How can you help your child to spell more accurately?

Although some people still assert the claim that ‘spelling doesn’t matter’, employers continually express the desire for candidates who can spell accurately and the exam boards are placing increasing emphasis on correct spelling, not only in English but in other subjects across the curriculum, including History, Geography, Science and Drama.

There is no one correct way to improve spelling and for many of us, it is a case of spending time learning the words we often spell incorrectly. Some of the following ideas might be helpful when working on spellings at home.

Everyone has particular way that they learn best, for example, some people remember words by looking at them and noticing the shape and placement of letters. Other people might need to hear how a word sounds. Others might like to write it several times in order to learn it.

Encourage your son or daughter to try different approaches and see what works best for them.

Here is some advice for improving spelling:

  • Make a personal spelling list of words that are spelt incorrectly in homework and class work, as well as in any other writing that your son/daughter does at home, such as shopping lists or thank you letters. Encourage them to spend some time learning those words rather than just moving on from them.
  • Use the look, cover, write and check method
  1. Look at the word;
  2. Cover it up by turning it over;
  3. Try writing it out;
  4. Check if the spelling is correct;
  5. Do this repeatedly until the word is spelt correctly every time. Do this on several different days with the same words as it is fairly easy to remember them on one day. It’s important that those spellings are committed to memory over time.
  • Encourage your son or daughter to think of ways/games to help them remember key parts of words, for example, necessary = one collar and two sleeves;
  • Challenge your child to find words inside other words, e.g. there is ‘a rat’ in separate;
  • Work on putting similar words together in families: here, there, where;
  • Use post-it notes to display words on a wall or desk so your son or daughter sees them frequently and remember them. Many students can say, “it doesn’t look right”. Recognising the shape of a word helps lots of people to spell correctly;
  • If your child is artistic, ask them to draw pictures related to the word so that they can associate it with something tangible. If they make their drawings funny, they are even more likely to recall them;
  • If your son or daughter learns well through discussion, ask them to say/spell words aloud, sound out the syllables, or say/sound out silent letters (enviro-N-ment for example);
  • Set a challenge, such as to learn one new spelling every week;
  • Start by focussing on the words that your child use always hesitates over (e.g. immediately, definitely, similarly and so on);
  • Some students find it helps to learn the rule that fits the word. You can see a wide range of spelling rules on this website. It is useful for everyone, not just those with dyslexia.

Encourage your child to believe that they can improve their spelling. Lots of people say they are no good at spelling and don’t try to improve, but challenge them and they may be able to learn to spell more words correctly than they thought.

Spending time learning just one spelling that they regularly spell incorrectly will be an improvement.

Tricky words to learn how to spell

  • Argue/arguing/argument - It is argue but arguing and argument drop the 'e';
  • Benefited - Benefited has only one 't' normally (though two 't's are now accepted);
  • Commitment/committed/committing - Commitment has only one 't', Committed has two 't's, Committing has two 't's;
  • Affect/effect - Affect is a verb - Our whole community has been affected;
  • Effect is a noun - Exposure to the sun has the effect of toughening the skin;
  • Focused or focussed; focusing or focussing - It can be spelled both ways, though one 's' is more common. It always has one ‘c’;
  • Independent - Remember that all the vowels are 'e';
  • Lead/led - Led (pronounced to rhyme with 'Ted') is the past tense of 'to lead' (pronounced to rhyme with 'need'). He is often led astray by others.  He leads others astray. Lead is the metal (obviously pronounced ‘led’ to rhyme with ‘Ted'!). The pupils learned about the properties of lead in their science class;
  • A lot - Should always be two separate words;
  • practice/practise - Practice is a noun - I have piano practice tonight;
  • Practise is a verb - I have to practise my piano piece;
  • separate - There is ‘a rat’ in separate; 
  • definite/definitely Definite has ‘finite’ at the end; 
  • your/you’re - You're = you are (you're going to be late).  Your = possession (is this your coat?); 
  • Sincerely - Needs two Es; 
  • Similarly - Similar + ly; 
  • Necessary - one C and two Ss (one collar and two sleeves on a shirt); 
  • Independent - Ends with ‘ent’; 
  • Fortunately - Has ‘ate’ in it.