What are the best techniques for a student to improve spelling? Well, before this question can be answered, it's helpful to take a look at some of the most common spelling errors we're all prone to stumble over.
After a quick skim over our universal struggles with misspelled words, we can develop new strategies to address each error. This is quite a hefty task, so let's roll up our sleeves and get right to it.
According to the National Curriculum for English, the most common errors fall roughly into the following categories:
Along with these common pitfalls, spelling errors are divided into two subsets: plausible and implausible.
Implausible errors follow no particular pattern. They may simply be due to a mistyped word or a random guess on the part of the student. A high percentage of implausible errors means that the student is probably using words that are unfamiliar and outside of his or her vocabulary comfort zone. This is not a bad trend to encourage. The time taken to improve spelling is a small price to pay for new knowledge.
Plausible errors imply that the student knew the correct word but used the wrong spelling. Some of the more frustrating components of the English language are the number of exceptions to spelling and grammar rules and the lack of phonetic consistency. For this reason, decreasing plausible errors may be the most difficult part of trying to improve spelling.
The following are some techniques students may want to consider, in an effort to improve spelling:
Identify strengths - Being able to identify where a student isn't making errors gives a grounding sense of strength. This makes the frustrations of the other errors more inconvenient than faulty.
Target the errors - Once errors have been identified, using various tools such as mnemonic devices will provide a starting point to keep it from happening again.
Etymological study - One of the best strategies competitive spellers use to improve their spelling is by studying the origins of words, their root languages, and the ways in which languages change.
Identifying patterns - As students increase their vocabulary, being aware of the common elements in the spelling of each word reinforces the correct knowledge.
Spelling tools - Teaching children how to use the various print and electronic tools such as YourDictionary to check on words they're unsure of establishes a habit of reaching out for verification. Spell checkers are also useful, but will not catch the homophonic error "I think I eight two much," so don't rely on them.
Perhaps the best-known strategy to improve spelling is to read more. Simply having words right there, absorbed as a story unfolds from the pages, will instill an instinct that's bound to help improve spelling.
The more someone reads, the more words will simply "feel" right to them. With practice, they'll begin to sense when a trip to the dictionary might be necessary to validate a word.
On a final note, it's often a good idea to read aloud so the sounds of words can become more closely associated with their spelling. This can also help avoid mispronounced words and phrases in English.
Trying to improve spelling skills is a challenging task. But, with these strategies in hand and some patience, victory is on the horizon.