A Brave Writer mom asks about her 11 year old daughter who has a low tolerance for schoolwork and struggles with spelling:
I want to start dictation with her but am not sure where and how to fit it in.
Hi! I think it is a good idea to use a passage she knows well for dictation. Initially she may even need you to offer to verbally spell words she is unsure of as you dictate. This is still great experience for her as she will have to listen and write what you say (another way to encode the spellings). Exaggerate your pauses for commas and make a strong finish sound when you get to periods. Help her in all the ways you can. If she needs some words written in advance on a notecard to copy when she hears you say them, then do that too!
You might try our practice of French-style dictation. This is where you choose which words will be written. You type the entire passage, then you omit some of the words and replace them with blank lines. Print the whole thing. Read the passage aloud and she reads along with you until she gets to a blank space. When she hears the word that goes there, she will write it. This is a wonderful, gradual practice for kids who are just struggling to write and spell. You can isolate words she knows well the first time you do it so she has success. Then gradually include a word or two she doesn’t know well and prep her before the dictation by orally spelling them together.
For freewriting: spelling doesn’t matter AT ALL. It doesn’t matter if she misspells every word. You can help her if she calls out to you in the middle of a freewrite by spelling it back to her, but remind her that all spellings can be cleaned up later. That’s not the goal of freewriting. If there are words she can’t even attempt in freewriting, then write them for her on a white board or note pad before she begins so she can copy them exactly.
Always use Spell Check on the computer (it teaches kids a lot) and offer her the opportunity to correct her own work against the original so that she is the one making the connection between where she missed the spelling and what it should be.
Keep ALL these sessions short. She will tire easily (it’s an enormous amount of work for her). Give her shoulder rubs and light candles. Eat treats after she finishes. Use pretty paper and flowing pens—let her write in colors other than blue or black.
Make this a nourishing experience, not just school work. Remind her of how smart she is and how you know that she is capable of growing in this arena. Keep her first dictation in a file and compare it to one six months and then a year from now so she can see her progress.