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How Can I Help My Child with Spelling Dictation?

How Can I Help My Child with Spelling Dictation? From All About Spelling

Dictation is a great tool for teaching spelling because it allows children to use their spelling skills in a “real world” application.

In dictation, you say a sentence, and then your child repeats it and writes it. The four simple steps we use in All About Spelling are covered here, along with details on how dictation benefits your child.

Spelling dictation is essential, yet some students have difficulty with it. If your child is having a hard time with this part of the lessons, this post offers some ideas to help overcome the hurdles.

First, make sure you are following the steps correctly.

Read through the four steps of spelling dictation and make sure that you are following each step. Here are the most commonly forgotten points to remember:

  • Do just a few sentences per day. Don’t try to do too much dictation in one sitting.
  • Be sure not to talk too much. Keep your talking to a minimum. Simply say the sentence, have your child repeat it, and then let him write it. Don’t interrupt to correct as he writes—let him own his writing and fully correct himself before you step in. The fewer words you say during the dictation exercise, the better it is for your child’s concentration.
  • Don’t hover. Give your child the mental space to concentrate on what he is doing without feeling like he is being monitored. He should feel free to pause during spelling to consider various alternatives, recall a spelling rule, or think through the spelling process without being hurried.
  • Keep the atmosphere light. Encourage him by showing that mistakes are not a big deal. Treat mistakes as a learning opportunity.
How Can I Help My Child with Spelling Dictation? - All About Spelling

Then experiment with some variations.

If you are following the four basic steps and your child is still having trouble, try tweaking the way you are handling dictation. Each child is different and may need a different approach depending on the specific area of struggle.

Does your child forget the sentence before he is done writing it? If so, figure out what your child’s word limit is. Some students can only remember three or four words in a row at first. With practice, though, they can increase the number of words they can hold in short-term memory. The brain is like a muscle—you need to exercise it to make it stronger. Start by dictating several words at a time, and then gradually increase the number of words until your student can remember the entire sentence long enough to write it.

How Can I Help my Child with Spelling Dictation? - All About Spelling

Does your child write down the wrong words? Sometimes this happens because of short-term memory issues—the child is having difficulty remembering the entire sentence—but other times it is because the child is very creative and embellishes the sentence. Children who are easily distracted often substitute words, too.

How Can I Help my Child with Spelling Dictation? - All About Spelling

Is your child overwhelmed by the amount of dictation? You might try doing just one or two sentences per day (whatever feels like a good number but isn’t too overwhelming) and spread the lesson out over more days.

How Can I Help my Child with Spelling Dictation? - All About Spelling

Don’t stress over mistakes. When mistakes happen and your child misses or changes a word, read the original sentence and have your child figure out which words are different. He can either change what he’s written or use little carets to add in a word rather than rewrite the entire sentence.

Find out your child’s preferences for doing dictation. Some children like to write on a hand-held whiteboard, making it very easy to make changes. Other children prefer paper and pencil. Find out what works best with your child and makes him happiest.

Celebrate your child’s achievements…even the small ones! After your child writes the sentences correctly, make a big deal of it! He will eventually work up to writing more sentences and longer sentences.

It’s okay if your child isn’t perfect at this.

The goal is to keep improving. Remind your child that he’s doing something that’s difficult to do, reassure him that you know he’ll get it, and reiterate that some things just take work. And that’s okay! Your goal isn’t perfection; it’s simply to help your child expand what he can do, bit by bit and step by step.

Would you like more information on teaching reading and spelling? Download my free report below!

Free report - '20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling'

Photo credit: Amanda Pelser

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Leave a Comment

Noor

says:

Thank you .
very helpful tips

Lindsey

says:

I love all these ideas. We have been using AAS for my 10-year-old. I took him through lesson 3 but he is not applying any of the rules to any of his writing and still misspells even very basic words (like from, really, very, etc.). He will misspell as well through the dictation phase and never remembers capitalization or punctuation rules. He is not able to find his errors in any of his writing either. Should I be looking at a different program to help him with spelling or is there some other way to try and reinforce the spelling rules? We did restart the level 1 but it does not seem to be helping his spelling.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lindsey,
How often are you doing All About Spelling? How much time do you spend on each Step?

It sounds like maybe your student is one of those kids that need to review more regularly than others. Every child will occasionally master something only to forget it later but some children need much more review regularly in order to truly achieve long-term mastery.

All About Spelling schedules a review of the mastered cards twice each level; once mid-way through each level and once after finishing/before beginning each level. For some children, two days of reviewing the mastered cards in each level aren’t enough. It sounds like your son may be one of them. I understand. I have a couple kids that need much more regular review.

There are a few ways you can give him the additional review he needs:

One way is simply to do a mastered review once a month. Once a month, one (or two if it takes more than 15 minutes or so) day’s spelling will be nothing but reviewing all the mastered cards. Any cards your son gets wrong or has to hesitate and really think to know the answer, get put into the review section and gets reviewed daily for a while.

Another way is to review one type of mastered card each week. My co-worker, Merry, uses this method of additional review. The first week she would review all the yellow cards and some of the green, doing a few cards each day until she got through the yellow cards. (She mixed the mastered green cards in with the recently learned green cards so that her kids didn’t review all of one type of word in a row. This way they had to think about those new words and couldn’t just recite a pattern.) The second week, she would review all of the red cards and some of the green. The third week she would review all of the blue cards and some of the green. On the fourth week, she would review any remaining green cards, so that she reviewed all the mastered cards every month. As before, any card that needs further review gets put into the review section for daily work.

