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Spelling and Counting at an Early Age

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My five-year-old daughter cannot spell her name very well. If you ask her to spell her name or to count, she will change the numbers or letters around, but when she is playing around she can count and recognize letters. Should I be worried about sending her to kindergarten?

A: Relax! Just because your daughter sometimes gets the letters in her name mixed up or some numbers out of place when she is counting is no reason to keep her out of kindergarten this fall. In fact, the things you are worrying about are not even an entry requirement for most kindergartens.

Your daughter's school will expect her to have some basic skills when she enters kindergarten and probably has a checklist naming these skills. You should look at this list as it will help you judge for yourself how well prepared your child really is for kindergarten.

Children have their own learning clocks. When your daughter is ready, she will remember the correct order of the letters in her name and be able to count without a number out of place. Guard against pushing her to acquire skills before she is ready.

As far as numbers go, don't expect your child to count beyond ten. If your child is truly interested in learning to write her name, do the following steps in order, and stay on each step until your daughter has mastered it:

  1. Teach her how to print the letters in her name. The letters can be taught in any order. Be sure to tell her the names of the letters.
  2. Teach her to print only the first letter as a capital letter.
  3. Print your child's name and have her trace over these letters several times with a pencil, crayon, or marking pen. You can even have her trace the letters in sand.
  4. Use dots to write her name, and then have her connect the dots.
  5. Print her name, and have her copy it under the letters you have written. She should say each letter as she writes it. If your daughter has a name that can be sounded out, you can teach the sounds of the different letters.
  6. Ask your child to write her name without looking at a model.
Once your daughter can write her name, encourage her to use it frequently so will learn to write it automatically.

More on: Expert Advice

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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