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Spelling Trouble

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

Q: My fourth-grade daughter is a terrible speller. Her spelling lists consist of ten words and definitions each week such as evaporate, extravagant, interval, and commitment.

Although I am glad that her school is pushing the children to learn harder words, my daughter is spelling even the more common words wrong also.

I am wondering what are some practical, hands-on activities that we could use to make spelling more fun? Because she thinks she isn't a good speller, it has become a chore instead of a learning experience.

A: Learning the weekly spelling words could be more fun for your daughter if you made word searches that let her find these words hidden vertically, horizontally, and diagonally in a grid of letters. Also, playing Boggle ™ and Scrabble Junior ™ with your child could help her enjoy spelling words.

It's important for your daughter to learn how to spell the common words that she uses every day. Ask her teacher to give you a list of the words that children should know how to spell in order to handle fourth grade work. When your daughter brings home her spelling list, give her a written test over the class list plus ten common words. Then have her correct the test, and write the corrected words out to the side. Self-correction is very important.

During the week, she is to study only the words she has missed. If she missed a great number of words, concentrate on having her learn a few of them each night as well as review ones that have been previously learned. In order to learn to spell, she needs to start using a technique which works for most students. Each night, have your daughter follow these steps in learning each word:

  1. Say the word while looking at it.
  2. Close her eyes, try to see the word, and then spell the word aloud.
  3. Look at the word again to check that it was spelled correctly.
  4. Cover the word and write it.
  5. Check to see if the word is spelled correctly. If the word is misspelled, she should rewrite that word and then go back and repeat all five steps for the word.
On the night before the spelling test, give her the entire list of words again. If any words are missed, she needs to go back and repeat the five steps for each of these words.

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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 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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