The way I do it is to review 2 of each colored cards, yellow, red, and blue, each day and 5 of the green cards. I am having great success with this approach with my struggling spellers. I keep a blank index card in the mastered section of each color. I shuffle all the cards, and then put the index card at the back. Each day I draw 2 yellow cards, 2 red cards, 2 blue cards, and 5 green cards from the front of the mastered sections. If my son gets them correct without hesitation they get filed behind the index card in the back of the mastered section. If he doesn’t get them correct they go back in the review section and get reviewed daily for at least a week. At the end of the week, I put them back in mastered but mixed into the front of the index card so that they will be reviewed again within another week. When the index card works its way to the front, I know it’s time to shuffle the cards again and put the index card to the back. I prefer this way because my kids really dislike master reviews, so there is less grumbling when they do just a little bit every day.

I also spend at least four days per Step and spend even longer if my student is not mastering the concepts. I do spelling at least 4 days per week as well. If I go any faster, don’t review as frequently, or do spelling less often, my students don’t progress well. All About Spelling is a mastery-based program and what it takes to achieve mastery is different for different students.

As for dictation, I use the acronym CHOPS. It stands for Capitalization, Homophones, Organization, Punctuation, Spelling. (Organization means checking for correct word spacing and letter formation, and when writing outside of AAS it also means checking for paragraphs, titles, and so on.) After writing a dictation sentence, I remind my student to “CHOPS” what he wrote. He knows to then check if he used capitals as needed, to see if the sentence includes any homophones and if it does to check that he used the right one, to look for word spacing and readable handwriting, to ensure he has added punctuation, and to check for spelling errors.

If my student has errors he doesn’t find when he CHOPS his writing, I then give him hints. “Well, I see three errors, one with capitalization and two with spelling.” Usually, he finds all his errors on his own or with hints, but if he doesn’t I then point out the error and discuss it with him. If he needs hints or needs a spelling error pointed out to him, I then teach about the word and the error. Did he use the wrong spelling of the /er/ sound? Did he break a rule? Ideally, I get him to teach to me what was wrong with the word and why it is spelled the way it. If, however, he can’t teach it to me, I reteach it to him. Regardless of who teaches about the error, I put that word back into daily review for at least a week. If there isn’t a word card for that word, I make one from an index card.

We have a blog post on How to Handle Spelling Mistakes that should help you as well.

I hope this helps some, but please let us know more details of his struggles and if you have any further questions. We are committed to offering as much help as you need to help your son succeed with spelling.

viviane aziz

says:

my daughter is 11 we did AAS up to level 5 . when we work with AAS she loves it and really enjoys the session , does well with dictation spelling rules and word cards . the problem she doesnt apply what she knows in her writing . Her 8 years old brother pays more attention to spelling than her . For example today she was writing a small farewell note for a friend , she wrote delicous cake instead of delicious . she wrote comming , instead of coming and you could find a lot of those mistakes . if i reread together what she wrote she often discover her mistakes with a ooops and can correct them . Still i am a bit concerned how to help her improve her spelling so it becomes natural . She has amazing comprehension , loves books , reads a lot grade level and above , I thought for a child who has his nose in books all the time she should be good with spelling , i mean she reads words all the time .Any tips how to help her ?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Viviane,
Is your daughter going back and proofread and edit what she writes, before you get a chance to read it? Everyone makes mistakes in spelling and other things when they write, but what matters most is if they are able to find and correct those errors. It sounds like she is able to find her own errors, at least some of the time, so let her.

I ask my children to CHOPS everything they write before I read it. CHOPS stands for checking for errors with Capitalization, Homophones, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling. (Organization for younger writers means word spacing, indenting paragraphs, not squeezing in words at the end of a line, and so on. For older writers, it expands to include the logical order of ideas and sentences.) Only after my children CHOPS their writing do read it over. I still find errors, of course, but that is a part of learning. However, over time they miss fewer and fewer things and I am left focusing on the more complex issues of writing, such as varying sentence structure and encouraging dynamic vocabulary.

Reading and spelling are different skills and being good at reading does not translate to being good a spelling, any more than being good at playing music translates to being good a writing music.

You may find our blog post on Automaticity in Reading and Spelling helpful. When students are writing outside of spelling time, they have many more things to focus on: content, creativity, organization, punctuation, spelling, grammar, capitalization, what kind of audience they are addressing… It’s a lot to think about at once. In fact, even adult writers need to take time to rewrite and edit their work (and sometimes there are still mistakes!).

My son studying in 3, grad, he remembered complete answers even long answer too, but at the time of writing on paper he forgot some words aplhabate like antenae he wrote antena here he forgot to write ‘e’
Plz suggest how can I help him study.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Pallavi,
Antennae is a difficult word for a 3rd-grade child! It is a Latin word, and 3rd-graders are still mastering English. It may be that sentences he is trying to write by dictation are harder than he is ready for. I cannot say without knowing more, but I would be understanding with even a teenaged student that misspelled such a hard word as antennae.

Andrea K

says:

Good ideas.My first grader really struggles with dictation. Does anyone know of any other resources that help????

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Andrea,
What are you using for dictation? Are you using the dictation in each Step of All About Spelling? Which level? How does your student do with spelling the word cards?

All About Spelling’s dictation phrases or sentences are the hardest part of each Step, as they require the student to do so much all at once. They have to hold the phrase or sentence in their head, remember how to spell each word applying all the rules and patterns learned previously, remember to use capitals and ending punctuation marks as needed, and so on. Dictation is the way that we ensure that the student has truly mastered the material up to that point. If All About Spelling’s dictation is really a struggle, then the student needs to slow down forward progress and review and solidify what has been taught.

In what way is your student struggling? With spelling the words? With remembering the phrase or sentence?

Sarfaraz Hussain

says:

Very helpful figures God bless you keep it up.
Wo

R.B.

says:

Fantastic ideas!

Manda Albert

says:

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Katie

says:

This is a great post. It’s nice to hear ways to teach my son better and the how’s and whys we are doing dictation.

