Friday, January 22, 2010


Over the years I have tried a variety of approaches and curriculum to teach my children how to be good spellers. One thing I have observed is that the more they read, the better they can spell. Also, the more they read, the more that they know when they have misspelled a word, but they just don't know how to spell it correctly. My girls used to tell me when they were giving me a paper to edit that they knew they had misspelled a word. Now that they type all of their papers (and study guide answers too), they can use the spell check when they are unsure.

Clay is a different story! Since he is not a voracious reader like his sisters (actually he only reads the bare minimum required for his schoolwork.....with the exception of reading the Lego catalog!), he has struggled with spelling more than they have.

Here is what I have used:

1. The Natural Speller--I used this for 2-3 years with Olivia, Julie, and Clay beginning when they were in the 1st grade. It is a collection of word lists. You just assign a word list at the beginning of each week, and then the books suggests grade appropriate activities to help study each word. These activities are your typical ones: put the words in alphabetical order, write sentences with the words, illustrate the words, identify the part of speech each word is, and also a variety of tactile ways to practice the words (sand, glue, stickers, colored markers, etc.). The Natural Speller is non-consumable, so it is a bargain in a family of 5 students like ours.

2. Excellence in Spelling--sold by IEW. I used this for Clay for 1.5 years. It is a set of CDs that call out word lists to your child. When they have mastered a list by making a perfect score on the words twice, they move to the next list. This spelling program is completely independent, but it is expensive. It is, however, non-consumable. Clay grew tired of it after 1.5 years....the recorded voices say a little jingle (sometimes a long jingle!) that goes with the spelling words after every 3 words, and Clay thought that took too much of his time.

3. Bob Jones (I think) spelling. I used this for Olivia and I think Julie one year in about the 3rd and 5th grades. We lasted about one semester with this program. It included just too much busy work like cross-word puzzles, word searches, etc. However, I did like the dictionary skills.

4. Currently I am using my own spelling program, using the best features of all the things I have tried. I am using the Natural Speller PLUS words that Clay misspells in his writings to create spelling word lists. Here is my procedure:

  • call out a list of 15 words for him to write
  • tell him which ones he has misspelled
  • have him rewrite the misspelled words twice, saying the correct spelling out loud while he is writing the words
  • the following days I only call out the words he missed previously.
  • have him rewrite and spell out loud any missed words
  • repeat the above procedure until all words are learned
  • Begin again with 15 new words

I plan to begin the same plan with Leah next year when she begins 1st grade. I will probably give her 10 words at a time.

One last note.....when my children are Leah's age and are beginning to write letters and things on their own, I make each one of them a personal Spelling Book. This is just a spiral bound notebook (the $.25 kind from WalMart). I use a marker to label the upper right hand corner of every other page with the letters of the alphabet, writing both the upper and lower case. When the child asks me how to spell something, I have them turn to the correct page, and then I print the word for them. This is very useful! They learn to refer to the spelling book and see if the word they want spelled is there before they ask me how to spell it.

Happy Spelling!


  1. I'll have to try your spelling notebook idea for Jackson. He is copying words like crazy....from the atlas if we are doing geography or he'll open the Bible and start copying. He is excited about writing and I think it may be because I have delayed introducing him to formal learning for so long. He is now ready and is moving along quite well. I have a new spelling program just sent to me from the developer for review. I'll have the kids use it this week and post a review and give-away in the next week or so.

  2. This is so challenging for me! We started using Robinson curriculum which is basically reading, reading, and more reading. The idea is that, as you said, the more a child reads, the better speller he'll become. I was afrai of not having LA separately so I've tried several spelling programs. I don't have the patience for them, though, and they usually fall by the wayside. You know what? To this day I have a dictionary next to me while I write so that I can check spelling. A few slip through here and there, but it works for me.