How to Become A Better Speller Study Guide (page 2)
THE FIRST STEP to becoming a better speller is not to despair over your current spelling ability. You may think you are a terrible speller, but that doesn't mean you will always be a terrible speller. Good spellers are not born; they are made through instruction and practice. So, instead of worrying about being a less-than-stellar speller, put your energies toward learning a few tips and tricks that will vastly improve your spelling skills.
Each lesson in this book will cover a specific tip, trick, or rule that when learned and applied will set you on your way toward better spelling. Before you get started, take some time to read through the guidelines here for how to reinforce those tips, tricks, and rules.
Use Flash Cards
At first, you might feel silly using flash cards, but once you notice that you are no longer making careless spelling mistakes, chances are you won't mind being a bit silly. Flash cards are easy and convenient to use. All you need to create them is a pack of index cards or scraps of paper and a pen. Here are some ways in which you can use flash cards to your advantage:
- On the front of each card, write a word you want to learn. Leave out a key letter. Write the complete word on the back. Quiz yourself by trying to fill in the blank correctly.
- Write a complete word on one side of each card. On the other side, write the definition(s) of the word. Quiz yourself by reading the word and trying to state the definition(s). Conversely, you can read the definition(s) and try to identify the word.
- Instead of trying to learn hundreds of words, use flash cards to learn roots, prefixes, and suffixes.
You could also have a friend quiz you. Have someone say a word from your deck of flash cards and then try to spell that word, either out loud or on a separate sheet of paper.
Make a Personalized Spelling List
Once you've completed the lessons in this book, there will probably still be certain words that trip you up. However, if you've read the lessons carefully and completed the practice exercises, you will have a firmer grasp on your spelling errors. In other words, by learning the whys and hows of spelling, you'll be more aware of words that you typically spell incorrectly. Make a list of those words and try to use them in your writing as often as possible. This may seem like an odd instruction: If the words are tricky, shouldn't you just avoid them? Well, no. If you have a hard time spelling a word, forcing yourself to use it—correctly—as often as possible, will reinforce the word in your mind.
Maybe you've misspelled definitely for as long as you can remember, writing it as definately. Since that incorrect spelling has become ingrained, you might have trouble imagining the word spelled differently. But once you become aware of your error, and come to understand the meaning of the root finite, the spelling will make sense to you (see Lesson 5 for more on word roots). It might take time for that new understanding to stick, though. That's where practice becomes essential. Using the correct spelling of definitely as frequently as you can will ensure that it replaces the incorrect spelling in your mind for good.
Read, Read, and Read Some More
One of the easiest ways to improve your spelling ability is to read. The more you read, the more you will recognize words that are spelled properly. When you read, you will experience language. You will be exposed to new and different words and you will see them in action. Reading will allow you to understand tricky words in the context of others. All of this will reinforce your spelling skills.
Don't think, however, that you need to force yourself to read dry or dull texts. Read whatever you want to! Newspapers, graphic novels, short stories, magazines, blogs, and novels are all full of words that can expand your knowledge. If you read many different media, you will be exposed to many different types of words. So don't turn your nose up at the dry texts; just make sure you read other things, too!
When you read, you might want to try keeping a dictionary handy. Then, when you come across a word that you don't know, you can look it up right away. Chances are, you'll find yourself reading words that you've used when speaking but haven't known how they were spelled. Take a look at Lesson 4 for more information on using the dictionary and understanding word meanings.
TIP: Your school or local library is filled with books, magazines, and journals that can help you improve your spelling. Not only can you borrow books and periodicals from the library but most libraries offer a variety of self-improvement, computer, hobby, and other courses free of charge. The next time you are at the library, ask for a copy of its most recent newsletter, bulletin, or calendar of events.
Play Word Games
Gather some family members or friends to play word games like Scrabble® or Boggle®. Or, if you prefer a more solitary pursuit, do crossword puzzles or jumbles. Most daily newspapers have crossword puzzles and many of them also have jumbles. You can also purchase books dedicated to word games, or visit websites that feature jumbles and crossword puzzles.
When you are online, why not sign up for Word of the Day e-mails? These will enhance your vocabulary and increase your familiarity with the spelling of various words. Many sites offer this type of service, including www.dictionary.com.
Turn Off Your Spell-Check Function
If you are a subpar speller, the notion of turning off your spell-check function may seem scary. After all, you rely on your spell-check to catch your mistakes, right? Well, that may not be the best thing to do. First, spell-check tools aren't all that reliable. If you spell a word correctly, but use it incorrectly (in the case of homonyms, for example), your spell-check will not alert you to the error. Second, spell-check tools usually make changes automatically, so quickly that you may not even notice the change has been made. In this way, the spell-check tool actually reinforces your spelling errors. Not what you want to do when you are attempting to improve your ability!
Turning off your spell-check function will force you to proofread your writing very carefully. As you do, if you are unsure of how to spell a word, you can look it up in the dictionary immediately, which will help you learn correct spelling. This may take a little more time than you are used to spending on your writing, but there will be many benefits. Taking charge of your spelling in everything you write will make you a more confident and competent speller.
Ask for Help
If you really want to improve your spelling, don't be shy. Tell your parents, teachers, employers, and friends that you are attempting to become a better speller. Then, ask them to point out any spelling errors you make in your e-mails, letters, or papers. If you know someone who is a particularly good speller or apt proofreader, ask him or her to proofread for a period of time everything that you write, or at least your very important papers or letters! Having another person's eyes review your material may help pinpoint spelling errors that you never knew you were making.
Other keys to becoming a better speller are outlined in the following lessons in this section: Use mnemonics, practice proper pronunciation, and pay attention to word meanings. Furthermore, it goes without saying that you should read all of the lessons in this book and spend the time to complete the practice exercises. In spelling, practice really does make perfect!
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
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- First Grade Sight Words List
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