Lynn Briggs

says:

The only activity that I award points on during my homeschooling is sentence writing. My son thrives on motivation and subsequently loves to do sentences because of it. Simple sentences are 1 point- longer are two points. If there is an error in the sentence, I guide him to discover & fix it himself. We typically have done 10 simple or 5 longer ones. 1 point = something small like a skittle or M&M. 5 points = a medium candy like a jolly rancher or a roll of smarties or sixlets. 10 points = a sucker. I have lots of choices displayed in fun containers and part of the payoff is deciding how to spend the points. I never penalize mistakes but lead him to discover & fix them on his own. You may not want to reward with treats but 10 skittles in exchange for loving dictation is a bargain to me!

Lynn,
Thank you for sharing your reward system. Your set up sounds like so much fun, and loving dictation does seem like a nice payoff.

I hope you have a nice weekend.

Jennifer

says:

This post have me a lot of good ideas about how to improve our dictation during lessons!

Lisa Peters

says:

I just love your methods of teaching! I want so much for my children to keep their love of learning alive so, I look for curriculum that supports that. I believe your products are exactly what our homeschool needs!! Thank you for developing these materials!!

Bethany Hayes

says:

Love this article. We have been trying to use more Charlotte Mason style of learning and dictation is a huge part of CM!

Michele

says:

Interesting article.

Tiffany

says:

Very helpful, thank you!

Les Johnson

says:

This is a great article. So many kids have difficulty with this and this contains many great ideas to help them with dictation.

Mary W.

says:

Fantastic article! Dictation is so important and truly makes a difference.

Melinda weddle

says:

As a mom with a child who struggles greatly with reading and spelling, thank you for this article!

jmama

says:

Thanks for the reminder of what dictations should be like. Sometimes I get a little hover-y and need to be reminded of the basics again :)

Trudy

says:

My son struggles in reading and spelling and I didn’t know where to turn, someone recommended All About Reading and All About Spelling and after taking the initial test we decided to switch. after a few months on these programs spelling is one of his favorite subjects and he has started to pick up a book and attempt to read it himself…and is able! This program has really help my son overcome!

Merry at AALP

says:

That’s awesome, Trudy! Congratulations to you and your son on his progress.

Rebecca Lynn

says:

We have personally found dictation to be the most efficient way to determine which cards should stay in review and which he has mastered. First we do dictation with a dry erase board and several of the words related to our current rule we’re studding. Then we move on to pencil/paper sentences. Totally worth it!

Tara McClenahan

says:

Love this particularly since we try to model the Charlotte Mason method! Thank you for the tips!

Kirsten

says:

Love these ideas! Thanks!

Stefanie

says:

My six year old is LOVING dictation at the moment. She’s only in level one so she hasn’t had to dictate any full sentences yet. I’ll have to remember this article for when she hits a wall.

Daw Melancon

says:

Thanks, great ideas

AmandaD

says:

english is such a hard language to learn.

JessicaC

says:

Thanks! I love that you post articles that help implement this program. My son also struggles with the dictation.

Emily

says:

Grateful for how AAS is helping my children with this.

Barbara

says:

Dictation is a wonderful tool! It really helps my child if I have him self-check his sentences instead of me pointing out his errors. Suddenly, that light bulb goes on as he sees his habitual mistakes. Very useful! And this post is great! Thank you.

Jennifer S

says:

Thank you. I needed the encouragement to not make mistakes a big deal.

Ayrielle

says:

We do dictation a bit different. I allow my son to look over the sentences first then take them away and dictate them to him. This way I know that he has seen and read the sentences/words and it makes it easier for him to remember the sentence as I am reading it for him to write.

Jana

says:

I adore All About Spelling as much when we started level 1, as I do working with level 6 today. Can’t wait to start level 7.

Kelly

says:

Thank you, this was very helpful. We just started & my son is enjoying AAS.

Lorrie

says:

Thank you for this! Always looking for ways to improve my child’s spelling.

Judy Iverson

says:

Great advice and a great skill for life!

Allison

says:

I look forward to the time when my daughter is able to participate in dictation of sentences. We use letter tiles for her to sound out a short word I say. That is the only type of dictation we currently do.

Debby

says:

We are just beginning spelling level 1. Is the list of 10 words that we work on each lesson considered the dictation? Or should I be doing dictation with phrases or full sentences?

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Debby,

The dictation doesn’t start until lesson 11 (see page 60 for the first dictation and explanation), so don’t worry about that quite yet. It will start with very short phrases, work up to longer ones, and then to sentences–so the increase is gradual. I hope this helps!

Amber

says:

Thank you for the great advice.

Kelly Pieschek

says:

Thank you for the great tips for utilizing dictation in our lessons. I have been wanting to incorporate dictation more so these tips are very much appreciated!

Stefanie

says:

t
Thank you for these tips. Dictation is always something we are working to improve.

Kim Teaches 2nd

says:

What wonderful ideas! Thanks for helping us go beyond vocabulary and memorization. As a teacher of my first homeschool student, my appreciation goes beyond these words!

Carlen

says:

This is super helpful. Dictation I so important in our classical learning.

rebecca

says:

Thanks I needed the extra reminders on how to do dictation.

jennifer

says:

Great reminders….especially “don’t hover” ;)

veronica Cummings

says:

This was a great post, full of information.

Kiersten

says:

I appreciate this post on dictation. I had been slacking in the area of having my children repeat back what they heard before they began writing. Focusing on this has helped cut down on the errors.

One issue we have is that my son has a fantastic sense of humor, so he generally takes some element of the dictation sentence and begins to make up his own sentences out loud before writing. He enjoys doing this but he also begins to forget what the original sentence was. I am trying to balance his having fun with his doing the work carefully.

Kathy

says:

That’s a tough one! Laughter is such good medicine … but how much is healthy?

Yolanda

says:

Encouraging post! Thanks.

Renae

says:

Dictation is something I struggled with as a kid. Thanks for the tips to help me better teach my little one.

