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How are children taught to spell?

Children are rarely taught how to spell. They are made to learn spellings by heart and are tested rigorously on them, but it is rarely explained to them what they have learned. Children are generally not told why spellings are the way they are or about how the spellings relate to the way words are pronounced. Spelling often is regarded as a memory task that is not fun. Learning spelling is very different from learning to read and there is no simple correlation between spelling and reading ability. Spelling involves a set of active, conscious processes that are not required for reading. Spelling is a letter-by-letter act and learning to spell is actually thought to be harder than learning to read. The key to understanding spelling is in learning about the predictable links between spelling and pronunciation. This involves finding out about the predictable as well as the exceptions. Spelling is not just memorizing. It involves an understanding of the meaning, proper usage of the words, and making them part of one's vocabulary. Teachers need to take into account that our hands, eyes, and ears are involved in spelling. They also need to have two different approaches, catering to the visual learner and the hands-on learner. The teaching of spelling should be more student-centered and individualized, using words that are (hopefully) relevant and meaningful. Children can be taught letter patterns, three-letter words, consonant letter blends and digraphs, vowel sounds, silent letters, homographs and homophones, syllable junctures, affixes, compound word formation, derivations, Greek and Latin base words, and changes in sound. It is important to use a variety of interesting approaches when attempting to teach spelling.

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