How do we learn to spell?
Students will generally go through a series of stages as they learn to spell:
Early Phonetic stages
Learning to spell involves figuring out that letters relate to sounds, and those letters can be written and placed in the correct order to make words. In the early stages of spelling, students learn to write some letters, but these are often random letters which have no representation to words. As their knowledge of letters and sounds develop they start to make some attempts at writing words. Initially these words are spelt phonetically, and many of these spellings won’t even contain vowels, but as the skills develop we might see spellings “crpit” for carpet, or “tpot” for teapot.
During this stage students start to build up a memory of some common words and develop strategies to remember how to spell some simple words. They may remember strings of letters that are found in lots of spellings such as -ing, -tion, dis-, or remember and use spelling rules such as the “magic -e on the ends of words changes the vowel e.g. can becomes cane when you add an “e”. Some students will also start to analyse their spelling asking themselves if it “looks right”.
These spellers can write with ease and have a stored knowledge of words that they can retrieve quickly and easily. These spellers can make accurate guesses when they come across new or novel words, and have strategies such as using the dictionary when they are really stuck. To reach the independent stage students need good teaching, and to be reading and writing regularly as part of their daily school program.
Difficulties with spelling
Unfortunately, some people have difficulties with spelling. Some people have difficulties that are specifically related to spelling called a specific learning difficulty, or dyslexia. Not everyone with a spelling difficulty has dyslexia, but with the right teaching and programs, spelling and reading difficulties can be improved for most people (at any age).
Can we do anything to fix poor spelling?
Absolutely! With the right programs and practice everyone can improve their ability to spell.