Marci Wright

says:

We’ve done this in the past, but kind of gotten away from it. I think I’ll start having him do it again!

Becky

says:

Thank you! This is so encouraging! I will definitely be applying these to our spelling sessions.

Kristina

says:

This is a great tool! Any advice what to do if you have a child who gets so upset after she sees that she has made mistakes that she doesn’t want to do it ever again? She gets so disappointed; I can’t make her try it again. It is the same with reading or any other activity; if she thinks she can’t do it perfectly, she won’t start it.

Kristina,
Awww, I know this one. My oldest was this way.

First, I would recommend getting this book from the library, Beautiful Oops. http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/reviews-beautiful-oops/ If she is is the type that will find more comfort in real world examples, summarize this article for her, 9 Brilliant Inventions Made by Mistake http://www.inc.com/tim-donnelly/brilliant-failures/9-inventions-made-by-mistake.html. Basically, get her thinking about how mistakes can lead to wonderful things.

Then, discuss with her that you expect her to make mistakes. Why? Because if she got everything right the first time, then you would have nothing to teach her. When she makes mistakes, both you and her then know what it is she needs to learn better. You can help with this by when she does make a mistake saying things like, “Oh, I’m glad you made that mistake so I can show you this,” before going over the rule or pattern.

Encouraging her to be more moderate in her disappointment with mistakes and being willing to take risks is going to be a work spanning a long period of time. Try to react without disappointment as each mistake is made. Instead of “You spelled that wrong,” try “Let’s correct this one.” Pretty much the same thing, but it can impact a perfectionist child quite differently.

I hope this helps. I do know it’s frustrating.
Robin E.

erica k

says:

Thank you both for posting. My daughter (age 7) is the same way and it can be hard because I want to help her learn from mistakes but I feel like pointing out mistakes makes her so discouraged. I appreciate your wisdom and experience.

Julie

says:

I love how the dictation give a good overall review of the spelling rules they have been learning. We really enjoy this curriculum.

LaToya

says:

This is great! My son has been making a few errors here and there during dictation and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it.

Elizabeth B

says:

Thanks for this post! Very helpful as I think about spelling with my little one down the road.

Tiffany

says:

I’m eager to try this with my daughter. Learning to read was very easy for her, but spelling has not come quite so easily.

Katie

says:

I never thought spelling could be so easy. The dictation is a nice aspect of AAS and it works for us. These tips are great!

Andrea R.

says:

I homeschool 3 boys, ages 8,7 and 5. They do not put up any fuss when we do AAS! They are learning quickly and seem to have a solid foundation for spelling, which I completely credit to Marie Rippel and AAS. I appreciate Marie’s tips and reminders re: dictation, i.e. do just a few sentences a day, do not hover and welcome mistakes as learning opportunities. I place high value on correct spelling, and want my boys to be strong spellers. This program is amazing!! I recommend it to every homeschool mom I know.

Alisha Strunk

says:

Dictation is really something we should work on!

Kresha

says:

Dictation is one of the things I love MOST about All About Spelling! AAS is one of the best parts of homeschooling, hands-down. :)

Amber

says:

I’m very excited to try this with my son. He reads beautifully but always seems hesitant to write on his own because he doesn’t want to get it wrong. I think this will build his confidence.

Lisa Clark

says:

Although my grandson is a very good reader, we are just starting with spelling. He does fine if he slows down and remembers to use his phonics to spell a word, but often just wants to get his writing finished. The idea of using sentence dictation for spelling practice is wonderful. It will help with both his listening skills and spelling improvement!

Laurie

says:

Love dictation – the more ways they can handle and process the words the better.

Holly S.

says:

Thanks for the extra tips on dictation. We love all about spelling! Of all the subject curricula I use in homeschooling, AAS is what I recommend to other families most often.
These extra dictation helps will allow us to become even better spellers.
Thanks again!

Greta

says:

So excited to start All About Spelling…..it was delivered yesterday. My 12 yr old has been waiting for it to arrive.

Jaime B

says:

Dictation has done wonders for my daughter. We love All About Spelling!

Susan Leonard

says:

We just started using All About Spelling – level 1. I love how simple and concise each lesson is. It has been fun to the kiddos too!

Michelle

says:

These are great tips! Thank you

Stefani

says:

These are great tips! Thanks!

Alicia

says:

We love your program. I think the dictation is what takes spelling from being boring to being fun.

audra hatfield

says:

I think this would help my 2nd grader.

Autumn Jones

says:

We start Level 2 of AAS tomorrow. We have been doing dictation for a while with Level 1. I did not realize that my kids were supposed to repeat the words/sentences after me, though! Oops! I have just been saying it, and they have been writing it. It looks like we will be implementing that tomorrow along with Level 2! Good to know. Thanks for the insight!

I love how AAS makes spelling an easy and fun subject to teach with little to know prep work for me. The tips and tricks make so much sense, we don’t want to overwhelm or think for our children, but rather let them have the opportunity to ruminate over their work and figure things out for themselves!

Valerie McMartin

says:

My kids never want to do their schoolwork. But they are sad if we don’t do our spelling. They say, “when are we going to do our bee work.” AAS level 1 has bee stickers so my kids call it bee work. They even argue over who gets to do theirs first.

Kendra Ahlborn

says:

Valerie, if you want a little behind-the-scenes of All About Learning Press, we actually call our workplace “The Hive.” Naturally then, we affectionately call ourselves worker bees too because we like harvesting honey day in and day out! Thought your kids would love knowing that!

April

says:

I’m so glad to hear that dictating sentences helps with spelling. I teach kindergarten and I have my students use our sight words in a sentence and then I dictate the sentence back to them. This helps the students sound with spelling because they have to sound out the words to write the sentence. Then they dictate it back to me and tell how to write and spell each word. I have seen some of my struggling students improve in the spelling of words and writing skills. Thanks for the informative insight on helping students with spelling.

