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Help Your Child To Spell

Help Your Child To Spell

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 09:19

When it seemed, a number of years ago, that computers might one day replace pen and paper in schools, it was common for teachers to despair that auto corrects and spell checkers would threaten the art of spelling. It soon became clear that pen and paper weren't going anywhere. However, for many, the rot had already set in, and the advent of text speak didn't help.

Yet according to Global Lingo, who polled over 1,000 adults in 2013, 59% of Britons would not use a website which had poor spelling or grammar. And internet behemoth Amazon recently reported a 40% increase in revenue after hiring workers to correct spelling mistakes in their customer reviews. 

So, clearly, spelling still matters. Yet we are living at a time when it is harder than ever to be a good speller.  In 2012, the Oxford University Press released some findings of a study which analysed 33 million words written by children.  They found that, in spite of decades of curriculum reforms, children in the UK were still struggling to spell everyday words such as "doesn't" and "until". 

Phonics; autocorrect facilities on computers; and a passing fad for teachers not correcting spelling mistakes in written work; these have all played their part in the decline of this once noble art. But more to the point, poor spelling can harm young people's job prospects. According to a study by the University of the West of Scotland published in the online journal Cyberpsychology, 90% of employers look at candidates' online profiles before hiring them, and candidates who used text speak are viewed as less competent than those who do not.

So how can you, as a parent, support your child to become a good speller?

  • Firstly, work with your child's teacher to identify whether or not your child might be dyslexic before you begin. Your expectations need to be realistic.
  • Play lots of word based board games at home like Boggle, Scrabble or one of the free apps such as Words With Friends.
  • Point out spelling rules in environmental print. E.g. "Oh look, there's a magic 'e' on the cornflakes box".
  • Avoid using pen and paper when you are practising spelling words with your child. Try tactile resources instead, such as magnetic letters or play dough. This will be more fun and will also help boost long term memory.
  • If your child has misspelled a word, tell them it is "nearly right" instead of "wrong". Encourage a growth mindset by asking them to identify which letters they think they might have put in the wrong place.
  • If there is a word which your child repeatedly struggles with, get them to write the word out correctly in large rainbow coloured bubble letters. Display the poster they have made on the fridge and "clap out" the word together whenever you see it.
  • Share with your child the words you commonly misspell yourself, such as practice/practise, and ask them for suggestions as to how you can get it right next time. This will encourage them to develop strategies.

Finally, when the time comes for job hunting, make sure they check either their spelling or their privacy settings on their social media accounts.

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