Growing up I was not a good speller and I dreaded the Friday spelling test. I’d take a practice test the night before. With my mother calling out the words I’d write them but when it came to taking the test I didn’t know the words well enough to not second guess myself. I’d take too much time deciding which way was the right way to spell the current word and end up getting behind on the words being called out. As a consequence, I’d get flustered and wish I was anywhere but in a classroom taking a spelling test.
I’ve tutored several elementary aged children in spelling. The one thing I’ve learned from the experience is that some children cannot be successful on a spelling test when they start studying the night before the test. It seems like a logical statement……some children cannot be successful on a spelling test when they start studying the night before the test. Unfortunately, some parents can’t recognize the importance of the statement even when their child week after week does poorly on their spelling test.
Some children need to start no later than Sunday night. That’s why most teachers send home and/or post the words online on Friday. They need as much exposure to the words before the practice test on Wednesday or Thursday. Many children can write the words 3 times every day and be good to go on Friday. Others need more exercises to help keep the correct spellings fresh in their mind.
To me the first thing the child needs to know is what the words are. If your child isn’t a reader yet, read the words to them. If they are older and can read, have them read the list to you. As the words are read by whoever is reading them make sure the child knows what they mean. One of the words this past week on a test I was giving was “barnacle”. It’s a word I don’t think I’ve ever used in writing but because I’ve seen it in print, can pronounce it and know what it is, it would be easy for me to write.
There are many spelling activities to help your child prepare for a test. One of my favorites is air writing and it’s especially good for troublesome words. In air writing they are making a picture in the air of the word. Eyes are raised up to an imaginary paper or board. An adult says the word and watches to make sure the air writing is done correctly. As the word is being spelled with the index finger the eyes are following the finger and the letters are being said by the child as they are written. When the word is spelled it is “underlined” from left to right. Then the adult starts asking questions. Lets say the word was “house”. Questions might be:
- How many letters do you picture in “house”?
- What two vowels do you see in the middle of “house” ?
- What letter do you picture at the end of “house’?
- What letter comes after the “o” in “house”?
Some other good exercises, especially for the lower grades are:
- Write the words three times is a standard but when I’m tutoring I ask them to say the letters as they write them.
- Rainbow writing – girls seem to like this one better than boys but if camouflage colors were used the boys might like it better. First you copy word in pencil. Then you take 3 different crayons, markers or my favorite, colored pencils, and outline the word in one color, then the 2nd color and then the third color.
- Block writing – write how every many letters as there are blocks in each row. Letters should be said as they are written.
- Unscramble the words
- Read and Write – Spelling list is in one room and paper and pencil are in another room. The child looks at the word goes to the other room and writes it. When the last word is written the paper is brought back to the list to see it is all correct. Yep, the boys like this one and usually run to the other room! I’ve used it with upper elementary age boys.
- Break the list up in to word families or just practice 4-5 the first couple of days. On the night before the test concentrate on the missed words but don’t skip the others when giving a practice test.
- Spelling City on the internet
- Pinterest has many, many more ideas!
It is so disheartening for a teacher to watch a child week after week struggle with spelling tests. They want to cry for the child that never gets that 100 on the practice test to earn the privilege of reading or drawing while others are taking the Friday final test. Please, please, please help your child be victorious on Wednesday or at least by Friday. Please help them feel good about their efforts. Please, if your child needs it, start working with them by Sunday on their spelling list. Hopefully it will result in a big smile and a high five at the end of the school week!