Yesterday, I went to an open morning to see what the Year Ones have been up to. There was loads of amazing stuff, but the thing I want to concentrate on here is spelling. The class has just begun to have a spelling test once a week and all of the parents/carers were given a little red book with the spellings listed so that we can help our children at home. This could be a really daunting task (for both parents and children), and it made me think that parents could do with help themselves. I believe that learning in schools must improve with parental involvement, but parents though often willing, possibly don’t know where to start, or are dragged down by baggage from their own school days. Below is a list that teachers may want to adapt to give to parents at their school – even better to talk through in an open morning and then give to parents to consolidate.
1) Make it FUN! Even if the last thing you want to do is sit and help your child do spellings, pretend it is the best thing in the world. Try; “Heh, fab! It’s spelling time!” instead of, “I’m sorry. Turn of the tele, you have to do your homework now.”
2) Do the spellings in the bath – use the foam letters or bath pens.
3) Write them in the air. When they can do it with their normal writing hand, swap to the other hand (this engages both sides of the brain).
4) Write them with your finger on your child’s back, as you say each letter. Then get them to guess what you are spelling. When they are more confident, they can write on your back.
5) If they have an older sibling, involve them – you could do the above activity, but in a row. So, for example, the parent writes on the back of the child who has to learn the spelling and they write on the back of their brother/sister, who calls out the letter. See if you can get it right!
6) Do it in small chunks. If your child is getting bored, cross or stressed, come back to it later. This means that it is best not left to the night before the test.
7) Write the words in salt/flour which you have spread across the table (messy, but fun!)
8) In warm weather, go outside with chalk and write on the pavement. Or use a paint brush with a bucket of water – challenge your child to write the whole word before the first letter evaporates.
9) Say them over and over out loud. Encourage the child to repeat after you in a soft/loud/high/low/silly voice. The sillier the better – make them laugh!
10) Get them to teach someone else (younger brother or sister/grandparent). The more people involved in the learning, the higher status it will have.
11) Use acronyms. For example: yoghurt – yellow olives give hypos ugly red teeth
12) Use song, or rhythm. Think about how easy it is to remember song lyrics.
13) Write the words out for your child to see – get them to illustrate them. When you have practised the, see if they can look at the picture and visualise the word.
Use as many of the above as possible. Mix and match and vary it. They include visual, audio and kinaesthetic activities, By varying the learning style, you will be engaging more areas of the child’s brain and they will be more likely to remember the words.
Extending your child.
If a child is finding it easy, how about challenging them a bit. Below are one or two suggestions.
1) Look at other words that sound the same, but may be spelt differently (to/two/too or night/knight or there/their for example). Talk about the difference in meanings.
2) Think of other words that may have the same letter patterns (knight, knife, knee or right/fight/plight for example).
3) Talk about rhyming words and their similarities/differences (cream/seem/team)
The list may not include anything new to teachers, who I am sure do many of these things in class all the time. However, parents haven’t received the training we have, so how about passing it on?
And if you have any other great ideas, don’t forget to let me know. Thanks!