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Can Bad Spelling Exclude Child from Gifted Program?

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Noreen H. Joslyn, LISW, ACSW

Q: My daughter's teacher is concerned about my child being in the gifted program next year because she misspells big words. She receives A's and B's on classwork and report cards. Should I be concerned? She's been labeled gifted since kindergarden.

A: Not all gifted people are good spellers. Your child most likely has a good vocabulary and understanding of words or she would not be doing as well as she is in school. Spelling happens to be one of my special interests, and I volunteer with students who are preparing for local competitions of the National Spelling Bee. Here's what I would suggest:

  1. When you look over her homework, point out misspelled words so she can correct them. This can be done matter-of-factly so she doesn't become upset.
  2. Play games where spelling is important such as crossword puzzles, word-search puzzles, Scrabble, and Boggle.
  3. If you come across a word either of you are unfamiliar with, look it up in the dictionary together. The action of looking it up or writing it down, combined with hearing the word will help your child to remember the word and perhaps its spelling.
  4. Encourage reading, reading, and more reading! It will expose her to lots of new vocabulary.
  5. There is no substitute for regular study for class spelling tests. Have her both spell the word aloud and write it down.

I have found that students with good word knowledge not only improve their spelling, they also improve their general knowledge as they learn new words and ideas. A news reporter once asked me if I thought spelling was an out-of-date skill, since many people now use a spell-checker on their computers. I replied, "Absolutely not." Knowledge of words is a great way to learn about our world. Besides, we are not always "online," and even if we were, I challenged the reporter to locate an unfamiliar topic on the Internet quickly if he had no idea how to spell it!

I have never believed in "whole language" instruction where incorrect grammar and spelling are permitted as long as the student is actively reading and writing. This is our language and we might as well learn to use it correctly! Good luck with your daughter. With your interest and support I'm sure she will do well.

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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.


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