Teaching Children to Spell

Spelling is a major skill that students must master before they can feel truly comfortable reading and writing. Read on to learn tips you can use to help your children with their spelling skills

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With the advent of word processing programs containing grammar and spell check features, students are often failing to learn and master important skills. Today's students must not allow themselves to become over-reliant on the available technologies. Students should first understand the underlying rules that these technologies use, before using them as writing and spelling aids.

Recognition and Memorization

In order for a child to spell proficiently, they must be able to recognize letters and sounds. Recognizing sounds is usually necessary because so many children learn from spelling phonetically.

Children must also remember the correct sequence of letters and be able to spell the word in their mind. Children cannot expect for words to magically appear in their head or on a piece of paper! Practice and dedication are required. The human memory works in predictable ways. Understanding how your memory works can help you use it to its full potential.

  • People only remember what they really want to remember: children must make a conscious choice and effort in order to learn their spelling words.
  • People tend to remember recently learned material: children cannot study words just once; they must relearn old words in order to make them permanent knowledge.
  • People learn material easier when they discover it themselves: introducing children to new words through reading is more effective than giving them list upon lists of words, because they have not discovered them on their own.
  • People must practice what they want to memorize: as the old saying goes, 'practice makes perfect'; children must practice spelling in order to grasp it


Even though it is up to the student to make the choice and effort to memorize spelling words, parents can still help their children succeed.

  • Teach Meaning. Make your child's spelling words relevant. When teaching a new word, explain the definition and use it in a few sentences so that your child will understand its usages.
  • Use Flash Cards. Have students write each word on an index card with the proper definition underneath each word. Read the words to your child and have them spell each word aloud. If they will be practicing spelling alone, have them write definitions on one side of the cards and words on the other, so that they may quiz themselves.
  • Use Tracing. Another helpful tip for students is to have them trace over a word with a pencil or have them write the word several times on a sheet of paper. Writing words helps reinforce the proper spelling in a student's memory.
  • Identify Misspelled Words Together. When your children write stories or other assignments have them go back through have the student identify the words they know they spelled correctly and which ones they are unsure of. Working on identifying misspelled words together will give them a sense of responsibility for finding and correcting their own mistakes. This reinforces the habit of rereading written work and is an early introduction to the art of editing. Taking note of these errors will also help you and your student to compile a list of words he or she should work on memorizing in their spare time. Do not overload your child with spelling assignments and activities, but help them to become aware of which words he or she tends to have the most problems with.

Parents do not need to overwhelm their students with English and grammar rules at a young age, but it is important to work together. Slowly introduce spelling activities and lessons as your child matures. Before you know it, your children may be on their way to becoming spelling bee champions!

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