trust his own ability to identify and correct mistakes. But when you correct your child prematurely, he learns to doubt his own judgment instead. He also learns that he can rely on outside correction, eliminating the need to internalize rules, patterns, and other spelling strategies.

This is exactly the opposite of what you want your child to do.

“Why should students re-read what they’ve written?”

When you give your child the opportunity to recognize and correct his own errors, you’ll be able to more clearly determine what your child actually knows and understands. You may think he has mastered a rule or pattern, but when you observe that he isn’t able to correct an error involving that pattern, it reveals a gap in his understanding.

When given the chance, kids can often identify and correct their own mistakes. In fact, self-correction is much more effective than outside correction in helping kids master correct spelling for future encounters with a difficult word or pattern.

And think about it: it’s pretty annoying to be corrected for something you know but didn’t have a chance to fix on your own, isn’t it? It’s much more satisfying to be able to fix your own mistakes without being micromanaged.

“In spelling class, how long do you wait to correct a misspelling?”

When you are dictating spelling words, work with your child to correct any misspellings right after your child lets you know that he has finished spelling the word and is ready for you to look at it.

When you are dictating sentences, allow him to finish the entire sentence before correcting spelling errors. Ideally, check each sentence after it has been written. Don’t wait until the next class to check his work.

Wouldn’t it be nice if spelling wasn’t difficult? Download my free report, “6 Ways We Make Spelling Easy,” and discover how the All About Spelling program takes the struggle out of spelling.

Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy Report

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Grace Atieno

says:

Interesting,now I know!

Rachel

says:

This is very helpful and logical way to handle spelling mistakes.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Rachel.

Jennifer Pierce

says:

Interesting!

Julie Wilson

says:

I loved the tips in this article. They will help me with teaching my children.

Rachel

says:

Thanks for the great post. It was very helpful for when I am teaching my daughters.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Rachel! It’s great this will be helpful for you.

Laura

says:

New at homeschooling and loving all this tips. Also, I am waiting for my all about reading and spelling material and cant wait to start with my 2 kids.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great to hear, Laura! Let me know if you have any questions about beginning with All About Reading and All About Spelling or anything else.

Amber

says:

This is just the article I needed right now. My 6yo has been doing a lot of independent writing and I didn’t want to crush her want to right. But this is a great way to incorporate it into a lesson.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this is helpful for you, Amber!

Vanessa

says:

So helpful for all the little moments when we want our little to feel confident writing but also be encouraged to learn correct spelling along the way.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this is helpful for you and your little, Vanessa.

Amanda Y.

says:

Thank you for writing such insightful posts! This is just what I needed to know for teaching spelling to my second grader.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so very welcome, Amanda! It’s wonderful to hear that this was helpful to you. But if you have questions or need anything, just let me know!

leslee

says:

This is so helpful! i can use this immediately!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this will be helpful right away, Leslee!

Kim

says:

I will definitely be using these ideas in our homeschool!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad to help you with some ideas, Kim!

Amy

says:

I like the idea of ignoring the spelling mistakes outside of “spelling lessons”. I do not point out every misspelling but I will correct her spelling if she needs to write a final clean draft of a paper.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amy,
Yes, I do help my kids by editing their first drafts after they have edited themselves first.

Stacy

says:

Great resource! I love all about spelling for my kids!

Kim

says:

I’m really intrigued to see how this can work for my kiddos!

Emma

says:

Already on spelling level 2, step 7 and I can see his progress which makes me very happy.

Bella Cobun

says:

When they spell a word wrong, I will have them practice spelling out the word.

Cynthia T.

says:

My daughter enjoyed level 1 spelling and can’t wait to start level 2.

Jennifer You

says:

It’s so hard to ignore those mistakes…but I’m trying ;)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
Don’t think of it as ignoring mistakes, rather as saving them for the right time. Make a note of the error to focus on at your next spelling lesson.

Monica

says:

Great tips!

Pam

says:

This is really helpful!

Kelli

says:

Wow great tips!

Areil I.

says:

I’m super excited about this curriculum.!.

Cassandra Brungardt

says:

So helpful! Thanks!

Chevy Womer

says:

This is an area I struggle with!! I feel if she learned the spelling rule for a certain word it should be correct, but it totally makes sense now why she may be getting it wrong.
On a side note, AAS has helped my daughter so much! We are in year 2 of homeschooling and she said she wished she had been taught the rules for spelling earlier because it was just too hard to memorize all those words every week.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad to hear that All About Spelling has been so helpful for your daughter, Chevy!

Michelle Stichnoth

says:

In all my research since I decided to do homeschooling this year, I have seen nothing but awesome reviews for All About Spelling. It’s a wonderful program for full comprehension of Spelling, not just drills. Great free resources on website too!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Michelle!

Laura Unger

says:

Great post! I always wonder how to handle spelling mistakes because I don’t want to discourage creative writing by pointing out their errors. I do want them to correct and learn from their errors though!

Carrie

says:

We love all about spelling! I used it for my oldest four kid’s education and now we are starting back up with All About Reading and All About Spelling with my youngest kids.

Rebekah

says:

Great post! Thankyou so much!

Megan

says:

Love this! I have a tough time determining when to stress spelling and when it’s ok to let it go.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad this was helpful, Megan!

Michelle Schultz

says:

Love this advice!!

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