Is dictation good for struggling spellers?

Dear Carrie,

Is dictation good for struggling spellers or just good for average to natural spellers?

My 10 year old daughter really struggles with spelling. I have used several curriculums with her, and she still has such a hard time. I feel like nothing has worked with her. My question is about dictation in Preparing Hearts for His Glory. Do you think would this be a good option for a struggling speller? Will dictation improve her spelling, or should I look into something else for her? She is well below grade level in this area and is also a reluctant writer. So, I know she will already struggle with all the writing she has to do this year. I want to build her confidence this year, and it seems like spelling lists have not helped her retain skills. She does have some mild dyslexic tendencies, but we have never had her tested. So, should I do the dictation with her? Is dictation good for struggling spellers or just good for average to natural spellers? Thanks in advance for your help!

Sincerely,

“Please Help Me with Spelling”

Dear “Please Help Me with Spelling,”

The Charlotte Mason method of studied dictation takes at least a year to truly see the fruit of it. It is a slow burn that pays big dividends in the long haul. It actually does work well both for natural spellers and for kiddos who struggle with spelling. We get to hear so many updates from families who use HOD; by email, by message board, and at conventions. So, I can say with confidence that even kiddos with learning challenges such as dysgraphia progress well with studied dictation. We hear from many families with kiddos who were poor spellers who are thrilled to be seeing some progress!

Consistent use of studied dictation has many benefits!

The method that we use in the guides is very important in the success of studied dictation. The consistent use of studied dictation also makes a difference. There are many posts on the board about studied dictation, so I encourage you to search and read them. If you do try PHFHG’s studied dictation, I would advise you to give it at least a year. I would also encourage you not to continue with another spelling program at the same time. Instead, try using studied dictation as your spelling program. I think you will be surprised at the progress your students will make. It is a method that has many benefits in the long haul for all types of spellers.

Try using studied dictation instead of a formal spelling program!

I can understand the hesitance to let go of a formal spelling program, as I had that same hesitance. With my oldest son, in order to tell whether studied dictation really worked, I tested him in Spelling Power. First, I tested him at the beginning of the year to give his spelling a “level.” Then, I used only studied dictation all year. At year-end, I tested him in Spelling Power again. I was surprised to discover he’d jumped several levels in spelling from using studied dictation (while not using Spelling Power)! This made a believer out of me. My oldest son only used studied dictation after that and has graduated high school.

I’ve seen the success of using studied dictation with my own children and hope you do too!

My next 3 kiddos have all only done the spelling/dictation within the HOD guides. While my second oldest son is definitely a natural speller, my other boys vary on their natural spelling abilities. My oldest is a great memorizer, but needed dictation to carryover his memorization of words to his writing. Though my second oldest is a natural speller, he needed studied dictation to improve proofreading and accuracy in his writing. He also needed to learn to listen carefully to a single reading of the dictation passage prior to writing. He has benefitted greatly from studied dictation in that regard. My third son has a more difficult time with spelling. Yet, he is consistently progressing, slowly but surely. My last little guy is a terrific copier but needs to learn to capture the word images in his mind. Studied dictation will be of help to him too! I share this to help you visualize how studied dictation could be of benefit to your own kiddos. I hope you see the benefits of studied dictation completed consistently over time. Thanks for asking this question!

Blessings,

Carrie

P.S. For more information about how students can study for dictation, click here!

Ways to Study for Charlotte Mason Dictation Passages

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason’s Method of Studied Dictation

Heart of Dakota uses Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation to teach spelling beginning in Bigger Hearts for His Glory.  Charlotte Mason’s dictation emphasizes the studying of a passage in order to fix it within one’s mind. Students practice the habit of making a mental or a photographic image of the text. This includes paying attention to how words are spelled, where capital letters are found, and which punctuation marks are used. Training the mind to capture correct images of words, sentences, and eventually passages is a powerful tool in spelling. Often it does more for kiddos who have struggled with spelling than any amount of memorizing rules can do.