Danielle Hull

says:

How helpful! I think some of these ideas would help me to teach my children in other areas, too! Thanks!

Maureen

says:

I appreciate this article as I want to focus more on dictation with my three young children.

Amie

says:

Great Article thanks!

Angela W

says:

Very informative tips to help my son! Thank you so much!

Judith Martinez

says:

I’ve been giving my kids a lot of copywork the last year or so with the goal of adding dictation gradually. My previous spelling curriculum used a lot of dictation as well.

Linda

says:

I am a big fan of dictation. And, I love All About Spelling. Wish I’d had it for my older children.

Tyra

says:

I’m definitely going to try dictation with my daughter! She struggles with spelling.

Charity

says:

I have never even thought of doing dictation. That might be good to try.

Tara

says:

We always do dictation and have seen the benefits, from developing listening skills to improving spelling. Thanks for making such amazing products!

Pam

says:

l also found I needed to review “mastered” cards more frequently.

The oral sentence repetition exercises for working memory are a big help too.

We are halfway through level 3 and have noticed a big improvement. We started AAS in mid-third grade; my daughter had had some other Orton-Gillingham-based instruction before so we did Level 1 almost a lesson a day, Level 2 most lessons in 2-3 days (but one “step” took two weeks!) and now about 4 days for each step of Level 3 (plus more time spent in the beginning of each day reviewing words and especially key card rules from past steps).

Merry at AALP

says:

Sounds like you’re doing a great job of listening to your daughter’s needs and taking things at her pace, Pam!

Tammy Higgs

says:

Thank you for this helpful information! I can’t wait to use this advice on my daughter!

tammy cordery

says:

I think that dictation is a good thing to do. I do it every once in awhile.

Deann

says:

Very helpful, thanks!

Tamara

says:

Great article with some really useful tips…. the dictation reminders are great!

Jen Brunsvold

says:

We love using the AAS for dictation. We use a lot of narration and dictation works really well right along side it. I read the sentence while they listen and then they repeat the sentence back to me. If they make a mistake, I repeat once and then have them repeat again to me. My boys like to “compete” to see who can listen best. Lol!

Vanessa

says:

We take turns between spelling with tiles, spelling on paper and on the white board… my daughter prefers the white board as she feels like she is a teacher!!
I learned to give her time before correcting it right away… most of the times when she proof reads it, she recognizes her own mistake.
I love AAL, love the reminders and all the support to make our journey successful.

Nancy S.

says:

My 11 year old son who is dyslexic is working on AAS Level 2 (just worked on step 6 this morning). It has been a long process thus far, but he has made tremendous progress. However, he still struggles a lot with every act of writing (the spelling with the tiles is a LITTLE bit less onerous). We follow the procedures for spelling dictation, (including before we get started, I always review sentence conventions — capital, ending punctuation). As long as he repeats the slowly spoken sentence aloud immediately, he generally is able to remember the sentence, but it takes what feels like an interminable time to me for him to write it, and he usually erases on average 3-4 mistakes in a sentence. I don’t say anything until he feels he’s completed the sentence, but if there are errors, I do ask him to read it again, and he usually finds other errors (almost always one of them is capitalizing the first letter). Is there anything else or something different I should be doing to help him find more (and perhaps faster!) success? He’s a great kid, and bright, brimming full of wonderful ideas, and it really saddens me how incredibly hard this is for him.

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Nancy,

First, Level 2 Step 6 is a very hard step because of the many vowel sounds in unaccented syllables (schwa sounds), in words like human (is it humin? humen? humun?), open, and so on. So, congratulations on tackling that step, and if you need additional ideas to help him master some of these words, please let me know.

Did you see our blog article on dysgraphia? A lot of students with dyslexia also struggle with dysgraphia. However, even if he doesn’t the tips and ideas in that article can be very helpful to students who struggle with writing or who need more processing time to think through what to write.

http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/dysgraphia/

You are doing a great job of scaffolding–giving him help along the way such as the pre-coaching on sentence conventions. Great job! Also, keep having him repeat the sentence, and if saying it more slowly to him helps him hear it more clearly and remember it better, that’s a great strategy as well. Another article you might like to check out is the one on Auditory Processing Disorder. Again, even if he doesn’t have this, a lot of the tips and strategies are helpful for kids who have dyslexia, and who struggle with writing and spelling.

http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/auditory-processing-disorder/

Also, well done on asking him to read it again, and that he finds his errors. When kids find their own errors, they are much closer to becoming automatic with their spelling than if we have to point the errors out to them. Of course, do point out any he doesn’t find.

When he does find an error, ask him what he corrected and why. Getting him to teach a concept back to you or repeat it to you (Sentences start with capital letters, or C says /s/ before E, I, or Y etc….), will help him gain mastery over it.

How does he do with the review cards–does he spell a word quickly and easily before you move a card to mastered, or does he have to stop and think about the word, or do some self-correcting? You really want to make sure that he’s confident and strong with the word cards–this will help dictation to be easier too. This post on making reading and spelling stick can help you with more ideas there: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/making-reading-and-spelling-stick/

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions. I know it’s tiring when writing is so slow at this stage, but you really are on the right track. It just takes time and practice for kids who struggle to get faster. What’s more important is that you build a solid foundation. If you move too quickly and leave gaps, that will definitely slow things down later on.

Crystal Ladd

says:

I just want to say thank you so very much for this spelling program, last year my 2nd grader would cry throughout spelling. We started all about spelling level 1 in the middle of the year and it was a rough start, now we are ending level 2 and my 3rd grader now says spelling is his favorite subject and he wants to do it first everyday! He has come so far and I am so proud of him but I have you to thank for that.

Ginger

says:

Great tips! Putting some to practice right away.

Carol

says:

These are helpful tips. My son is such a strong speller thanks to All About Spelling.

