How does someone become good at spelling?
Is it by practice alone? If so, I would just need to get out the dictionary and have my child start memorizing words. But, thankfully, good spelling isn’t completely dependent on having a good memory. Practice and memory play only a part. Good spellers also have a deep understanding about how letters and sounds work together.
Connecting Spelling to Phonics
One of the ways to build deep understanding of spelling patterns is to study word families. If you’ve taught reading with the BJU Press homeschool curriculum, you’re familiar with the word family approach to phonics. Children learn to read words by identifying the vowel patterns in the words. The vowel pattern will provide the necessary clues to determine the vowel sound and then decode the word. Words with similar vowel patterns are rhyming words that also make up a word family. For example, the at family would include words such as bat, cat, mat, and fat.
This same word family approach is valuable for teaching spelling because it helps students understand the connection between the sounds of a word and its spelling. So, if I learn how to spell might, I also know how to spell words such as fight, bright, and light even if they never show up on a spelling list.
Discovering the Patterns
Another way to build deep understanding of spelling patterns is to help students analyze words to discover those patterns for themselves. To do this, you need to present them with spelling lists that contain words with similar spelling patterns and sounds. The list should also include several other patterns. As children group and sort the words according to the spellings, they will gain a better understanding of how the sounds and letters relate to one another. And they won’t as quickly forget what they’ve learned.
Becoming a good speller doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t even necessarily happen during one homeschool year. It happens gradually as your child grows in his or her understanding of the reliable spelling patterns that do exist in our language. Though it takes time, it’s also worth the effort.
I’ve used the BJU Press spelling curriculum in our homeschool for two years now, and I’m looking forward to using it again next year. If you’re interested in learning more about using BJU Press spelling in your homeschool, you can check out the individual products for each grade.