Spelling Clues

 

My daughter Louisa (15)

English is a beautiful language! It is the language of the Kings James Version of the Bible. It is the language of Shakespeare. Then, why—oh, why can’t we spell?

Over the years of teaching my 7 children to write, I wonder if perhaps I have seen nearly every misspelling known to man. Tomorrow, friends, though, a lot . . . these common words can be quite challenging. I don’t claim to any system of success, but I do know that giving kids a memory clue can help a great deal! Here are just a few of the clues I have discovered that help my kids spell better:

 

tomorrow
If you break this word down into the original two words—to morrow—it is a lot easier for kids to remember. I tell them, “We are looking to (towards) the morrow (next day).” Once you realize the meaning, you aren’t tempted to double the m which is the most common misspelling.


friend
I say, “A friend is a friend to the end”. Circle the word end within the word friend. Once a child sees the word end, that word is generally mastered.

 

though-dough + rough-tough-enough
Though the dough
Is rough
and tough enough,
We’ll still have bread.

These crazy words are all spelled the same, but not pronounced the same. If you can teach your child the ough spelling, then this little chant will keep things straight.

 

igh
I teach this goofy letter combination by drawing a big eye around it:

Now these words are easier to spell and remember:
sigh, nigh, light, night, sight, fight, might, tight, right, fright, blight . . .

 

a lot, all right
These are both two words! Now, you have it! Don’t combine them into alot or alright. Those are misspelled!

 

together
We go to get her to be together.
to get her = together
Pronounce this word to your children and they’ll spell it right: to-get-her

 

separate
There’s a rat in separate. Can you see it?

Whenever you begin to write the word separate, say the little sentence and write a rat and you won’t misspell it!

 

here, there
Here and there are places. If you are not here, you are there. The word here is included in the word there. Once you can see the word here, it is easy to spell there!

 

Spelling Those Tricky Words

Spelling is just as important as doing your hair!

How’s that?

Well, it makes quite a first impression, whether on a job application or in a love letter.

Spelling is not something that we stop learning the day we graduate from high school, or college even. I am a good speller, and I like spelling, so just for fun I took a spelling test this morning. I discovered that I could not spell quite a few of the most commonly misspelled difficult words in the English language . . . which surprised me a bit. I thought I’d have it down by now!

Where to start? Students can make great spelling progress by learning these 12 tricky spelling combinations. These are among the most frequently used (and misused and misspelled) words in the English language. Just having these mastered will make quite a different in their daily writing!

1. Its / It’s

2. No / Know

3. Principal / Principle

4. Quite / Quiet

5. There / Their / They’re

6. To / Too/ Two

7. Through / Threw

8. Weather / Whether

9. Where / Wear

10. Which / Witch

11. Write / Right

12. Your / You’re

I have taught my kids to figure out these words with little memory clues. I’ll share some here with you:

Its / It’s

It’s is a contraction of the words it is. So, when confronted with which one to use, try to replace the word it’s (or its) with the words it is. If that sentence works, then make sure to use the it’s with the apostrophe. For example, “It’s five o’clock” can be also stated, “It is five o’clock”. But this sentence does not work: “The cat licked it is paws.”

Principal / Principle

The principal is a man who could be your pal. See the word pal in principal?

There / Their / They’re

There is a location, a place. You are either here or there. Can you see the word here in the word there? They’re is a contraction of the words they are. You can replace the word they’re with they are as a test to see if it works.

To / Too

Too many cookies is the phrase I use to help my children see the word too means additional, also or excess. You can draw chocolate chips in the letter o in the word too to help them remember!

Where / Wear

Where is another location or place word. When you ask the question, “where?”, you are either here or there. Look for the word here in the word.

Which / Witch

The witch that rides a broomstick has her broom in the middle of the word (the letter t).

Your / You’re

The word you’re is a contraction of the words you are. Teach your children to replace the word your/you’re in a sentence with you are and they can discern if it is a contraction or not.

Now, for contractions!

By the way, if you haven’t taught your children about contractions yet, that is a fun lesson! Using two index cards, write the separate words of the contraction, one per card like this:

can                 not

Have your child read the separate cards to you. Hold one card in each of your hands. Then show them how to make a crash of the two word cards (big appeal with boys) so they bend back and only show these letters:

can                 t

On a third card, draw a “comma-up-in-the-air” (apostrophe). Tell them the crash knocked out some letters and so you stick this mark right where the letters are missing to show they once were there.

can’t

Works with every contraction except won’t (will not).

Have fun with spelling today!

 

 

Natural Speller versus Has-to-Be-Taught

My children: Ammon, Julianna and Mark
Will the “natural speller” please stand up?

Having homeschooled 7 children, I eventually figured out that either kids come as “natural spellers” or they don’t. And if they don’t, you have to teach them to spell.

The natural speller can see the word in their head. You might see them writing it with their finger in the air when they are figuring out the spelling of a word. Spelling comes pretty easily to this child.

The “has-to-be-taught” speller is just as intelligent. In fact, spelling doesn’t have much to do with intelligence. As soon as the “has-to-be-taught” speller gets some memory clues or rules to go by, they can spell just as well as anyone. Of my 7 children, a few of them are natural spellers.

