Spelling Help for a Struggling Speller in Bigger Hearts

Heart of Dakota Dear Carrie Spelling Help

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 Dear Carrie

What should I do to help my son with spelling in the second half of Bigger Hearts?

Dear Carrie,

I am getting ready to start the second half of Bigger with my 8 1/2 yr old son. This will be his “3rd grade” year. He is still struggling with spelling, and therefore, does not write sentences yet. This is something I really want to work on before starting Preparing. I’ve not used the spelling lists in our Bigger manual. Instead, I used an outside spelling curriculum and just didn’t see much results. I wish I would have just done the spelling in Bigger! Now, I don’t know how to proceed. Should I start with the word lists in Bigger and go from there? Or, what do you think? I am open to suggestions!

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My Son with Spelling”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son with Spelling,”

I’d definitely encourage you to follow the plans for spelling in Bigger the last half of the guide. I had a total mind shift in spelling when I read Charlotte Mason’s advice on the topic. Spelling in the early years is often quite tied to a child’s reading. This is because kiddos at the early stages of spelling are often sounding out their spelling words as they write them. So, in the early years, as your child’s reading progresses, his spelling will lag a bit behind that reading progress. That is not to say that in the long haul spelling and reading progress are always linked. That is not necessarily true, as spelling words get longer and harder.

Rather than more drill, regular practice in capturing the correct mental image of a word is the skill to develop.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for kiddos to whom spelling does not come naturally more drill is not really what they need. Regular practice in capturing the correct mental image of a word is the skill that truly needs to be developed in order for the mind to know whether a word that has been written is written correctly. This is the skill that is being developed in Beyond and Bigger. It is also one of the reasons why the other writing the child is doing during that season of learning is kept to copywork or copying from a correctly written model, because we don’t want the mind capturing the incorrect image.

To prevent the incorrect spelling of words beginning to “look right,” immediately erase incorrectly spelled words and copy the correct spelling instead.

Having a child inventively spell many words results in the incorrect spelling beginning to “look right” in the mind’s eye. So, to prevent this same thing from happening during spelling lessons, be sure to immediately erase any incorrectly spelled word and have the child copy the correct spelling over top of the erased word instead. Think of spelling time as mental training rather than seeking memorization of specific words. In that way, every error is an opportunity to swoop in and retrain the mind.

When an incorrect letter is written, erase it. Then, show the correct image written in black on the white index card.

Be vigilant as you do the Heart of Dakota spelling lessons. As soon as an incorrect letter is written in the spelling of a word, erase it away and redirect to the correct image (showing the index card with the correct spelling upon it). Be sure to use a dark colored marker on a white index card too when writing the spelling words (as directed in the guide), which helps the mind capture the image of the word even more clearly. Over time you will see continued progress.

Doing spelling words like this is so effective because dictation is this same mental imaging taken to the next level.

Dictation builds on the foundation of mental picturing that is practiced in the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger. It is where kiddos actually start to pay more attention to spelling in the context of sentences. It’s the moment where they realize spelling is about writing a string of words correctly. It is mental imaging taken to the next level. This is often where kiddos start doing a bit better in spelling, if they had a hard time in the word lists that they did before beginning dictation. This is because in dictation they are putting to use the mental imaging and beginning proofreading and auditory skills they practiced in Beyond and Bigger and are applying them.

Studied dictation skills transfer to proofreading written work well.

Through studied dictation kiddos learn to transfer the skills of capturing a correct mental image of a string of words, auditorily hearing the sentence and repeating it back correctly, writing the words in the correct sequence (including all punctuation and capitalization), and proofreading and correcting their work to make sure the right mental image remains (rather than the wrong one). Over time, these skills transfer to kiddos’ proofreading their own written work in other subjects. You can see this is all a part of spelling, but it is a process that takes years to internalize.

Instead of putting the focus on memorization, place the focus on writing correctly and proofreading carefully.

This is why I encourage you to keep on going, patiently guiding and diligently correcting. You will see progress as the years pass. Just make sure not to put the focus on word memorization! Rather, place the focus on the ultimate long-term goal of writing correctly and proofreading in daily work.

My own son who struggled with spelling has now shown much improvement.

My own third little guy struggled with the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger too. He improved as he headed into dictation, even though he is not natural speller. In CTC he really started to show some carryover and improvement in his daily written work. He has now learned to refer back to his reading material to copy the correct spelling of words within his written narrations. This is another moment where capturing the correct mental image of words (i.e. names and places) and transferring them to paper in written narrations comes in handy. I share this to encourage you that over time with these methods, even kiddos who struggle with spelling will make gains in the area where it really counts.

Blessings,

Carrie

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2 thoughts on “Spelling Help for a Struggling Speller in Bigger Hearts”

  1. This is very helpful – I’m printing it out to put in my Bigger guide. Thank you taking the time to explain what is really happening and what the goals are when we follow the plan in the guidebook. Looking forward to using this excellent method with two of my kids next year!

    1. So glad you found this to be helpful, Jennifer! What a great idea to print this post and put it with your Bigger Hearts guide! Our family hopes you have a fantastic year in Bigger Hearts!

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