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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > teaching spelling - I need help    

teaching spelling - I need help


teaching spelling - I need help
I have a student who learns English (as a second language) fast and understands everything, but he can`t spell. He`s 10, so he learns some basic words but he always makes mistakes in writing, we`ve tried so many things by now... Maybe the problem is in my way of teaching... So, does anyone have any advice ? Thanks a lot!

17 Oct 2010      

United States

When I went to Teacher īs College, we were taught that
The most important thing was to teach them to speak and understand.

Often bad spellers are just as bad in their own language.
Perhaps you should discuss this with his native language teacher.

You must take care with small children, if they feel they are lousy at something
they lose faith and feel inferior - then lose the desire to learn.

If he is a fast learner -let him  learn through reading.

17 Oct 2010     

United States

English is a very difficult language to spell. We borrow words from many languages, and we usually keep the native spelling. We have many different spellings for the same sound. True story: when I was eight, my father needed to write "anxious." He looked at "anc," "ans," and "ant," before he finally believed me when I said "anx."

We have so many homophones: to, too, and two, for one example. We even have different pronunciations for the same spelling: tear /tir/ (a drop of water from the eyes) and tear /ter/ (rip). 

American schools typically teach spelling for at least five years. My brother is a native American English speaker, and his spelling is terrible!

Encourage spelling in the editing phase of writing. Make sure he has a good English dictionary. Perhaps you can allow him to write on a computer and show him how to change the default language to either English (UK) or English (US), depending on the dialect you teach. Spelling is important, but it isn īt the most important part of learning English; I wholeheartedly agree with libertybelle on that point. 

17 Oct 2010     

Czech Republic

Hello Fraulitza, 

I often face the same problem with the youngest learners I have (8,9 years old). I have always been doubting whether or not to use the transcription when I want them to write the new words into their notebooks because I noticed that some of them tend to write the words they way they see them in the "square brackets" as we call it. The longer I teach the more I think that using the transcription is one of the things I should avoid. I myself learned it when I was much more advanced learner. 

What I often try to employ are worksheets with tracing letters so that the kids can kind of "touch" the words and make their picture in their heads. I would also recommend the matching game (pexeso) in which they try to find not two identical pictures but a picture and a word which go together. I believe that the more the kids see the words when saying them the better they remember its written form. 

My experience with most of the students is that after a few years they manage the spelling of the basic words and make not many mistakes. If I see some big spelling mistakes with kids older than ten years, I am very often sure that they don īt remember the word generally not only the way it is written. And if it happens that I see some mistakes like "childern" I do not consider it such a big deal. 

Hope it helps a bit

Have a nice evening, Mish

17 Oct 2010     


Some activities to be used to imrove spelling can be unscramble exercises on any basic vocabulary they learn.

e.g. unscramble-ordba-board
you can also have spelling dictations on the board,to add more interest two students can compete with each other and the one with the correct spelling will win
you can have exercises like choose the correct spelling
e.g. boord
Hope I could help,
Good luck

17 Oct 2010     


Thank you all for the help!
I`m surprised that he reads quite well, for example he reads "...writing" correctly, he reads it hundreds of times and after a minute he can`t remember how to write it. I expect such thing with someone who isn`t good at languages at all...

When I was younger I couldn`t believe native English speakers couldn`t spell well, because my native language is very easy to write and once you`ve learned the letters you can write every word you hear. I guess that`s the problem with learning English. The kids hear the word and want to write it as they hear it, which is a basic  rule in Serbian spelling...

Anyway, thank you all again. At least for taking your time :)

17 Oct 2010