Help Your Child
Master Spelling

by Jacquie McTaggart

The trick to success on the weekly spelling test is not waiting until Thursday night to practice. Here’s a quick and painless way to help your child spell correctly and ace that Friday test.

What You Need
• A teacher-prepared weekly spelling list, usually given out on Monday
• One sheet of coarse sandpaper
• Paper and a writing tool of your child’s choice (pencil, pen, marker, etc.)

What You Do
Monday: When your child brings his spelling list home, say each word and ask him to spell it. Refrain from making any comment about correct spellings or errors. Simply put a tiny check mark beside the misspelled words. At the end of the list, tell your child how many words he spelled correctly.

Next, look at the words he spelled incorrectly. Talk about the meaning of the misspelled word and together look for clues that will help your child remember the correct spelling. Rhyme it with a word he already knows how to spell, break the word into syllables, point out “unusual” letter combinations like “sh” or “ou”, and so forth.

Tell your child to write the word, using only his finger, on sandpaper. This process, known as the kinesthetic approach, helps kids visualize the word better. Finally, have him write the word one time on paper, Etch-a-Sketch or chalkboard. Go on to the next word.

Tuesday: Ignore the words your child spelled correctly on Monday. He already knows them and there is no reason to rehash words that have already been mastered. Instead, say each misspelled word one at a time, asking your child to write them.

After the last word, ask your child to help you check for errors. When an error is noted, repeat the sandpaper process and then instruct him to write the word (on paper or chalkboard) one more time. Then call it quits for that day.

Wednesday: Repeat yesterday’s schedule, but work only on the words that were misspelled Tuesday. (This practice rewards progress because it reduces homework time.)

Thursday: Last-chance workout. Say all words in the week’s list and ask your child to write each of them. Check the paper together. Ask her to write each misspelled word (if there are any) three times using a different colored marker, pen or chalk each time, and then call it quits.

Try not to pressure your child or drag out spelling sessions any longer than necessary. A little spelling practice is beneficial, but too much drill or a “you better get all of these right or else” attitude can be lethal. Be careful not to overdue a good thing.

If you help your child practice her spelling words for a few minutes each night, she’s apt to go to school on Friday with smile on her face! And when she comes home at the end of the day and shows you her great spelling test, you’ll have a smile on your face too.

Jacquie McTaggart is a teacher and freelance writer.