I taught first grade. In kindergarten they have learned the letters and sounds. In first grade they are expected to use them to spell words. More times than I can count I heard a parent say, "We work on spelling every night and he just doesn't get it."
When I asked how they studied I usually heard something like, "I call out the words and he writes them." Sorry parents--that's a test not studying. I was recently contacted by a relative who was on the verge of pulling her hair out. Her grandson is very intelligent, but is easily distracted and struggles with long term memory. Spelling was, in her words, 'eating their lunch'. She told me that his daddy usually gave him a bath and they used shower crayons to write the words on the wall around the tub. Great idea. Here are some of the suggestions I made.
Begin on the first night the list comes home. Verrryyy important. Don't wait until the night before the test. On the first night call out the entire list of words--ONCE. The words he or she gets right the first time should be put aside and reviewed the night before the test. This allows you to focus on the words that were misspelled. Don't waste time reviewing words that he already knows. Now when you review the difficult words, do it in a fun way. Break the difficult words into bite size lists.
- Focus on five or ten words every night. Continue studying any word the student is still struggling with every night. The night before the test, review all the words.
- Be sure the child is engaged in the activity, especially if there is an attention problem. If he likes the computer, let him type the list. Use Word which with underline misspelled words in red.
- If he likes chalk, use it.
- If he is a tactile learner, pour cornmeal in a plastic container with a lid. Allow the child to 'write' the words with his fingers in the cornmeal. As he writes in the cornmeal, you 'draw' the word on his back with your finger. When finished, put the lid on the container and save it for next time.
- Use colored markers.
- Say the word the way it is spelled rather than the correct pronunciation. I taught my students to spell Wednesday by saying, "We say Wenesday, but it is spelled wed-nes-day. When I say Wensday you think and write wed-nes-day." It worked. I had students tell me years after they left my class, they still spelled it by writing wed-nes-day. The word friend should be taught as fry-end.
- If your child does all he can do and still struggles, accept it. Not everybody can spell. I tell parents "That's why God made spell-check". The world will not come to an end because your child can't spell. Do you work at it? Absolutely. But do NOT allow it to become a stumbling block for your child. Correct spelling is not worth an ulcer for anyone.