The Dr. Rick Blog has been focusing this month on summer learning. We know that kids’ brains need to be active during the summer if we expect those brains to be active in the fall. Check out the tips we’ve discussed so far – summer reading , summer math , and summer writing. Today, it’s all about spelling.
Remember, summer’s for slowing down not shutting down.
As a language arts teacher I’ve learned many ways to motivate kids to improve their spelling. Here’s a partial list. For more ideas, type “spelling” into the search box on the right of this page.
- Set a spelling goal. Everyone needs a little spelling help from time to time. It’s one of those skills kids always want to improve. When you and your child set goals for the new school year, make spelling one of them. “I’ll improve my weekly spelling test grades by one letter grade.” Use the summer to get ahead.
- Learn vocabulary. Improve spelling and improve vocabulary at the same time. They go hand-in-hand, especially when kids use the dictionary to check spelling. I have my students tell me one new vocabulary word they’ve learned for each word they look up in the dictionary. Amazing what browsing through Webster’s can do.
- Keep lists. Encourage your child to improve her spelling by helping her to organize words. Keep lists – words I’ve learned this week, words that always give me trouble, history words, math words, country words, music words, sports words, new words I’ve learned using the dictionary – and concentrate on one list at a time. Knowing how to break down big tasks into little ones is a major skill for kids, one that will eliminate a lot of headaches come big project time.
- Have a letter-of-the-day. Our youngest learners are quickly motivated by games. Let one of those games be Letter of the Day. As you drive to errands, walk in the neighborhood, watch TV together, or read at bedtime, look for words that begin with a specific letter. Make it even more fun and have a Letter Scavenger Hunt around the house. They’ll find things you never dreamed of.
- Alphabetize. Alphabetizing is a skill that helps kids spell, organize, systemize, increase vocabulary, and improve reading. Challenge kids with short lists of items to alphabetize – tell them they’re helping you with your household filing. As they get better at it, make the lists longer and the words more difficult (all starting with the same letter, for example). Let them challenge you with alphabetizing.
- Make flash cards. I’m a fan of low-tech flash cards for lots of reasons. You can use them for many subjects. You can make them. Kids can make them. You can make them together, chatting happily about whatever comes up. Decorate and color them. When they help you make spelling flash cards, they’re learning spelling. (Sneaky you.) Let them quiz you. Then you quiz them. This can make for a fun challenge.
- Learn etymology. I confess, I’m a sucker for learning where words come from. Here’s one personal example from when I was eight or nine. Those delicious Italian cookies my grandmother used to make, “biscotti,” are from the Italian word for “cooked” (cotto). These cookies are “twice cooked” or twice (“bi-“) baked. Biscotti. “Terra cotta,” then, I figured out, meant “cooked earth” – or clay. Now I understood where those clay pipes and figures got their name. English words are from lots of languages. German. Latin. French. Italian. Arabic. I know, word nerd. I admit it.
- Use spelling words in conversation. Make a conscious attempt to use in conversation the words you’re studying with your child. When he uses one, notice and congratulate him. A simple high-five, a smile, or wink of acknowledgement will motivate him.
- Have a spelling bee. Spelling bees are excellent motivators of spelling success. You can play them for winners, for fun, for time-passers in the car. Spring a word on him out of the blue. Let him spring words on you. Even when you’re spelling, he’s checking and learning.
- Practice. Practice makes perfect . Doesn’t matter what subject, what skill, what knowledge you’re working on. Practice makes it second nature, easily done, without even thinking. Just like athletes, actors, and musicians. Build a few minutes of spelling practice into the day, with treats for success, enthusiasm, and effort.
Spelling test jitters? Not any more!