making spelling stick

Ok ………  background….. the how we got here is important… so if you are a regular reader, bear with me………….

Near the end of last year we started using some of the ideas from Dianne Craft and her workshops on how to teach the right brained learner.

Sounds all official doesn’t it?  What in the world is a right brained learner you may ask…. It sounds so, technical, and educated to call your child a right brained learner.  But in reality, how do I know what kind of learner my child is?…..what does it look like…?

Well, up until last year it looked like a mom (me), pulling out her hair trying to get a 3rd grader to read, understand and “see” his phonics teams inside words, wondering why he couldn’t spell….. or remember his times tables, even if his very life depended on it, and the 3rd grader crying wondering why reading was so hard.  It looked like a desperate mother spending hours upon hours researching curriculum, buying countless versions of spelling texts, trying all manner of phonics programs, workbooks, flashcards, standing on my head, crying, cajoling, desperately begging and pleading…… and still….. nothing was working.  We would review, and a week later it was like someone pulled the plug that held things in his brain and it all drained out of him like bath water……. poof. gone.

After nearly giving up and just thinking that he may never read, pouring my heart out to God to help me know how to help him…..  I sat down to listen to an online webinar conference for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, and I stumbled onto Dianne Craft. ( you can order her Spring 2011 workshop here)

It was tears, people, tears pouring down my face, as I listened and realized she was talking about my child.  He wandered in and said, “Hey! is she talking about me? That is the way that I think.”  Relief, joy, and Praise went up to God that he had given me a way to help Hunter read!

So that is the back story….. but what does it look like every day?  How do you integrate new ways of learning into the everyday basics, like reading and spelling.

I took some pictures today to help you see what cards I make to help him with spelling.

012       001002       003004       006007       008009       010011


While these might look strange to a kid who learns well from text and work books….   It is super glue for those who have trouble. 

We start with a list of words.  From a book or what we are reading or writing.  It really doesn’t matter where they come from they just need to be words they have trouble spelling.  Then you take the parts they did write correctly and put them in black ink(or some other consistent color).  You will color and draw on the letters they struggle with.

Little was always spelled littl and no amount of drills on silent E made it stick.  So we added a mouse to the E and say that the letter is being very quiet….  quiet as a mouse.  Repeated drilling ( 5 times a day, for 5 days, spelling the word forward and backward, and then talking about the colors and pictures we saw…) locks words away into long term memory for these kids, giving them a picture to reference as they spell in the future.

Some of our stories that go with the above pictured words, go like this:

Sense: We were working on it as a homophone…. so we said that you need to use your brain for this kind of sense.  Using this sense will make you smart.  so we added brains and a graduation cap to the word.

Scent:  It has a little word in it, so we underlined it.  There are good scents and bad… hence the flower and the stinky pits.  He may laugh every time I ask him to spell this word… but he always remembers those pits…. and will spell it right!

People:  This was a word from Dianne’s workshop.  She said the world needed to be big to hold all the people.

galaxy:  A vocabulary word from science.  We just drew the milky way right on the word. 

to:  Again a homophone word.  We tell the story that Jesus died on the cross and went to the tomb.  ( but he didn’t stay!) this helps us to remember this word to is a directional to. not the also too or the number two.

Funny:  He kept leaving off the second N, so I asked him what he thought was funny.  He said that poop was funny.  So I drew a pile of poo on the second N. It works for him and he remembers the word.

Said:  People say things when they talk, so we made a man out of our I and he is talking.  The A was listening to the I and he said…. hey hey what do you say?

One:  He always wanted to spell it won.  So we drew a big red 1 on the page.

Two: We have two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet….

Blue: He left off the E so color it blue to match the word!

So I hope you are beginning to see how with a little time, and creativity (I am not an artist as you can see!) you can help spelling words stick like glue.

Involve your child in the making of the cards, the more they participate in the story the better the words are going to hold for them.  These words will transfer over into better read words because they are going to recognize them with much more speed.


Hope this helped you if you have a struggling reader or speller,

name gif

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2 thoughts on “making spelling stick

  1. My daughter is 14 now, but when she was a first grader, we did just what you are doing—kinda. I would print the spelling word on one side of a blank 3X5. I put the vowels in one color and consonants in another color. She would draw a picture of the word on the flip side. She even made picture cards for what I call picture less words…a, of, at, the, an and so forth. It sure made a world of difference for my child.

    Mom to a very active teenager who doubles as a bright right-brained learner.

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