For the natural spellers, it is pretty much a waste of time to give them spelling lists, spelling tests, workbooks, or spelling activities. They will get it eventually, no matter what you inflict upon them. They can see the word in their mind’s eye and the more times they see it, read it or write it, the easier it gets. For a natural speller, I have found the best exercise is to correct their daily journal writing, and help them analyze a misspelled word. Once it is pointed out, they can practice that word—write it a few times each day perhaps. A memory clue is big help, such as pointing out the word end in the word friend (a friend is a friend to the end). Once they can see the right spelling, they generally do great at self-correction in the future.

Here are a few spelling clues to get you thinking:

here, hear
hear–you hear with your ear. See the word ear in hear.
here and there are places. You can see here in there.

together
Separate the word into syllables: to-get-her
If you are going somewhere together, you have “to get her” first.

tomorrow
Separate the word into syllables: to-morrow
The meaning is “on the morrow, or the next day”. Remembering that helps you not put an extra “m” in the word.

friend
How long will a friend stick with you?  to the end!  If you can see the word end in your friend, you spelled it correctly!

The main thing is to talk through the misspelled word with your child the first time you spot it. Just dissecting it is often enough to help a natural speller see and correct his mistake. When my son spelled rock as roc, I asked him to spell sock, clock, block, lock, etc. As he put the ck on the end of each word, he quickly recognized the pattern and fixed rock without another word from me.

You never know for sure which kids will be natural spellers, so I start all children off writing with the Spelling Dictionary by their side from about age 6 and up.  If they get in the habit of looking up words they are stumped on, instead of puzzling (and misspelling them), it seems to get them off to a better start.

As they grow, I switch over to How to Spell It. This was a wonderful discovery in my homeschool, because kids often can’t find a misspelled word in the dictionary, obviously, because a dictionary teaches definitions of words, not primarily how to spell them.  This handy book spells every word is a variety of ways with the correct spelling bolded in red, so you can find your word easily!

From day one of homeschool, I have my children keep a school journal.  This is an easy way to teach spelling, as they learn to spell right along with learning to write, and the spelling words are the words they use in their everyday conversation.

When it is time for some formal rules, I reach for Better Spelling in 30 Minutes a Day.  This book is great for older children who need some spelling help, or as a guidebook for you, as a teacher, to get the rules down so you can teach better. Workbook contains exercises that allow you to identify weak spelling areas and practice to improve them, tricks for spelling those commonly misspelled words, proofreading practice so you can learn to spot an error, and an answer key in the back of the book so you can check your answers as you go. Of course, you don’t have to spend 30 minutes a day, but I’m certain this book will improve your spelling even if you only spend a few minutes!

Good spelling is just about as important as brushed hair or a washed face. It is often the first impression we will make. In a day when email or texting is a common form of communication, spelling matters. Believe me, I have seen my share of misspelled job applications—and they are not very impressive. It’s worth it to teach our kids to spell!

 

"I" Before "E" but Not After "C"

Spelling, just like bike tricks, improves with practice!

I am a product of the public schools of the 1960′s. I was taught the spelling ditty: “i” before “e” but not after “c”, and a host of other rules. Unfortunately, I can only remember that one rule, and even so, those rules don’t always apply: for example, in foreign, vein or freight. Spelling rules seem to be made for the logical, perhaps, mathematical mind (not mine), but I am a good speller. How does that work?

I have used many a spelling book and program with my kids over the years, and I am convinced that Ruth Beechick, skilled teacher and curriculum developer, knew what she was talking about. Ruth Beechick did not like spelling workbooks, and taught that spelling out of the context of one’s writing is seldom remembered and can be an exercise in futility. After homeschooling for 20 years, I have to agree.

So, how do you teach kids to spell? Well, here is what I do:

Get them to write. Let them write about their interests—those are the words they need to know how to spell anyway, as they will be using those words often. As you correct their writing, help them correct their misspelled words and transfer them to a spelling list. Every day, have them write those words 3 times. On Friday, test them on their words. Whatever is missed goes onto next week’s spelling list, until it is mastered. Every Friday, when you give a spelling test, go back and pull words randomly from previously mastered spelling lists to keep them fresh in your child’s memory.

Do whatever you can to help them make sense of the spelling of the word when they first transfer it from their writing to their spelling list. If you can simplify a rule to the point that a child remembers it, go ahead.

More often, though, I find myself drawing a little memory clue next to the word, or underlining some of the letters to solidify a crazy spelling. Find a reason to remember a difficult spelling sequence. For example, I point out to my children that the commonly misspelled word, “friend”, is easy to remember if you know that a “friend is with you to theend“. Once a child can see the word “end” in “friend“, it is easy to spell it correctly.

Look for that pesky creature, “a rat”, when you spell “separate”. There is “a rat” in “sep a rate”! Once you can remember that, you’ll never spell it wrong!

Children often struggle with the correct spelling of the words”their” and “there”. How does one remember? Look at the word “there”. “There” is a place, a location. You are either “here” or “there”. The word “here” is part of the word “there“. Have children search for the word “here”. If they see it in the word “there“, they are talking about a place.

Which “hear” hears? “Here” or “hear”? You “hear” with the word that has an “ear” it it: hear!

If you all want to be “together”, then you better go “to get her“.

For very logical types, a spelling rule might hold some weight. But for the majority of children,I have found memory clues to be very powerful in teaching spelling!