Amanda

says:

Those are helpful tips, thanks. It’s especially good to be reminded to only do a few.

L

says:

My son cringes at even one sentence. We’re new to AAS Level 1, and I’m going to try this and start slow. I like what you said abut exercising those muscles… I do think he will be able to build up his ability to hold words or letters in his head. Right now his limit is very small.

Aimee D

says:

Thank you for this article! It made me realize that perhaps my level 2 AAR child is ready to begin the AAS!

Shelly

says:

Thank you for this post. All really good ideas!

Tamina

says:

Dictation is a great tool also because it helps focus on auditory listening/understanding of local pronunciation of words and letter combinations as well as just spelling!!

Rachel

says:

Great article. Thanks!

Sarah Marie

says:

Thank you for sharing this! I love the “roll the die” idea!!!

Christy C

says:

Thanks! This is great info!!

Cindy N.

says:

Thank you for the post. I have just started doing some dictation with my youngest and this will help to do so effectively.

Jaime Schmidt

says:

Does writing with a dry erase marker and board affect handwriting differently than pen and paper?

Merry at AALP

says:

It can be helpful for some kids. Beginning students often need to focus on formation and find it easier to do if they don’t have to worry about lines. Here are other ideas for tactile practice for young students: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/tactile-surfaces-for-practicing-letter-formation/

Once they are ready for lines, I typically used a handwriting workbook for my kids to reinforce correct formation, and for spelling would let them choose whether they wanted to use handwriting paper (or eventually regular lined paper) or a hand-held white board. We had some that had handwriting lines on one side, and one of my children liked that for awhile too. One nice aspect to the white board is that if a student makes mistakes, they are easy to correct–and that really encourages many kids.

Amy Stone

says:

Marie,
What would you say to those who teach that you need to watch closely as your child dictates and correct immediately if you see them start to make a mistake so that they do not get the wrong spelling impressed upon their mind? It does seem to make some sense.

Merry at AALP

says:

Great question! A few thoughts on this:

First, if the student starts to make the mistake, he or she already thinks it’s correct and has the misspelling in mind. (Or conversely, being watched makes some people nervous and they make more mistakes that way. This was especially true for one of my children.)

Second, by not giving the student a chance to think it through and self-correct, we don’t know how much the student knows and understands. Correcting one’s own mistake does more to help the student master the correct spelling for the next time, plus it’s more satisfying (and it’s annoying to be corrected for something you know but didn’t have an opportunity to fix on your own.) Often, children can correct their own mistakes if given a chance–and ultimately, that’s what we want. This leads into the next point…

Third, if we always correct the student, the student learns not to trust his or her judgment but to wait for outside correction. They don’t have to internalize a rule, pattern, or other spelling strategy because the correction is always given to them. This is the opposite of where we want the student to end up.

Finally, remember that the misspelling is not left there for long–the student does receive help correcting it soon after writing the sentence. And because you will talk through why it was misspelled, the correct spelling will now make more sense to the student. (perhaps the student left out a sound or added in an extra one, or didn’t apply a rule, made a visual error, or forgot to think through syllables or root words, etc…)

And, any time a student does struggle with a spelling pattern, that word will remain in the student’s daily spelling review box until the student can spell it quickly and easily. So, there is ample opportunity to help the correct spelling pattern to be ingrained in your student’s mind.

I hope this helps!

Emily

says:

Marie,
I’ve got a question. Maybe it doesn’t fit here, and you can direct me to where it should be…… My son is 12 and a terrible speller. I’ve never seen anyone worse. I’ve Tried so many curriculum that haven’t worked. He has no other learning issues except spelling tho. When I found AAS, I was super excited! He did great through levels 1 and 2 and about halfway through level 3 he started having a really hard time with dictation. Even, spelling words wrong that he’d learned in the latter part of level 2. Things like getting ou and ow mixed up, au and aw, not knowing what ” a “sound to put in the word ect. He is an avid reader so when we’ve exhausted all the rules and all else fails I just say, “well, does it look right?” But he says, ” I have no idea! I’ve never seen the words. ” Then I realized that he never sees the words,, except when I dictate to him, and he writes them.
I also realized that it looked like he knew the words, when he only had to remember, two different “a” spellings, but then when we added in 1 or 2 more he started spelling the other “a” sounding words that he already knew how to spell, with the new “a” spellings!
Because he never sees them written he has no idea where to put them in his “a” columns. So I gave him a little 10 ish minute instruction and told him, just because we add in a new way of spelling the “a” sound doesn’t change the spelling of all the “a” words he already learned. They are set in concrete and will never change! I’m so discouraged. Almost to the point of just giving up and letting him depend on spell check for the rest of his life…… Except that spell check needs to be able to at least recognize which word you’re trying to spell, and at this point he can’t even get them that close!
So my question is, am I doing AAS wrong? What am I missing? We are going so super pokey slow, I don’t think slowing down, would help much at all. I’ve thought about teaching him a lesson, then giving him the book, to copy all the words and sentences onto paper before I dictate them to him, so he can “see” them in his mind better. What are your thoughts? Any suggestions? And hopefully you can make sense of this. If you have any questions or need something clarified, ask away!

Amanda Schmidt

says:

Hi Emily,

I have a 12-year-old daughter who is pretty similar to your son. She has pretty poor visual memory, which creates that situation you mentioned, where they can’t remember which spelling looks right. She’s had to do some vision therapy for ‘visual processing issues’ (i.e. dyslexia), which has helped quite a bit. With the help of AAS (we’re now in Level 4), she’s made a lot of progress. I’ve had to adapt AAS to her needs a bit: I do much more review than I thought she’d need. For example, after she masters key or word cards, I figure she wouldn’t need to review them for a long while, but she tends to forget them pretty quickly. So I’ve learned to pull them back out every few months and review them. Some kids just seem to need more repetitions in order to make sure what they’ve learned stays in their long-term memory.

