21 October 2008 10:44 AM

S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G Is Important (Part 1)

by Dr. Rick

“It may not be fair,” I used to tell my high school English students, “but people judge us by our appearance. How we dress, what we say, the people we hang out with. And, yes, how we write. You get only one chance to make a first impression. Make it count.”

In our writing, first impressions include spelling.

How can we help our children become good spellers? They’ll need our help. English is a difficult language whose words can’t always be “sounded out.” Try sounding out “laughter,” for example. Then put a tiny “s” in front of it, and it becomes a completely different sound. Go figure.

Here are some tips to try. The first group is for non-School Times, before your child begins school or for older kids, during away-from-school time. The second group of tips is for School Times, when your kids are studying for their weekly spelling quizzes or preparing written assignments.

Non School Times: Start early with developing a lively interest in language.

  1. Read aloud. Read a lot. Let your finger follow the words along the page, so youngest children can see words flowing left to right. When your child begins to read, take turns reading. You read, then let her read for a while as you listen with rapt, wide-eyed, amazed interest.
  2. Talk. Keep the conversations going with your child, giving her plenty of chances to respond and ask questions. Talk with, not at, your child. Encourage dialogue.  Ask questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no.” Tell stories, talk about family history, tell about relatives who no longer live but who have had a major influence on you. Tell about your favorite childhood stories, your fun childhood memories. 
  3. Write. Encourage your child to write about things that interest him. Just for fun, not for a school-like assignment. Have him tell you about those interests. Don’t be critical about spelling. Yet. You’ll have plenty of time later. Keep a scrapbook or folder of these written works. He’ll feel like an author.
  4. Slowly, increase the vocabulary level. Try new words. Children love learning new words and using them. Encourage this kind of experimentation. Notice when he’s using a new word correctly, praise him.
  5. Play word games. Hangman, rhyming, Scrabble, Password and others are excellent ways to learn new words and have fun at the same time.
  6. Give books as presents. Get your child his own library card and visit the library on a regular routine.
  7. Turn off the TV. Step away from the computer. Just for a while. This won’t hurt anyone.

On Monday, I'll cover spelling tips during school time...


English | Homework


10/28/2008 9:43:34 AM

Good Afternoon,
Were you the teacher in charge of the Journalism program at Parkville High School in 1980?


10/28/2008 10:21:05 AM

Hi Janice,
Yes, I was the journalism teacher and adviser to Parkville High School's award-winning newspaper, The Pioneer, from 1973-1977.  I left Parkville to go  to another Baltimore County high school in 1977.  I was not at Parkville in 1980.  Were you a Pioneer journalist?  I'm embarrassed to ask: was I your  teacher?  That would be a great coincidence and a nice online reunion.  Are you a journalist now?  Are you still in the Baltimore area?
Thanks for writing.  I hope you're enjoying this blog.
All the best,
Rick Bavaria

Dr. Rick

10/28/2008 11:04:14 AM

Hi Rick,
Thanks for getting back to me.  I was in your Journalism class in 1976 and 1977.  I was the co editor of the feature page of the Pioneer in 1977.
Over the years I have thought about you on occasion and what an inspiration you were to me.  I married a fabulous man and went on to have two terrific sons who are currently 18 and 16.  I am very fortunate in that I have been able to dedicate my time to raising my sons and  working in the community in Delaware.
For the past 16 years I have been able to follow my dream of advocating for children who are victims of abuse/neglect. I co-chaired a non profit for many years focusing on advocacy for vulnerable children.  I have helped get critical legislation passed that benefits child victims of abuse and am especially proud of legislation creating the Office of the Child Advocate which ensures children who are victims of abuse and neglect have legal representation in the courtroom.  I sit on several boards and commissions in Delaware working on policy for abused and neglected children.
I have served as a mentor to many school age children through the years.  I am currently mentoring a 16 year old sophomore whom I first met when she was a third grader at a nearby elementary school.  I have lunch with her weekly and listen to the very difficult situations that she encounters daily.

Last week we were reviewing her grades and her most recent bus write up.  I was once again explaining the importance of studying, rising above the problems and focusing on her future which includes getting out of the area where she currently lives.  She provided me with a list of excuses for her behavior.  The words you taught me back in 1977 came flooding back and I put my hands on her shoulder, looked her in the eyes and said "Excuses only satisfy the men who make them."
I have such a clear memory of you telling me these exact words after I missed another day of school due to some difficult times at home.  I have often repeated those words to myself throughout my life and it has become one of my mantras.  I credit you (and a few other teachers) I had a long the way with giving me a vision of hope, the ability to believe in myself and know that I could achieve anything that I really wanted.
I am writing this email  because I want you to  know that you made an incredible  difference in my life.  I am deeply appreciative of your guidance and the belief you had in me back in 1977.  I am sure there are many people that could tell stories similar to mine about the impact you had on their lives.  I wanted to make sure that I told you.
I hopefully am passing on some of what you taught me to the kids I mentor and the kids that I advocate for who have few resources and supports.  I am glad to see that you are still involved in the education field.
With Gratitude,


10/28/2008 12:30:54 PM


Thank you again for writing to me and, most of all, thank you for the Good Work you're doing.  Your protégée is a very fortunate girl.
With admiration,

Dr. Rick

7/13/2009 10:03:53 AM

Nice post. This will help to improve my spelling. Thank you very much...

California Orange County Lawyer

8/11/2009 10:55:53 PM

Good post, I will mention it on my blog.. Cheers


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