I always have a student who is a poor speller. There are kids who just never get the hang of the common patterns in the English language. I think our use of text speak and lack of handwriting practice is partly to blame, but I will save that discussion for another post.
I have a few tricks to help my students with common spelling errors, and I give some practice work for the summer too. In the age of spell check, correct spelling will be about recognizing the best way to spell a word rather than having to generate the correct spelling from memory.
If your child needs some practice over the summer or some reminders when school begins again in August, try a few of these spelling tactics. Your son or daughter might not be heading to the National Spelling Bee, but they might catch a few more errors in their writing.
Use What is Already There
- I often have students misspell words that appear in the test or assignment. Practice looking back through a paper and comparing your spelling to words that are provided in questions or directions or even a word bank.
- This strategy can also be useful if a child sees a word that rhymes. Rhyming words may have the same spelling pattern and the base part of the word can be copied. If you can spell rock, you might be more likely to spell sock with the CK ending.
- The same tactic would work if a child needs to change an ending on a word. If you see the word humid and need to write humidity, a child could make a reasonable guess using the original word given.
Practice Copying Words Correctly
- The more often you spell a word correctly, the more likely you will spell it correctly in the future. There is muscle memory, and your hand memorizes the way letters connect (which is why cursive handwriting is important IMO). Think about writing your name. When I got married, it took awhile to retrain my hand not to automatically begin the letters of my maiden name.
- If your child’s handwriting is really poor, and you have moved on to keyboarding, you can complete this same activity on the computer, although I think the act of handwriting is more effective.
Practice Adding Endings to Words
- This is a great reminder about the spelling rules that we are taught directly or pick up through reading. Start with a base word like hop. Add a variety of endings and say aloud why/how the word changes. Hop becomes hopped, hopping, hops. For the ED and ING endings, we doubled the final consonant to protect that vowel sound. For the S ending, we did not need to protect the vowel sound because we were adding the consonant S. In this case, look at the word hoping. How is it pronounced? Why? What is the difference between hopping and hoping.
Practice Locating Mistakes
- Look at a sentence or small paragraph with errors. Find the errors and make the necessary corrections.
Here are some other 4th grade tips for words that are often confused.
- There is A RAT in the middle of the word sepA RATe.
Affect v. Effect
- Affect is a verb (action– also starts with A). It will often have a helping verb nearby. If you can’t remember your helping verbs, I have a list here in the grammar plan. The storm did AFFECT our electricity.
- If the word has ED on the end, it should probably be AFFECT. We were AFFECTED by the power outage. This example also has the helping verb clue.
- Effect is a noun. It will often have A, AN, or THE nearby and be the subject of the sentence. The EFFECT of the storm was devastating.
Desert v Dessert
- Desert is a dry place because of little rainfall.
- Dessert is the yummy treat you have after a meal. It has two S’s because you want two servings!
Their, They’re, or There
- Their is possessive; it shows ownership. If you can replace their with the word his or her, and the sentence makes sense, use THEIR. We went swimming at their pool. We went swimming at his pool.
- They’re means they are. Read the sentence with the words they are. If it sounds right, use the contraction. They’re swimming at the neighbor’s pool. They are swimming at the neighbor’s pool. In fact, any time you are dealing with a contraction, use the complete words to check yourself. The replacement word test for their and they’re will work when checking it’s and its. Try using it is and his or her.
- There is a location. If the replacement words used above sound funny, use THERE. You can also sometimes replace there with at that place. We will be swimming there. We will be swimming at that place.
- Too has an extra O because you have more, extra.
- If you can replace too in a sentence with also or so, you probably need TOO. That soup is too hot, and it burned my tongue. That soup is so hot, and it burned my tongue. I want to eat soup too. I want to eat soup also.