Is your child frustrated by spelling troublemakers? During the course of spelling instruction, your child is bound to run into a troublemaker or two.
Troublemakers are words that, for one reason or another, are especially challenging to spell. They tend to fall into one of four categories: words caused by careless mistakes, words that are mispronounced, words that don’t follow the spelling rules, and homophones.
Even the very best spellers sometimes encounter troublemakers.
But knowing why a word causes your child trouble will help you find the right solution to the problem. It’s important that you match the problem with the correct remedy.
When you identify a problem your child is having with a troublemaker, first try to figure out why your child is misspelling the word. Then you can match the problem with the correct remedy.
If Your Child Misspells a Word You Think He Should Know…
For example, your child writes down the word form instead of from, and you know that he has spelled this word correctly on other occasions.
The solution: ask him to slowly read exactly what he wrote down.
Make sure that he reads each phonogram in the word. Many times, the child will catch and correct his own mistake. If he doesn’t see his mistake, tell him, “You wrote form, but we want the word from. What do you need to change?” This encourages the student to check his own work.
If Your Child’s Pronunciation of a Word Makes Spelling Difficult…
A number of different pronunciation issues can affect your child’s ability to spell words correctly.
The solution: teach your child how to pronounce the word clearly. With the correct pronunciation, he’ll have a much better chance at being able to spell it correctly.
Some words that are commonly mispronounced and misspelled are probably (probly), secretary (secertary), because (becuz), and library (libary). If you suspect that your child has spelled a word incorrectly because of a mispronunciation, model the correct pronunciation of the word, and have your student segment the word syllable by syllable.
Some words are not pronounced clearly in everyday speech. For example, most Americans pronounce the word button as butn and little as liddle. Schwas, the vowel sound in an unaccented syllable of a word, often get lost in the normal rhythm of speech. In these cases, it is helpful to “pronounce for spelling” and enunciate each syllable clearly and as it is written. Regional accents can also make certain words more challenging. If your child pronounces forget as ferget—and it causes him spelling difficulties—remind him to “pronounce for spelling.”
If Your Child Has Forgotten a Rule or Generalization…
You know your child has learned the rule that should help him spell a word correctly, but he just can’t seem to remember it.
The solution: keep those spelling rules fresh in your child’s mind!
Demonstrate the rule by writing 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.
If the Misspelled Word Is a “Rule Breaker”…
A Rule Breaker is a word that does not follow the rules of spelling. For example, in the word said, we expect ai to say /ā/, not /ě/.
The solution: each time your child encounters a new Rule Breaker, have him circle the letters that don’t follow the rules.
If your child continues to misspell the same Rule Breaker, try one of these additional strategies:
In the space of a minute or two, your child has practiced the word nine times.
In this exercise, your child “writes” the Rule Breaker on a tactile surface, using his pointer finger instead of a pencil. Some surfaces to consider include:
All of the above solutions for handling misspelled words can be used no matter which spelling program you are currently working with.
But if you’re using the All About Spelling curriculum, you’ll find special features that are built into the program to help you handle troublemakers.
Which spelling words cause your child the most difficulty? Let me know in the comments, and then download my free e-book called “Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy” below!