I also designed my own system for keeping track of which mastered AAS words she’s needed to re-review and how many times we’ve reviewed them. Here’s how I do it: I make a photocopy of the word list from the back of each AAS level, and just put a tally mark next to each mastered word after she has misspelled it, and we review it again until she’s mastered it. If she misspells it again later, it gets another tally mark and another review. Once a word has 3 tally marks, I put them on a list of ‘Intensive Review’ words. Once we’ve got 20 of those, we do a daily review of only those 20 words for a whole week — her idea, actually. If she’s still misspelling them after that, we do a vision therapy exercise called ‘Spell Backwards’: she chants the letters of each word out loud to a steady rhythm, first forwards while looking, then forwards while closing her eyes, then backwards while looking, then backwards while closing her eyes. That seems to really help cement how the words look in her mind.

Hope that helps! Good luck!

Merry at AALP

says:

Amanda, my oldest also went through vision therapy and was helped by that. I also adapted our spelling review box–we reviewed the sound, phonogram, and key cards monthly ( a different type of card each week), and reviewed the word cards weekly for 3 weeks after they were mastered, and then usually 1-2 more times after that (I added in extra mastered reviews). Any time they missed a card, it went back to daily review to start the process again. It sounds like a lot, but it was only a few minutes each day–but it really increased their ability to retain things. This type of overteaching/ review is very helpful to kids who struggle. Keep up the good work!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Emily,

It’s fine to ask your question here. You’re also welcome to email us any time–we provide lifetime support for all of our programs.

Both of my kids struggled with spelling so much that spell-check couldn’t identify the correct words, so I do understand.

OU and OW, AU and AW are tricky pairs, and my kids needed a lot more practice with these. Marie hopes to develop some wordbanks to use for these lessons, but one thing you can do is to use the green word cards just like a word bank. Have your son read the OW words daily for several days. Have him note how the sound is spelled, and where the OW is in the word. If it’s at the end of a word, ask why it couldn’t be spelled with OU (because English words don’t end with OU). If it’s in the middle of a word, it has to be remembered visually–which is why using the cards like a word bank can help.

You can also have him use the word cards for sorting exercises, and then read each stack independently.

Then, when he’s got a stronger visual imprint of these words, try having him spell them again. Keep them in daily review until he can spell them quickly and easily, without having to stop to think or self-correct. If he misses them in dictation later on, put them back in daily review.

My son struggled so much to remember some words, that I found adding in weekly reviews helped. After he “mastered” a word, I put it in a stack to review a week later, and did this for a couple of weeks. If he continued to remember the words, they went to the mastered stack, but if he forgot them I put the words back in daily review. I found it was VERY important not to move words to “mastered” too quickly.

This article on making reading and spelling stick has some good tips that can help you get the most out of your review box: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/making-reading-and-spelling-stick/

I would do this same kind of thing with the au/aw words, and with the long A words. The sorting exercises, and things like dictation, help us to see when our kids really don’t have something mastered quite yet, and when we need to do more review. I liked to spend a week or so per lesson. Each day I had my child try to teach it back to me with the tiles, until he or she could do it without any help or input from me. (Praise for what he remembers and help with any gaps.)

The word cards need to go into daily review after he gets them right in the book, so that he gets additional practice after that. I liked to review 2-3 new words each day, rather than a whole list of matching-pattern words, and to mix in a few words of other patterns (either other daily review words, or some mastered words). This extended the number of days after the lesson that they were still thinking about and reinforcing the newly-learned information. I also liked to wait until a Monday to move any cards to the Mastered section. This way they had to remember words over the weekend, and it seemed to stick in their long-term memory better.

Another thing you can do: show him the word card after he spells the word, every time, whether he got the word correct or not. This way he has added visual input for those words that rely on visual strategies, and it helps to reinforce the correct spelling. If he gets a word incorrect, ask him to explain why it should be spelled differently (what spelling strategy applies).

Don’t worry even if you end up spending 2 weeks on some lessons–it’s better to go slowly and establish a solid foundation, than to go too quickly and leave gaps. Sometimes when my kids weren’t getting something, we’d take a break and just do review for a couple of weeks to make sure previous words, phonogram, sound, and key cards were solid, and then we’d try again.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Emily

says:

Amanda, and Merry,
Thanks so much for the great ideas. I’ve never met anyone who spells like my son so somehow in the grind of things I’ve felt all alone…… It’s wonderful to know I’m not!

Emily

says:

Merry,
Another question I have….. What do you do with the “more words” they spell wrong? Or do you not give them those words? Or what about later in dictation when they misspell a word that wasn’t on a word card? I’ve just been writing it on an index card and putting it in the review but maybe that’s a bad idea? If , during dictation, they misspell a word that wasn’t on a word card, is that an indication that I need to go back and reteach the lesson that goes with that rule?

Emily,
Merry is away due to a death in the family. I will let her know about this question when she returns.

I do know that when Merry’s child misspelled a word from the “More Words” sections, she would make an index card for it and put it into her review system. You are definitely doing right for that. I imagine she would do the same for dictation words as well.

I wouldn’t necessarily go back and reteach a lesson for a single misspelled word. Rather, I would cover the concept right then and there, trying to make it as multisensory as possible (I find using the tiles for such things really helps my son have longer retention). However, if he misspells more than one word with the same pattern/phonogram/rule/step in a short period of time, I would go back and reteach the lesson.

I hope this helps. I’m sure Merry will have more to say on it when she returns as well.
Robin E.

Merry at AALP

says:

Yes, I did put “more” words that they couldn’t easily spell on index cards.

For dictation, here’s what I usually did:

First, I’d say:
“There’s one spelling error.”

