Email: Spelling!

Hello, Julie.

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/free writing because 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,
Angie Pfleiderer

I love those coupons too! Adorable examples of risk-taking in writing. We really do leave it all out there for persual when we write. So glad you knew to love the content and overlook the spelling.

Remember: 9 is very young. Right now, he is still managing the complexity of holding a pencil, remembering which direction the ball goes on the letter ‘d’, and he’s trying to think about ideas and words and spellings all at once. That’s a lot going on!

Before you worry too much, try this. Ask him a day after he does some writing, to look at what he wrote and to see if he can edit it at all. Is he more capable of seeing spelling errors when reading than when he is writing? If so, you are halfway there. He simply needs to slowly learn to reread his work and check for errors before he’s finished.

If you find that his reading his own writing doesn’t reveal spelling competency, then you have a couple of options. I would have him continue copywork, but you may want to also work in a little “French Dictation.” This is a process I describe in the Arrow Guidelines (included with any Arrow purchase) and also in The Writer’s Jungle. The essential idea is that you will write out a passage for your child but leave blanks for several of the words that you consider challenging to him. Then, you will read the passage aloud, he will read along and when he comes to a space where a word should go, he will attempt to sound it out and write it accurately. You can support this process by helping him slow down and focus on just that word.

By isolating a word (in context), you help him to approximate what he will do when he’s in the process of original writing. But by only focusing on a few words at a time, in a context that he didn’t create, he will be building the skill of spelling without the competition of so many words crowding his head.

Remember: 9 is young and it takes ten years to become fluent in spelling. He’s at the beginning.

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