I have some samples and questions regarding my son’s horrid spelling that I was hoping you would not mind giving me some guidance with. My son, Clay, just turned 9 in March and he says he hates to write (and read). He reads at grade level (3rd) or a little below. He enjoys stories ~ he says he hates reading however because he stresses himself out regarding the length of the story and the amount of writing per page. He does plenty of copy work and has very neat writing. He is struggling with creative writing because he is challenged to get his thoughts out of his head and onto paper. We don’t do a lot of creative/freewriting becasue he is young and I don’t push him.
Although, we have recently begun the Friday Freewrite idea and he is finally beginning to get over his writing fears and put his thoughts on paper. Often, when we do have writing requirements, he will dictate to me and I will either write or type his thoughts. We were doing “Spelling Power” as part of our school day and he was able to improve his spelling ~ but only on his spelling test ~ not in his other writing and due to time/schedule issues we were no longer to complete spelling daily and then it was pointless ~ he would have forgotten all the words he once could spell once we returned to the curriculum and then he was very frustrated. So, we haven’t done any spelling in a long while and I wasn’t concerned.
On Mother’s Day he gave me two Mother’s Day Coupons. They read (complete with his spelling inside the ” “):
This Mother’s Day Coupon is Good For: “Go git the mal and tack the mal out, and drie the dishiz” With Love, “Clay” (Go get the mail and take the mail out and dry the dishes)
This Mother’s Day Coupon is Good For: “2 cisiz and 1 hog, and macing your day spesholl.” With Love, “Clay” (2 kisses and 1 hug and making your day special)
I loved his Mother’s Day coupons and told everyone all about them ~ but I did not leave them out for others to see and I never mentioned to him that he had misspelled anything. He is easily embarrassed when others notice his poor spelling and he is very sensitive to this issue because his sister (who is 21 months older) is a wonderful speller and would write 4-5 pages for a Friday Freewrite. No one compares him to her ~ except himself!
Do I need to do something now or should I continue to just wait while doing lots of read-aloud from good literature, having him read good books, and completing copywork assignments? What about Spelling Power ~ are you familiar with it? Would you recommend something different?
Thank you for your time. I greatly appreciate all of your wonderful resources available on your website.
Have a wonderful day,
Thanks for your email. Your questions are echoed in many emails I get every week. Let’s take a look at your particular situation and see if we can teast apart your concerns and how to help your son, and thereby help some other moms too.
First off, your instincts about freewriting are dead on. When a child feels stressed by conveying his thoughts to paper (and nine is so young!), it’s important to respect that boundary just like you wouldn’t push your child to lift a 25 lb. weight if he told you it really hurt! You’d work up to it slowly with other exercises. Neat handwriting is a wonderful skill to have cultivated by nine! Feel good about that.
What you want to remember now is that you and your son are in the Partnership Writing phase of development. That means that the writing he does is largely supported by you. Your goal isn’t to “get him to write his thoughts.” Your goal is to draw out his mind life and to help him get those ideas to paper (whether he moves the pencil or not). What that means is that you can jot his ideas down for him or type them up or even record them on a little digital recorder to transcribe later in the day. Right now, his mind is outpacing his transcription skills. We want to be sure we don’t miss all that good vocabulary and idea development simply because it hurts his hand to write. Instead, you help him in the area you can: transcription. He offers what he can: words, ideas, thoughts, memories, information. Together, you get his thoughts to paper.
As far as original writing and spelling go, first of all those coupons are adorable!! Please save them in the baby book or homeschool records because, sadly, he will not always spell dishes “dishiz” and honestly, is there any cuter spelling you’ve ever seen? Remember, spelling is a slowly developed skill that takes about ten years to become natural and fluent. Early on, kids who are giving attention to what they want to say, have a hard time also focusing on how to spell it. That’s why they can pass spelling tests (a list of words requiring no original thinking) and can’t remember to spell the same words correctly while trying to think thoughts. Too much brain activity before the spellings have become automated.
The best way to help your son right now is to remember this principle:
Use someone else’s writing to teach mechanics.
That means you will encourage copywork (and eventually dictation) that help your son learn mechanics and spelling in the context of real writing without his having to come up with original thoughts.
Use original writing to teach your child to think.
Don’t worry about mechanics (for awhile) when focusing on original writing. Focus instead on vocabulary, ideas, insights, humor, surprise, facts, detail, vivid images and so on. Do what you can to help get those words to a page (if he writes some and you write some, that’s fine). As he becomes more proficient in his handwriting skills and his mechanical know-how (as demonstrated in copywork and dictation), he’ll begin to transfer those skills to his original writing. (Not usually in the first draft, but eventually, during revision and editing your child will notice his errors and will be able to correct them.)
I personally don’t think spelling programs do much to teach kids to spell in original writing. If your child is consistently doing copywork and gradually shifts to dictation, he will make strides in spelling that eventually transfer to his writing.
Hope that helps!