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As a parent, you play an essential role in helping your child believe in her academic abilities, especially with writing. Though your child may ask for help with spelling on a daily basis, she actually knows more than she thinks she knows. Learning to spell is similar to learning balance by falling off a bike. From an early age, kids must stumble and explore letters and sounds and be free to “get it wrong” in order to experience the pleasure of getting her thoughts and ideas onto paper. When a child is encouraged to take risks and spell independently, she feels more confidence and flow with her writing.
That said, it’s tough to watch your child struggle to get it right! So, when do you stand back and when do you rush in to help? Here are some common pitfalls for beginning writers, with tips and fun games for working with them at home:
Phonetic “Invented” Spelling
You may see a kindergartener draw scribbles on a paper during imaginative play; “I am a waiter taking orders!” This is a sign that the child is interested in writing and she is mimicking what she sees adults doing. This type of experimentation with the written word should be encouraged, despite the resulting mistakes. For example, a first grader may write “Fn sF i Lk” for “fun stuff I like”. Don’t try to sound it out yourself, as you probably won’t translate accurately. Instead, ask your child to read her writing to you. Here are some encouraging responses to use with your child when she shows you her writing:
- You’re writing!
- You should be proud of yourself.
- What happened next?
- Show me what else can you write!
Getting it Down on Paper
Kids learn how to spell at first by getting squiggly marks, letters, pictures and eventually thoughts down on paper. They may transpose C/K, G/J, Q/P, reverse letters, write vertically or left to right, forget to use spaces between words, combine upper and lowercase and make many other mistakes. This is all a natural part of the learning process. It’s okay to use proactive language to forward that learning. Here are some helpful questions to ask your child:
- What letters make the “sh” sound?
- What is the first sound you hear in apple?
- What letter do you hear at the end of sun?
- What vowel makes the “u” sound?
A Mini Spelling Lesson
After spelling on her own, your child might ask, “Did I get it right?” Some positive responses include:
- “Yes, that is kid spelling. You got it!”
- “Let’s look this up in the dictionary together,” or “Let’s spell it together.”
- Draw a line down the center of a paper and have your child write her best guess on the left. Then you may write the conventional spelling on the right side in neat lowercase print. Ask: “What is the same about our words? What is different?”
- Ask your child to read the word out loud to you.
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