My children seemed to live by this quote:

“Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination.” – Mark Twain

They have some crazy, inventive ways to spell words.

However, there is hope. With a sequential system and lots of practice, your struggling speller will have spelling success.

In the last post, I shared the truth about spelling. Now, let’s help your children overcome spelling struggles. They don’t have to be a struggling speller; they can improve with a few simple strategies.

struggling spellers

How does one overcome spelling struggles?

  • Lots and lots of practice with direct teaching and a balanced, systematic approach

    Spelling is not just phonetics. Phonetics are helpful, but spelling needs to be taught in context. Spelling rules need to be directly taught and rehearsed. This truly helps struggling spellers.

  • Provide a list of commonly misspelled words and/or have a word wall.

    A word wall is specific words that are taught; then, they are displayed on the word wall so when students need assistance with words like “doesn’t”, they look on the word wall and spell it correctly. Perfect practice makes perfect. It does no good to practice if students continually misspell words. Therefore, it is important to provide readily accessible tools to spell words correctly. Then, they are practicing perfect spelling. No longer will you see “duz” in their writing. You will see “does” spelled correctly because they were able to use a chart to spell it correctly. Later, the word “does” is committed to memory and the chart isn’t needed.

  • Integrate spelling into writing assignments.

    All skills are best learned in context opposed to isolation. Provide a list of commonly misspelled words. I call that list “no excuse words”. For example, since those words are available, the student has no excuse to misspell them. They must spell them correctly. Additionally, if a student doesn’t know how to spell a word when they are writing, I tell them to circle the word. Later, together, we edit unknown words and add them to their own list of commonly misspelled words. Over time of spelling the words correctly from their list, they commit the words to memory.

  • Teach word families and spelling rules

    Our brains like patterns. Word families provide patterns. For example: rain, pain, stain,main, etc. Then, teach the family that sounds the same, but has a different spelling pattern: pane, mane, crane, etc. Teach rules such as “i before e except after c” for words like receipt. Then show, relieve, believer. (These have the “i” before the “e”) I also show relationships in words that students commonly misspell such as recipe and receipt. I line them up and show the difference between them. I actually teach words and word study opposed to assigning words.

    Additionally, a good spelling program needs to teach word endings such as the following: “tion”, “sion” say “shun”, and word endings such as “ed”, “er” , and “est”.

    I like spelling programs like Sequential Spelling, because they cover rules and word families in a logical sequence.

  • Teach Homophones

    I like this spelling program.  It isn’t perfect, because there isn’t a perfect spelling program. However, it teaches homophones among other skills.

  • Play games like Boggle and Scrabble

    (Allow students to have a thesaurus or dictionary. This helps them expand their vocabulary and spelling. Allow them to have access to tools that help them.)

  • Do Word Searches and Crossword puzzles

    I use Discovery School to create puzzles. It’s free. Children love the puzzles. Doing the puzzles helps them visualize the spelling words. I create word searches for each list of words that need to be mastered.

  • Play games that improve memory

    Since spelling is also a visual skill and requires memory, play games that develop memory.

I shared this poem in the last post; however, I think it is worth sharing again to remind us the challenges a struggling speller faces.

I’m trying hard to learn to read (spell)

But what’s a kid to do,

When there’s a NO and a GO and a SO and a HO

And then there’s a word like TO?

Reading BONE and CONE and TONE and LONE

Can almost be kind of fun.

But I get upset when I have to believe that

D-O-N-E spells DONE.

It’s plain to see a kid like me

Sure needs a helping hand.

No matter how much I really try I just don’t understand.

In Conclusion, struggling spellers do well with word families, spelling rules(the conventions of English), consistent practice, and a systematic approach. With these tips, they will soon understand how to spell and the struggle will end.

What are your thoughts about spelling? What’s your personal experience? Were any of these tips helpful to you? Leave a comment, I’d love to know.

Let’s make a positive difference~ one word at a time.


Please share this article with others that you think would benefit from these tips. Also, please ask any questions that you may have about teaching children reading or writing. Leave your questions in the comments. I’ll answer. 🙂

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Disclaimer: How To Help A Struggling Speller is based upon observations from my years and years as an educator, mom, and literacy consultant as well as research I’ve read. Also, I am not affiliated with any spelling programs I reference.

Photo Credit: 1.  2.