And see if they could find it. Often they could–praise for any he finds and any he can easily correct. If he easily corrects it, you might just move on, or maybe ask him to spell that word again at the end of your lesson that day to reinforce it. Most likely it was just one of those things that happens (ever re-read something you wrote and find an error that you KNOW how to spell?)

If he can’t easily find it or if he finds it but isn’t sure what’s wrong, starts guessing etc…, ask questions like, “Can you think of any rules that apply?” or “Sound out exactly what you wrote” (which works well if the error is phonetic–wrong sound, missing sounds, extra sounds etc… Sometimes I had to demonstrate how to sound out what was written–they just said the right word instead of sounding out. But they got it after a couple of examples.)

So, use the things he’s learned to help lead him to the right answer, but if he gets frustrated, it’s find to show him the answer.

Either way, in this case I put the word back in daily review until it was automatic. Some words were just troublesome and seemed to end up back there for us!

Colleen

says:

I love the flexibility of the program, because I can use the same lesson with three different children.

JK Naslanic

says:

We have just started the All About Spelling curriculum and it it amazing the progress that has been made.My child has been diagnosed with autism. Does anyone have any advice on the best way to successfully include dictation? Handwriting is not a favorite subject of my child, however spelling and reading do seem to come much easier. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi JK,

The dictation will automatically be included in the lessons partway through Level 1. If your son needs accommodations (such as typing instead of handwriting), use the same means you would use for other subjects.

CabotMama

says:

We are a third of the way through Level 4 with our oldest and half way through Level 2 with our second. We include dictation every week. This post is helpful for persevering – and making sure we’re doing it right rather than just going through the motions.

Juli Vrotney

says:

Good ideas

Laura Madsen

says:

We use dictation every time we do a spelling lesson which at our house is 3-4 days per week. My 10yo ds is improving every week after struggling with spelling his whole (home) “school career” :) I am so glad AAS was recommended to us. It has made all the difference.

Mabel

says:

Thanks for the great tips. We haven’t been doing dictation often enough.

Karin

says:

Love this program! We use dictation all the time, in our home. Thankful to have this curriculum!

Terry

says:

I loved the parent that her son rolls a dice to see how many sentences he has to write. That is total genius thinking there Mom. I think I might have to use that one.

Christy

says:

These are great tips and I am looking forward to using this program with my oldest after she completes AAR1. Her therapist is a big fan of dictation with spelling. This program incorporates so many things that the therapist recommends for learning reading and spelling!

Shelia Dutcher

says:

My big problem is keeping them focused on the task at hand. They always seem more concerned with where their siblings are and what they’re doing. I love Laurie H.’s idea though. We have been doing half the list one day and half the next with a spattering of words from the More Words list throughout the week.

Shelia,
I find it best to work with my more highly distractable child while his siblings are busy with independent school work. He’s not interested in what they are doing when they are doing handwriting or math.

Also, my experience is that there is a time a day for each kid that they focus best, the prized hour if you will. For many kids this is the first hour of school, for some it’s the first hour after lunch, although right now it’s mid-morning for my most highly distractable one. That’s another thing, the prized hour time can change as they grow and change. Previously, my distracted child could focus best in the first hour after lunch but now after lunch is no good.

I hope this helps.
Robin E.

Susan

says:

Thanks so much for the advice. Dictation has helped my child master the new words and concepts in each step even faster.

Becky

says:

I wish I could have these thoughts and ideas, for how to help my children, permanently engrained into my brain. I am very grateful for this article. It has helped me very much. I loved the idea of rolling a dice! Thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to tell my children that I understand it’s hard. That they need to know that I don’t expect perfection, but gradual improvement. You amaze me. Thank you for all you do. =)

Merry

says:

Hi Becky,

Some people keep a binder of homeschool helps and articles they print out so they can read them more frequently. Maybe something like that would help you get them more ingrained?

Muminah Kariem

says:

This program is the best to help me, help my 11 year old daughter who struggles with correct spellings of words. Thank you for the time and effort that was put into such a great program.

Pyra

says:

My son enjoys it when I make the sentences silly. It helps us keep this part light. Sometimes, I will even make the sentences correlate with one another because he loves stories. Currently, he is in AAS level 3 working on suffixes, so an example for him might be:

“Is that a baby goat floating across the moat?” Next sentence may be something like, “The boat is crashing on the rocks.” Then, “The little one is quickly swimming to the shore.” Then, “Where will he safely rest his tired body?”

Valorie

says:

This looks very interesting. I’d like to try it with my kids.

Ellen

says:

My kids are excited when I dictate lists for them to help me make (e.g. give them 2 or 3 grocery items at a time to write down, or 2 or 3 things we need to do that day). They are so excited about being helpful they don’t mind the spelling and writing component.

Lisa Bassols

says:

I am planning on adding All About Spelling to our curriculum soon. Thanks for all of the wonderful tips!

Laura McFillin

says:

When we started All About Spelling, my son embraced the the Dictation activities. Goodbye to the traditional word list spelling test.

Karen Walker

says:

This program is great and so helpful!

Cindy Allen

says:

As a teacher this approach to spelling is fantastic and is able to reach every child where they are

Virginia Hurst

says:

Thank you for all of these tips. This program is wonderful!

Molly

says:

I’m so glad that dictation is included with your program!!

julia cosgrove

says:

Thanks for the advice. I cannot wait to put it to use with my son.

Kjoy

says:

Great information.

Malia Reynolds

says:

Great tips! My 8 year old has a wonderful imagination and likes to decide what the end of the sentence should say sometimes…LOL.. Thank you!

Merry

says:

Hi Malia,

Maybe you could challenge your son to write it as it is, and then tell or write what he thinks the ending SHOULD be! He might have fun getting to use his creativity while also practicing the originally intended words.

When he gets to Level 3, there is a writing exercise that starts partway through the level–I bet he’ll really enjoy that!

Deborah Freeman

says:

These are some wonderful tips, I will be trying this with my youngest child. Thank you!

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