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You’ve known it was coming all week: the dreaded Friday morning spelling test. And somehow, every Thursday night you find your kids frantically trying to cram those words into their memory. All the while, they're grumbling to you about how unnecessary this is. With spell-check and text messaging, why do they need to know how to spell anyway?
“In an age when ‘omg g2g ttyl’ has replaced much of traditional writing, it’s easy for students to think that spelling doesn't matter,” says the founder of the website www.spellingcity.com, who asked his name not be used. “Netspeak is undeniably fast, easy, and fun, but it is not the speech used in schools or business. Professionals communicate in writing with Standard English, and spelling is one of the cornerstones.”
Knowing why spelling is important still doesn’t make it fun. It seems that most students fall into the trap of studying for their weekly test by staring at the list and asking Mom or Dad to quiz them out loud. While that may work fine for some students, there are other ways to commit those words into memory.
“It's crucial that parents spend some time each night with their child studying spelling words,” says Melodie Green, fourth grade teacher at Eno Valley Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina. “The use of white boards at home has proven to be successful for some of my students. Parents can call out the spelling words and the child can spell them on the white board. Something about a white board, dry erase markers, and an eraser sparks an interest with children.”
Shaking things up with a white board may excite your young speller. Or, you can try these other fun ways to prepare for Friday’s test, without the stress:
For younger students:
- Write them, write them, write them –on the windows with window markers, on the bathtub with bathtub crayons, or even on the back of the restaurant menu with crayons.
- “Write” words by tracing them through sand or shaving cream. Finger paint them into pudding.
- Use alphabet-shaped pretzels or noodles to spell out words –or challenge your child to spell them out with magnet letters on the fridge or tabletop.
- Turn tricky words into songs. For example, spell the word to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or the “Happy Birthday” song. Or have your child come up with their own melody to go along with the word he is spelling.
For the middle years:
- Practice in the car. This is a great way to get homework done in some otherwise “dead time.”
- Type the words on the computer. You may need to turn off any auto-correct spelling features on your software first.
For older students:
- Make a crossword or word search for each list quickly at a website such as puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com
- See how quickly your child can text the words to you on his cell phone.
- Search for spelling words in a magazine, newspaper, or billboard. Incorporate the words into your conversations to improve vocabulary.
Spelling Bee champions will tell you that the key is visualizing the word. Visual aids such as flashcards are helpful at any age. Try alternating colors for consonants and vowels, or switching between defining a given word to giving the word to match its definition. Don’t spend too much time on those he can already spell. Instead, focus each week on the words that your child is struggling with. What's the final word? A little bit of time spent each night is a much better plan than putting it off until the night before. Teach your child that, and he’ll be sure to thank you during the college years.
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