Help for My Struggling Speller

Dear Carrie

Help for My Struggling Speller

I am getting ready to start the second half of Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) Bigger Hearts with my 8 1/2 year-old son for his “3rd grade” year. He is still a struggling speller. Therefore, he does not write sentences yet. This is something I really want to work on before starting Preparing Hearts. I’ve not used the spelling lists in our manual. I was using an outside spelling curriculum, but I just haven’t seen many results. Should I start with the word lists in Bigger Hearts and go from there? Do you have any suggestions for me to help my struggling speller? Can you explain your thoughts about spelling in general? Thanks in advance!

Sincerely,
“Ms. Please Help Me with My Struggling Speller”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with My Struggling Speller,”

Thanks for sharing about your son! This is a good question. 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, the spelling will lag a bit behind that reading progress in coming along too. That is not to say that in the long haul spelling and reading progress are always linked as that is not necessarily true, since the spelling words get longer and harder.

Regular practice in capturing the correct mental image of a word is the skill that needs to be developed.

Another thing to keep in mind for kiddos that are struggling spellers is that 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 Little Hearts and Bigger Hearts.

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. This is because we don’t want the mind capturing the incorrect image. 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.

Spelling time can be thought of as ‘mental training time’ rather than thought of as ‘memorization of specific words’ time.

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. Be vigilant as you do the 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). This helps the mind capture the image of the word even more clearly. Over time you will see continued progress with your struggling speller.

Dictation builds on the mental picturing skills practiced with the spelling lists in Beyond and Bigger.

Dictation builds on the foundation of mental picturing that is practiced in the spelling lists in HOD’s Beyond and Bigger. This is where kiddos actually start to pay more attention to spelling in the context of sentences. It is 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 teaches many skills that help struggling spellers.

Through studied dictation, kiddos learn to transfer the skills of capturing a correct mental image of a string of words, of hearing the sentence and repeating it back correctly, of writing the words in the correct sequence (including all punctuation and capitalization), and of 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. 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 but rather place the focus on the ultimate long-term goal of writing correctly and proofreading in daily work.

With these methods, even struggling spellers will make gains in the area where it really counts.

So, I would definitely encourage you to follow the plans for spelling in Bigger Hearts for the last half of the guide.  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 by no means a natural speller. In CTC, he really started to show some carryover and improvement in his daily written work. Now, he refers 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! Over time with these methods, even struggling spellers will make gains in the area where it really counts.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

If I give dictation a try, how do I decide if it’s not working?

Dear Carrie

If I give dictation a try with my struggling speller, how do I decide if it’s not working?

Dear Carrie,

I need helping seeing the bigger picture. I’ve read so many rave reviews about Heart of Dakota‘s studied dictation, and I WANT to trust the process! My 5th grader is a great speller, and I will do level 5 dictation with him. But, my little one I’m not sure about. He’s been in school for the past 6 months, and he has an ‘A’ in spelling. He can study for the test and do fine. However, by the time he has to write the word in a sentence in a few weeks, he’s forgotten how to spell it. If I remember right, my older son really turned a corner in his spelling during 3rd grade. I’m holding out hope my youngest will show some real strides in spelling too. Anyway, if I give dictation a try, how do I decide if it isn’t working?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Give Dictation A Try”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Give Dictation A Try,”

There are so many terrific skills wound within studied dictation that I think it is definitely worth a try.  The kiddos have to capture the whole image of a sentence or a passage in their minds, looking at the sentence as a whole as well as capturing the individual words and their parts. This really trains kiddos in the habit of seeing correctly spelled words within the context of writing. This, after all, is the ultimate goal of learning to spell! We want kiddos to carry over their spelling to their writing. So, practicing spelling words within the context of writing sentences makes sense. This is one good reason to give dictation a try!

Studied dictation strengthens auditory skills, so give it a try!

Studied dictation also forces kiddos to strengthen auditory skills as they listen to the parent read the passage only once. The kiddos learn to listen for the purpose of repeating perfectly from a single reading. Prior to writing, they then repeat back what the parent said, which strengthens the skill of holding a phrase or sentence in the mind long enough to be able to repeat it back without error and then write it. This is one more reason to give dictation a try!

Studied dictation strengthens proofreading skills, so give it a try!

After writing the phrase or sentence, the kiddos then proofread their work before checking it against the model. This is a terrific way to form the habit of proofreading their written work! It truly makes good proofreaders out of kiddos over time. Last, they check their own work, training them in checking their work against a correctly written model. They become precise checkers with continual practice. This is yet another reason to give dictation a try!

Studied dictation helps students practice immediate correction, so give it a try!

