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Gifted Except for Spelling

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Rita Culross, Ph.D.

Q: Our nine-year-old daughter participates in the Talented and Gifted program in her school. She experienced a strong background of phonics during her kindergarten year. Since first grade, her spelling has not shown any great improvements. Do you have any suggestions for a student who excels in all areas, but has a deficiency in spelling?

A: Gifted children often demonstrate strengths and weaknesses, even within an individual subject area such as language arts. While your daughter may excel in grammar, usage, or vocabulary, she may lag in her mastery of spelling. Also, because of her strong background in phonics, her learning style may be more oral in nature. Research indicates that focusing on visual memory strategies and word meanings may help to improve her spelling.

Also, she should be encouraged to use new words in speech and writing activities to increase her proficiency in spelling. Simple activities like the "Word Power" section in Reader's Digest can help her build vocabulary and work on spelling concurrently. Word Matters: Teaching Phonics and Spelling in the Reading/Writing Classroom by Gay Su Pinnell, Irene Fountas, and Mary Giacobbe focuses on phonics and spelling and may be useful to a student who has a phonetic orientation to learning. The book includes lots of practical "stuff," including spelling mini lessons, word lists, and reproducible lesson materials.

Although some gifted students disdain spelling as uninteresting, the National Spelling Bee is populated with gifted students who find spelling a challenging area of interest. Sometimes reframing a boring subject into a stimulating task is all a gifted child needs for motivation.

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Rita Culross is Associate Dean, College of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. Culross has served as the consulting school psychologist for a public school elementary gifted program, and has written a book and several journal articles on gifted education.


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