Three Different Sons, Three Different Ways to Study for Dictation

When my three sons first began studying for their dictation passages, I gave them helpful tips on how to study. I’d point out the paragraph indentation, any difficult words to spell, and any punctuation marks. Then, I’d give each of them as much time as they needed to study the passage on their own.  They would call me when they were ready, usually within 5 minutes.  Interestingly enough, each of my sons developed their own unique way of studying for dictation.

Study Method #1 – Wyatt’s Way of Studying:
Passed 9 Dictation Passages in a Row

Wyatt would read the passage in his head first a few times.  Then, he’d get a black dry erase marker and a white markerboard.  While reading the passage  through another time, he’d jot on the markerboard anything special to remember.  So, for example, he’d write the first word of the paragraph indented and capitalized.  If there was a punctuation mark after a word, he’d write the word and then the punctuation mark following it.  Any words that were difficult to spell also made it on the list.

All of these notes were jotted like shorthand, moving sequentially from left to right on the markerboard.  They were even written on the proper place on the markerboard within the right ‘lines.’ Of course, there were no lines on the markerboard. So to me, it just looked like a bunch of floating words and punctuation marks on the markerboard. I finally asked him what he was doing. Imagine my surprise when he explained his method to me!  When it came time for me to read the passage to him,  the markerboard was put aside.  This method of studying for dictation worked well for Wyatt!

Study Method #2 – Riley’s Way of Studying:
A Silent Successful Way of Studying for Dictation

Riley’s method was quite simple.  He studied the passage in complete silence.  All the studying was going on in his head.  When I asked him how he was studying it, he simply said he was reading it in his head.  He said he just pictured it as he read. This method of studying dictation worked well for Riley!

Study Method #3 – Emmett’s Way of Studying:
Nana and Emmett Doing Dictation Together

Emmett’s method is much like his personality, talkative and exuberant.  He talks through the entire passage out loud.  As he reads, he gives commentary on the passage.  For example, “Hmmmm.  ‘Flo-rence’ with a ‘c’ ‘e,’ NOT with an ‘s’ at all.  Oooh!  ‘Night-in-gale’ – that’s really 3 words, Mom!” He also circles on the page anything he wants to remember, like capital letters and punctuation marks. Finally, to practice spelling difficult words, he closes his eyes and spells them out loud.  He tells me he is picturing the word.  Then, he opens his eyes and either shouts “Got it!” or “Shoot!”  If he says “Got it!”, he spelled it right. If he says “Shoot,” he spelled it wrong, and he studies the word again. Then, he closes his eyes and tries again until he can spell it out loud and shout “Got it!” This method of studying dictation is working well for Emmett.

Finding Your Own Way to Study for Charlotte Mason Dictation Passages
Dictation Builds Strong Spelling and Careful Writing Skills

In summation, dictation is an excellent way to train our children to write carefully with good spelling and mechanics.  It is a good idea to model how to study the passage to our students. Drawing attention to capitalization, punctuation, and easily misspelled words is especially helpful. However, students may find their own unique method of studying for dictation, and this will probably be their best method. Therefore, personal study methods are to be encouraged. Hopefully my sons’ methods will help you and your children find success in exploring your own personal dictation study methods!

In Christ,
Julie

Accustom him to see the letters in the word

A Charlotte Mason Moment

Reading is not spelling

“Accustom him from the first to shut his eyes and spell the word he has made. This is important. Reading is not spelling, nor is it necessary to spell in order to read well; but the good speller is the child whose eye is quick enough to take in the letters which compose it, in the act of reading off a word; and this is a habit to be acquired from the first: accustom him to see the letters in the word, and he will do so without effort.”  (Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 1, p. 203)

The secret of spelling lies in the habit of visualizing words from memory.

A Charlotte Mason Moment

Visualize words from memory

“The whole secret of spelling lies in the habit of visualizing words from memory, and children must be trained to visualize in the course of their reading.” (Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 1, p. 243)