Teaching beginning spelling

3 Replies

There’s lots written about how to help a child learn to read and write, and lots of people talking about how to do it on video.

However, there seem to be very few useful video demonstrations, apart from a few classroom-based Direct Instruction ones, like this one.

Parents of struggling readers/spellers are mostly working one-to-one with their child, not in classrooms. So I’ve decided to make some short video demonstrations of activities parents and others can do with beginners at home to build reading and spelling skills. Seeing is believing, and all that.

Here’s the first cab off the rank, a demonstration of how I use my downloadable, printable Workbook 1 with beginning writers/spellers. I’ve highlighted useful teaching tactics with onscreen text.

Thanks so much to the wonderful and hilarious little boy in this video, and his parents, for allowing me to make and share it.

Making video demonstrations is risky

Of course as soon as I watched this video, I started criticising my own work – times that I misheard or didn’t hear him, or should have helped him with his pencil grip, opportunities to praise him that I missed, etc.

Apart from the whole putting-children-on-the-www issue, I guess that’s what puts people off putting video demonstrations on the internet. No session is ever perfect, and you expose your flaws and open yourself up for criticism.

However, I’ve decided to go ahead and publish this video, because I think it might help others working with struggling readers/spellers to make tasks finite and manageable, get around objections, provide clear and effective feedback, stay focussed and get work done quickly.

Trick kids into getting things right, then praise/reward them

These tactics are learnable and make working on spelling/writing at home a lot easier and more fun. The key is regular, short, well-defined activities, a fast pace, and staying positive. I try (but don’t always succeed!) to say 5-10 positive things for every negative/correction. Where possible, I ignore low-grade kid grumbling and zoom in on any and all cooperation and success, which for starters usually means praising things like sitting on a chair and picking up a pencil.

Trick kids into getting things right, then heap on the praise and high-fives. Kids love this, and thrive on it.

Bribe them with small, inexpensive treats that can be delivered in small quantities, like stickers, swap cards, loom bands, bubbles and wind-up toys. Parents can also offer small, edible treats, preferably healthy ones. I used to feed children a lot of sultanas until the prevalence of food allergies and our increasingly litigious society made this untenable, but nowadays i think I’d go for dried goji berries or cranberries or frozen blueberries, yum yum.

I hope you find this video demonstration useful, and would be very interested in your feedback.


3 thoughts on “Teaching beginning spelling

  1. Ruth Hamond

    I think it is far more worthwhile that this video is natural and not staged. I learnt a lot and couldn’t help but jump on the web to order a Spiderman spinning top for my reluctant beginning reader!

    1. alison Post author

      Thanks for the lovely feedback! I got a whole box of Spiderman tops from the $2 shop because sometimes children love them so much that I give their parents one to use as a therapy reward. Happy new year!

  2. Ruth Hamond

    That’s such a good idea to give to parents as well. I liked the way you used it as an immediate reward. As someone once said to me, if you want the King to come down from the mountain, you must offer gold.


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