When kiddos miss a passage, they mark any mistakes on the passage and immediately correct the mistakes on their own copy. So, yet another skill practiced is immediate correction.  The following day, when the child must repeat a passage, he/she pays much closer attention to whatever was missed the day before. This, in essence, finally causes the incorrect mental picture of a word in the mind to be rewritten or mentally corrected (replacing the old incorrect image with a new corrected image).  This is the mental work that must be done in order for a poor speller to fix his/her poor spelling habits. It is also something the good speller does naturally. This is still another reason to give dictation a try!

Studied dictation is one of my all-time favorite Charlotte Mason skill builders!

I must honestly admit that studied dictation is one of my all-time favorite CM skill builders. It has so many skills wound within a 5 minute lesson, and it pays such big dividends in so many ways in the long haul. With my oldest son, we began studied dictation as a third grader. He still did studied dictation in high school, but today he is an excellent speller, proofreader, and writer. He never completed a formal spelling program beyond grade 3.

Plan to give studied dictation at least a full year to see its fruit, so please do give it a try!

My second son has never had any formal spelling beyond what is in the HOD guides. He has also done studied dictation since grade 3. He is a terrific speller, proofreader, and writer as well.  My next 2 sons were not naturally great spellers or writers. However, I will tell you they both have made huge leaps in this area by using studied dictation. I will warn you that dictation is a slow burn. So, if you embark upon using this method, plan to give it at least a full year to begin to see the fruit. Once you do though, I think you will really be pleased! So, please, do give dictation a try! I think you will be glad you did!

Blessings,
Carrie

Spelling Help for a Struggling Speller in Bigger Hearts

 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

The method is as old as the mind of man, the distressful fact is that it has been made so little use of in general education…

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“As for all the teaching in the nature of ‘told to the children’, most children get their share of that whether in the infant school or at home, but this is practically outside the sphere of that part of education which demands a conscious mental effort, from the scholar, the mental effort of telling again that which has been read or heard. That is how we all learn, we tell again, to ourselves if need be, the matter we wish to retain, the sermon, the lecture, the conversation. The method is as old as the mind of man, the distressful fact is that it has been made so little use of in general education.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 6, pp. 159, 160)

PS: If you’re interested in learning some practical ways students can study for Charlotte Mason-style dictation passages, have a look at this blog article linked below!

Ways to Study for Charlotte Mason Dictation Passages

Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

Dear Carrie

In Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, what does a student do next if she spelled everything right in the passage?

Dear Carrie,

I am new to Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, though I have read many good things about it. I’m excited to try Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation with Heart of Dakota! My daughter is beginning Bigger Hearts for His Glory. She does fairly well with spelling. I am wondering if she passes the first dictation passage, if I have her move on to the next passage? Or, if I see she passes the dictation passage, do I tell her she is done with spelling for the week? If it is the former, what do I have her do if we run out of dictation passages?  So, I guess my question is, in Charlotte Mason’s method of dictation, what does a student do next if she spelled everything right in the passage?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me with Charlotte Mason’s Method  of Dictation”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Charlotte Mason’s Method of Dictation,”

This is such a good question about dictation!  I struggled with this question too until I read more about Charlotte Mason’s style of studied dictation. Her emphasis within dictation is actually on the studying of the passage in order to fix it within one’s mind. In essence, students practice the habit of making a mental or a photographic image of the text. They pay special attention to how the words are spelled, where the capital letters are found, which punctuation marks are used, and where the punctuation marks are in the sentence.

Poor spellers have often seen a word spelled incorrectly in their own writing so many times that the misspelled word looks ‘right’ to them.

I found Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation methods to be so interesting!  In my days as a public school teacher, it was that very skill that was lacking for poor spellers. They had no idea whether a word looked right or not, which is often the technique used by natural spellers to tell whether a word is spelled correctly. The poor spellers had seen the word spelled incorrectly so many times in their own writing that the wrong spelling actually looked right.

Spelling programs that incorrectly spell words within spelling exercises reinforce incorrect spelling.

It is amazing to me how many spelling programs have a section where kiddos are asked to find the incorrectly spelled word within the spelling exercises!  Students are then, in essence, taking a mental picture of the incorrect spelling. Charlotte Mason would find this to be a poor activity, as it reinforces incorrect spelling. She was very adamant that any word spelled incorrectly be covered up and fixed immediately. This way, students do not fix the wrong image within the mind.

Students trained to capture the correct image of words, sentences, and passages in their minds have a powerful tool in spelling.

Training the mind to capture a correct image of a word, sentence, and eventually passage is a powerful tool in spelling. It is often a tool that does more for kiddos who have struggled with spelling in the past, than any amount of memorizing rules does. I found this idea to be amazing! It is one that I had never heard during my years of training as a teacher, yet it makes so much sense. And, what’s more, it really works! I was so surprised to find that studied dictation was the method used for spelling here in America in the early 1900’s. It is a tried and true method for spelling. I think your daughter is sure to enjoy Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation!

Blessings,

Carrie

P.S. To find out more about Heart of Dakota, click here!