Even though we live in the age of spelling software and autocorrection, spelling remains a crucial part of communication. In young children, spelling—along with reading, comprehension, and writing—is one of the fundamental skills in literacy development.
When a student has difficulty with spelling, it leads to problems expressing thoughts and ideas through writing. Without intervention, it could persist and negatively affect the child’s academic performance. In later life, poor spelling skills could interfere with one’s ability to communicate effectively both in his or her personal life and career.
For toddlers and young children, communication begins with gestures, body language, and vocalizations. Over time, this progresses to verbal communication as children learn to get a better understanding of language.
As children develop literacy skills, they make connections between verbal and written expression. They learn fundamental skills for effective writing, like identifying letters by sight and associating written patterns with sounds. These skills are explicitly taught and need consistent formal instruction.
According to research, spelling is crucial in developing and improving one’s reading ability. Good spelling skills help a learner master the alphabetic system as it applies to reading. Not to mention, the ability to see the connection between words of the same origin and understand word relationships is essential in comprehension. Along with strong vocabulary knowledge, a child equipped with an understanding of letters and word patterns can tackle and comprehend more complex texts.
Spelling can be a struggle for many students, particularly for those with learning disabilities or communication disorders. To ensure that a child becomes a competent speller, teachers and tutors must first identify the student’s specific area of struggle.
Some of the most common spelling difficulties are:
A child begins to master the spelling of certain words when he has committed to memory the connection between its letters and phonemes. Phonemes are the distinct sounds we hear when a word is spoken.
In the English language, memorization is key because of the irregularities in English spelling. Such irregularities can be particularly tricky for young learners, even more so for children with learning disabilities.
Some strategies that parents or teachers can use to help a student remember irregular or longer words are:
When it comes to improving a child’s spelling skills, research-based strategies must be implemented. These include:
Sensory-cognitive skills such as phonemic awareness and symbol imagery are key in developing a child’s reading and spelling skills. Phonemic awareness refers to one’s ability to process sounds in a word, which helps a child read and spell by sounding out. However, the English language is not always phonetic, which is why many children have difficulties recognizing sight words and words that are not spelled according to their letter sounds. That is where symbol imagery comes in.
Symbol imagery involves both phonological and orthographic processing or the visual patterns of words. It refers to an individual’s ability to visualize letters and identify word patterns with their mind’s eye, allowing them to instantly recognize sight words because they have developed an extensive knowledge of them. This is crucial as reading fluency relies primarily on mastery of sight words and contextual information.
Students with strong symbol imagery show no difficulties even when encountering new or unfamiliar words, can recognize letters or common words quickly, and can self-correct their errors. At Brooklyn Letters, symbol imagery is one of the functions that we want to help strengthen in your child in order for them to become fluent readers and skilled spellers.
Many schools teach spelling with a bias toward visual modalities. A fun, systematic, and multisensory approach is best for all learners to learn spelling rules and patterns of English words. This means incorporating auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modalities should be used in helping students remember and learn how to spell.
An example of the multisensory approach to spelling would be the Trace, Copy, and Recall method. Students analyze words and group them accordingly, e.g., regular, irregular, and rules, e.g., the Rabbit Rule or the Dropping Rule. Reading practice is also encouraged as a part of spelling tutoring; it helps students develop the mental formation of sight words.
Our tutors work with multisensory approaches that include building phonemic awareness; strengthening sound-symbol associations; the seven types of syllables; roots, prefixes, and suffixes of words; and grammar, syntax, and vocabulary instruction.
Find out more about our literacy tutoring services and get to know our literacy specialists here!