A great technique for preventing spelling errors is called “Pronounce for Spelling.”
When you pronounce for spelling, you exaggerate the pronunciation of a word to make it easier to spell. For example, in casual speech we often pronounce the word different as difrent, leaving out the second syllable. When we pronounce for spelling, we carefully enunciate each syllable (dif-fer-ent), making it much easier to spell. Watch this video for a demonstration.
Let’s dive deeper. Let’s say your child writes a sentence like this:
When viewed on paper, the sentence obviously contains several misspelled words. And yet when you read the sentence aloud, exactly as written, you realize your child has spelled the words exactly the way she pronounces them.
If your child mispronounces a word, it can make it difficult for her to correctly spell the word. On the other hand, if she learns to pronounce a word clearly and correctly, she has a much greater chance of being able to spell it correctly, too. Many words are commonly mispronounced and misspelled, including probably (probly), secretary (secertary), because (becuz), and library (libary).
Here are three things that cause pronunciation pitfalls.
Some words are not pronounced clearly in everyday speech. For example, most Americans pronounce the word button as butn. The vowel sound in the unaccented syllable gets lost in the normal rhythm of speech, something that is particularly noticeable in words like different (difrent), separate (seprit), and jewelry (jewlry).
|How It’s Spelled||How It’s Often Pronounced|
The variance of regional accents can also make certain words more challenging to spell. For instance, these word pairs are pronounced alike in some regions:
than/then we’re/were cot/caught don/dawn collar/caller wok/walk
feel/fill stock/stalk sense/since been/bean trail/trial marry/merry
The “pin-pen merger” is a prime example of regional pronunciation that causes different words to sound the same. In many areas of the southern United States, the words pin and pen are pronounced identically. This can cause confusion for children who are learning to spell; the words represent two completely different vowel sounds, but they are not pronounced to reflect that. Other similar word pairs include him-hem and kin-Ken. For specific help with these words, be sure to check out 6 Tips to Help Distinguish Between Short I and Short E.
Many words in the English language are derived from Latin or Greek root words or have been borrowed from other languages. This has resulted in many English words with letters that we no longer pronounce.
Hover over or click the words below to see the unpronounced letters.
So between unaccented syllables, regional accents, and silent letters, what’s a spelling teacher to do?
As our emu friend demonstrated in the video, there are two simple steps to the Pronounce for Spelling technique.
Exaggerating the pronunciation of hard-to-spell words allows you to hear each sound clearly, making it much easier to spell the words.
If your student isn’t aware of the correct pronunciation, model it for him. For example, if he regularly pronounces camera as camra, carefully pronounce the word for him: cam-er-a. When he can hear each syllable, he’ll be less likely to gloss over the unaccented syllables.
Notice that the first step in this technique is to exaggerate the pronunciation of the word. We’re not advocating that your child go around saying camera with ultraprecision—just during spelling lessons.
Now there will be times that “pronounce for spelling” won’t work. Take the word could, for example, where the silent L can’t be pronounced. In these cases, we throw the word in jail. Curious what that means? Read this post to find out exactly how we throw words in jail and to get your own jail for spelling words!
It can be endearing when children mispronounce words—aminals for animals or pasghetti for spaghetti. Their early attempts can make us smile.
At this stage, it isn’t necessary to interrupt a child to correct his pronunciation. It’s more important to keep a positive environment for speaking and communicating.
The best method for helping a child’s pronunciation is through purposeful modeling. If your child says, “I’d like some more pasgetti,” you could respond, “More spaghetti, coming up!” If your child talks about an ambliance whizzing past your car, you could say, “The ambulance must be headed to the hospital.” These are gentle, almost invisible, corrections.
But young children aren’t the only ones who pronounce words incorrectly.
Check out this list of common words that are easier to spell when they are pronounced correctly. Click the audio icons below to hear the correct pronunciation of each word. (Note: if a word has more than one accepted pronunciation, the most common pronunciation is given.)
|“bob wire”||barbed wire|
|“probly” or “prolly”||probably|
|“foilage” or “foe-lage”||foliage|
And then there is the issue of relaxed pronunciation, where we blend two or more words together in casual speech.
|acoupla (as in, I’d love to have acoupla goats.)||a couple of|
|algo (as in, Algo if you go.)||I’ll go|
|a lotta (as in, I ate a lotta spaghetti.)||a lot of|
|betcha (as in, I’ll betcha a dollar.)||bet you|
|awayzaway (as in, Our vacation is awayzaway.)||a ways away|
|c’mere (as in, Can you c’mere for a minute?)||come here|
|‘cuz (as in, I dropped it ‘cuz it was hot.)||because|
|d’wanna (as in, D’wanna go to the park?)||do you want to|
|hafta (as in, I hafta go to the store.)||have to|
|howzat (as in, Howzat book you’re reading?)||how is that|
|kinda (as in, We stayed up kinda late.)||kind of|
|omina (as in, Omina show you something.)||I’m going to|
|sko (as in, Sko to the beach!)||let’s go|
|toldja (as in, Toldja he wouldn’t like it!)||told you|
|don’tcha (as in, Don’tcha want to come with me?)||don’t you|
|whaddya (as in, Whaddya mean?)||what do you|
|yoosta (as in, I yoosta be good at playing piano.)||used to|
|spozed-ta (as in, You’re spozed-ta be there early.)||supposed to|
Here are technical words to describe how words can change in casual speech:
Most of us do change words when we speak, but in spelling class it is helpful to slow down and pronounce the words clearly to reduce the chances of misspelling them.
Any time your student fergets how to spell a word, simply remind him not to forget to “pronounce for spelling.”
By taking the time to thoughtfully consider every part of the word, he will be able to clearly enunciate each syllable, thus increasing his chances of spelling the word correctly.
Is there a word that your child has trouble spelling because of a pronunciation problem? Let me know in the comments below.