How to Improve Spelling in Young Students

How do you improve spelling in young students? Spelling is an activity that tests student ability in remembering the written form of a word. Before students can actually spell a word, they must first be able to read it and know its meaning. Although it is possible to rote-learn a whole list of words, students are unlikely able to spell them after a longer period of time, especially if they are meaningless to them.

How then, do you improve spelling in young students? These are tried and tested ways that will give students fun and meaningful experiences in learning to spell, and remembering the words over a much longer period.

*  Using phonics. Young students who have learnt phonics soon learn to associate sounds of words with multi-syllables, By breaking words into syllables, they soon identify the sounds that link to form the whole word.

*  Recognizing consonants and vowels and the sounds that they make. Associate each letter with its different sounds. Through repetitions, young students will soon learn to identify the various sounds in each word that begins and ends it, and forms the middle sound, and blend them into a single word.

*  Improving memory skills. Young students need more repetitions to help knock new knowledge into the long term memory. Make memorisation fun through rhymes and limericks. Singing helps the musically inclined. A child by the name of David can substitute the letters in the song BINGO with DAVID, and learn to spell his name by singing “DAVID, DAVID, DAVID and David is my name.”, for example.

*  Frequent reading and exposure to the words. Sight words are easily picked up through frequent exposure through reading together with young students. Use different stories with the same words to help students realise that words need not be exclusive to one story. By realising this, students will be more ready to want to learn to spell and spot familiar words in other stories.

*  Know the meaning of the words. Meaningful experiences are easier to recall. By using the words in different contexts, students will soon remember the spelling of each word without having to consciously and conscientiously memorise them. As students learn that words can have the same or a different meaning in various contexts, they increase in their vocabulary and are more equipped to recall and spell the words correctly.

Teachers can make learning how to spell better fun in school in the following ways:

*  Have group or individual competitions. The group synergy will help any student who is lagging behind catch up and learn together with his team. Interest in learning is also generated in fun activities. Students who lack the home support will also have a small group of friends to help them improve their spelling skills and memory recall.

*  Assign buddies to guide weaker students in learning. These buddies help ensure that their charges practise reading and spelling outside the classroom, such as before school and during breaks. As buddies help their buddies learn, they are also helping themselves recall their spelling. Teachers thus have more eyes and ears to help their students.

*  Enlist parent or school volunteers to monitor the learning of their students. Parent or school volunteers act as substitute home support for the young students, and ensure that they practise reading and spelling the words. Teachers could provide the learning resources and a checklist for these volunteers to complete, so that teachers are kept in the know of the progress in their students.

*  Reward improvement and perseverance with little tokens. Young students need extrinsic rewards to motivate them to do well. Little stickers, stationery, cute ink stamps and even a star drawn against their full marks encourage them to want to do their best. Little successes pave the path to greater future successes. Teachers can reduce the number of words to be learnt for weaker students until they are more confident in reading and spelling.

*  Modify spelling tasks to suit the ability of students. Beginning students may have single-syllable rhyming words as spelling words, such as bat, cat, mat, pat, that is, words ending with the ‘at’ sound. They will then learn the value of phonics in reading and spelling, and be able to spell words that relate to, and extend from these words, such as batter, cattle, matter and patter.

Spelling games include:

*  Test my partner. Students find a partner, and give words to each other to spell. Young students who develop a fear of school find their friends less threatening than their teachers. They are thus more comfortable in learning to spell with their partners.

*  Spelling Bee. Students that are able to spell a set of words move on to the next round, until there remains one student, the champion and winner of the competition.

*  Fill in the blanks. Teachers give certain letters of a word, and the meaning of the word. Students complete the word by filling in the missing letters. This game encourages weak students to learn and recall more difficult words. 

*  Search for the word. Using a hard copy or on-line dictionary, students locate the correct spelling of unfamiliar words. Younger students can be given word cards to select from.

It is important to help young students improve in spelling. As they grow older and encounter more difficult words to learn, they will not feel as threatened and incompetent where spelling is concerned.