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Does it drive you wild when you think about spelling? Are you afraid you’ve

passed along the “bad speller” gene to your kids? Perhaps that’s all in the


Spelling is a memory skill and depends on repeated encounters with the word.

It won’t do any good at all to tell a bad speller to look it up in the

dictionary because they can’t spell it well enough to look it up! Here are

some effective and fun-filled ways to learn to spell new words.

1. Write the word in the air with your finger while you visualize it.

2. Write the word on unlined paper using brightly colored “sniffy” markers

3. Have someone write the word with their finger on your back.

4. Write it in chocolate pudding on a cookie sheet.

5. Write the word in large letters on shelf paper (or recycled roll-ends from

the local newspaper) with your right hand and then trace over it with your

left hand (or vice versa for lefties)

6. Spell the word using magnetic refrigerator letters

7. Spell out the word using Scrabble letters

8. Write the word in a dark color and highlight the vowels with a light color.

9. Break the word into parts if it has more than one syllable by putting each

part on a separate piece of paper, scrambling the pieces and rearranging them

10. Write the word on an index card. Put a synonym (means the same) on the


11. If the word has a Greek or Latin root, find out what it is and write it


12. Practice spelling words in the car instead of listening to the radio

Good spelling skills and good memory skills go together. Remembering how a

word “looks”, how many tall letters and short letters it has, remembering

its general shape, remembering its uniqueness will help the brain hang onto

the correct spelling. In many ways, recognizing words is like recognizing

faces. Once you figure out how it is that you recognize a person will help

you figure out how to “recognize” a word and whether it is correctly spelled.

If you have an older child whose written work you are correcting for

misspellings, the tried and true method of editing is to circle the

incorrectly spelled word and directly above it, write the proper spelling.

Have the child make a list of all the incorrectly spelled words and see if

there is a pattern (there usually is); sometimes this fixes the problem!

Many “bad spellers” are afraid, truly afraid, of words. You can help defuse

this fear by putting large-print dictionaries and word books (topically

arranged) like Harry McNaught’s 500 Words to Grow On in the car, in the

bathroom, in the kitchen by the microwave, and by the television. Tape a new

word to the dashboard of the car every day and play with it, letting kids

guess its meaning, make up sentences using it, figuring out its origins.

Homonymns (they sound alike but are spelled differently) account for a large

portion of common misspellings. Playing with the variants of these “spelling

demons”--bare/bare, here/hear, their/there/they’re, its/it’s, wear/where,


Remember: in the beginning was The Word, and it was probably spelled write

wright right.

About the Author:

Gwynne Spencer is a former middle school teacher and reading specialist, now a fulltime writer. She is the author of RECIPES FOR READING and HAVE TALENT WILL TRAVEL DIRECTORY OF AUTHORS, ILLUSTRATORS AND STORYTELLERS WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI, both from Linworth Publishing (800-786-5017), and can be reached at

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