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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[OCT. 14, 2005]  Q: My daughter is in fourth grade and is still having problems with spelling. Her weekly spelling tests come home marked up with misspelled words. I'd like to be able to help her at home. Do you have any suggestions?

A: There's no escaping the weekly spelling test in elementary school. Learning to spell correctly is an important step toward successful reading and writing. There's no one best way for students to learn spelling words, but you can help your daughter learn to spell better. Here are some suggestions:

  • Encourage lots of reading. Help your daughter find books on her favorite topics.

  • Help her pay attention to how words are spelled. Keep a spelling notebook of new or difficult words she encounters.

  • Give your daughter writing tasks, such as letters, thank-you notes, invitations, your shopping list and labeling objects.

  • Encourage her to proofread her schoolwork for spelling errors. Praise her when she finds misspellings.

  • Play spelling games together. Scrabble, Boggle, UpWords or even an old favorite like hangman can give your daughter practice in spelling correctly.

Make sure your daughter studies spelling regularly. Here are some ideas for studying her weekly spelling lists at home. Have your daughter do the following:

  • Be aware of different spelling patterns, such as prefixes and suffixes, "i" before "e" except after "c," and so on.

  • Look at each word. Then have her "see" the word with her eyes closed.

  • Write the words from her spelling list in alphabetical order. List them first from "A" to "Z" and then from "Z" to "A."

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  • Use all the assigned words to write five to 10 silly sentences.

  • Cut out letters from a newspaper or magazine. Glue them on paper to create the words on her spelling list.

  • Eat her words! Write the words using letters from alphabet pasta or cereal.

  • Find and circle the spelling words in newspapers or magazines.

  • Write two or more words so they cross where they have common letters.

  • Make a recording. Have her say "digital," then wait 10 seconds or so. (The pause will allow her time to spell the word when she plays it back.) Then have her say, "Digital, d-i-g-i-t-a-l." Making a recording is a good way to help her review the words.

Some kids are born spellers. Others have to work harder at it. But your daughter can learn to be a better speller. Remember to focus on test improvements rather than the total score. Celebrate each time your daughter gets more words correct.

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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