If your child is struggling with his or her spelling words, there are many steps you can take to help encourage good study habits for spelling tests.
Word Mapping to Develop Spelling Skills
When studying spelling word lists, it's important to help your child avoid thinking of the words as random strings of arbitrary letters. For this reason, the traditional practice of simply studying spelling words by copying each word 10 to 30 times is no more effective than requiring your child to memorize every number in the phone book!
Good spellers are those who look for patterns in their lists of spelling words.
Word mapping is a procedure that many educators believe can help students develop good study habits for spelling tests. With word mapping you:
- Speak the word
- Write the word as it would be pronounced
- Define the meaning of the word
- Use the word in a sentence or find an image that represents the word
- Develop a synonym and antonym for the word
The steps to word mapping are:
- Say the word clearly.
- Stretch the word to emphasize each syllable.
- Segment the phonemes (sounds of the word), working by individual syllables if necessary.
- Count the phonemes. See The Reading Genie's article on How to Count Phonemes in Spoken Words for a detailed explanation of this process.
- Draw blank spaces on a piece of paper for each phoneme, adding slashes where the syllables help divide the word.
- Work out the spelling of the word, phoneme by phoneme.
- Write the word several times in your best handwriting.
- Look for features that are unique or difficult in the spelling of the word.
- Look up the meaning of the word and try to use it in a sentence.
Mix It Up with Fun Spelling Activities
While games can't replace regular study sessions, there are plenty of fun ways students can work in extra practice for an upcoming spelling list. For example:
- Make a word search.
- Play games like Hangman.
- Make pairs of matching word cards and play a memory game with your spelling list.
- Cut letters out of an old magazine to make an artistic collage of the words on the spelling list.
- Write a story using a favorite television character that incorporates all the words on the spelling list.
- Spell words using the sign language alphabet.
Kids who enjoy playing online games may also want to check out the Gamequarium website. This helpful spelling resource has links to several different educational games. Most focus on building general spelling skills, but there are a few games which allow parents to enter words from an assigned spelling list to customize the learning experience.
Developing Good General Study Habits
As you might expect, students who do well on their spelling tests also tend to be those who have taken the time to develop a solid understanding of the basic study habits necessary for academic success.
Good study habits include:
- Create a regular schedule to determine how to handle schoolwork. For example, many parents require their children to complete all schoolwork immediately after dinner and before playing with friends or engaging in other recreational activities.
- Write down assignments in a special notebook that is not used for any other purpose.
- Sort through schoolwork regularly to keep projects neatly organized.
- Ask questions when appropriate to make sure the teacher's expectations are clear.
- Create a special place for schoolwork, preferably a desk with a comfortable chair and adequate light source.
- Gather pencils, paper, textbooks, and other supplies before the study session.
- Eliminate distractions such as music, television shows, or conversations among friends during the designated study time.
Importance of Regular Spelling Review Sessions
While your child may think his or her spelling lesson is finished once the teacher grades the test, regular review sessions are an important part of developing strong spelling skills.
Consider keeping copies of your child's old spelling lists in a special notebook. You can practice these words while driving to soccer practice, play a game of Scrabble as a family, or look for spelling words in your child's favorite library books.
The best way to encourage a love of written language is to provide regular opportunities for your child to demonstrate his achievements in reading, writing, and spelling.