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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Photo credit: Amanda Pelser