Visual-Spatial Learners and the Challenge of Spelling
When I present to parents, I have a Peanuts copy cartoon I use that shows Charlie Brown in bed thinking, "Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, 'What is the meaning of life?' Then a voice comes to me that says, 'I before E, except after C!'" My poor son spent a lot of time memorizing this rule. Then he misspelled "species" on his test because he kept spelling it, "speceis." (He did follow the rule, though, right?) Who makes up these crazy spelling rules, anyway? There are so many words that are spelled with rules that are broken or that make no sense-it seems silly to have the rule in the first place!
Spelling seems to be universally challenging for visual-spatial children and adults. Thank goodness for spell checkers. For those who think in images, not words, it can be very difficult to create pictures that incorporate letters, particularly pictures that will live on as memorable images in the visual learner's mind. Color is a great tool for accomplishing this. Taking the "IE" in FRIEND and making them a different color, even larger type, helps to secure the rule, or for them the image, that, in this instance, the I precedes the E. This is an effective trick for nearly all spelling words, particularly those with unusual or rule-breaking spelling. My children once had a teacher who taught her students to actually place "rule-breaking" spelling words in jail, behind bars. The image of the word having been imprisoned for breaking the rules would stick in their memory. Here's one my youngest did for the word, "reign" because the "g" is a rule breaker, serving little purpose in the spelling of the word:
However, if color or jail bars don't secure the image, try adding characters around the letters and creating a whole silly story around the word itself. Remember, humor will engage the right hemisphere; color and size will help it to be retained. For example, consider the word, "MOUNTAIN." There are several opportunities for creating actual mountains out of the letters M, N and A. Using a full piece of paper, write the spelling word using pictures of what the word represents. Perhaps our "MOUNTAIN" has climbers on the O or the I. A whole story can be created about the climbers ascending certain letters. Use any trick that will help the spelling of this word to stay in the child's visual memory. Enlist students' help in creating silly stories and drawings - this will make the images easier for them to remember. Don't place any boundaries on what their stories include - they need to create it, store it and be able to recall them, so let them use what works for them. My oldest son made up this silly story to remember how to spell, "friend" correctly:
"These FRIes from FRIday's sure taste good at the day's end!"
"You're right, FRIend!"
Reprinted with the permission of the Visual-Spatial Resource. © 2004-2007, Visual-Spatial Resource. All rights reserved.
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