Help Your Child Learn To Spell

Learning to spell is a valuable and fun part of a child's education. Help your son or daughter become a better wordmaster.

Remember the old-time spelling bees held in school? It was fun watching one student out-spell another with words like "bureau" or "aristocratic." Spelling contests are still very much a part of today's educational system, even if we don't hear as much about them in the wake of sporting or debate competitions.

Nevertheless, your child needs to learn how to spell words. More important, he or she should understand the rules that govern how a word is spelled, spoken, and used. To assist your children in developing this important skill, here are a few things a parent can do at home:

1. Practice spelling with flash cards. Visit a bookstore or school supply shop to find flash cards for words that are pertinent for your child's educational level. Then practice after school by pronouncing a word and having your child try to spell it correctly. At first you can go through the cards as fast or as slow as your child likes. Then speed it up a little, seeing how many words he or she can spell in a minute, then thirty seconds, then ten seconds. You may even want to give out little rewards, like having a chore taken off the weekly list or going out for ice cream, when a recommended school list of spelling words has been mastered.

2. Read aloud together. Find a fun book with themes and characters that appeal to your child's age group. Take turns reading pages or characters' dialog aloud. When your son or daughter stumbles over a word, ask them to spell it and sound it out. This will help them memorize the word's spelling for future reference. An additional bonus is that reading an unknown word in context helps to convey its meaning.

3. Make up songs or rhymes using spelling skills. The old rule "i before e, except after c" has been memorized by thousands of schoolchildren for generations. See if you can identify one or more of the troublesome spelling rules for your child. Then together work out a jingle or song that will help him or her memorize the concept and apply it to newly encountered words.

4. Have your child quiz you. While you may be able to get many of the words, don't be surprised if you miss a few. It's been a while since most parents studied spelling in school, and some words have changed since then. For example, the word spelled formerly as "Hallowe'en" has now become simply "Halloween." "E-mail" is now "email" for most folks. Spelling is a dynamic skill, and practicing with your child puts him or her in a teacher's role, which will further reinforce the spelling rule and applications.

5. Find some Internet spelling games. Visit teachers' sites that address spelling rules or abnormalities; there are many that provide such services. With your child explore the various strategies, techniques, exercises, and games that are often available for free. They will provide an adventurous approach to the mundane study of spelling.

Spend a few minutes each day helping your child enhance his or her grasp of language and the way it is spelled in today's usage. Reading, comprehension, and vocabulary skills should improve as a result.

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