Spelling

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Judy
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Spelling

Post by Judy » Fri Nov 16, 2007 3:24 pm

I have a (very young) Y7 girl who is having huge problems with learning to spell. I seem to have tried everything to no avail and I wonder if anyone has any further suggestions or maybe ideas about why she is having such difficulty. She seems quite bright, is good at maths, very articulate, average working memory, but very careless with handwriting, though she can write perfectly well. She is also generally very forgetful and loses things frequently.

When she first came to me a year ago, both her reading and spelling age were several years below her chronological age. We went through a lot of the code as she had absolutely no experience of that and her reading age was level with her chronological age in August when I last tested her.

So I devised a spelling programme for her, giving her lists of words containing up to four spelling alternatives of each phoneme, plus a list of tricky words to learn each week. I allocated a picture to each spelling alternative, we read and copied the words in the lesson and she highlighted the grapheme she had to remember. She knows all about counting the sounds and writing 'sound lines' and has no difficulty segmenting. She is very much inclined to use letter-names though and after so many years of doing this in school, it is hard for her to change to thinking about the sounds.

I also decided to use this 'programme' with two Y6 children whose spelling age was well behind their reading age and it's working pretty well with them. But the girl in question seemed to be completely overwhelmed so I have taken her off that programme and we are now working on just two alternatives at the time and still she struggles! She cannot seem to remember things we spent a lot of time on from week to week.

I heard this week that she is having a one-hour group session on spelling in school and it seems they have gone back even further, using just the beginnings of the Basic Code. I have thought about doing this as well, though I am always aware that at her age it is rather urgent to get things moving! Also, I'm not sure that it would help because she will spell even very simple words in a variety of ways within one piece of written work and she quite frequently makes errors when copying.

Sorry this is so long, but I seem to have run out of ideas and am mystified about why what works for the others, both of whom have had hearing promlems, isn't working for her! I think part of the problem may be that she has very little support or supervision at home but I know that her mother has used both 'carrot' and 'stick' to try to get some progress!

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sat Nov 17, 2007 3:14 pm

Has anyone else worked with a pupil who appears to be quite intelligent, a good reader, no working memory or auditory processing problems, who simply doesn't seem able to 'learn' spellings?

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palisadesk
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Post by palisadesk » Sat Nov 17, 2007 11:03 pm

Judy wrote:Has anyone else worked with a pupil who appears to be quite intelligent, a good reader, no working memory or auditory processing problems, who simply doesn't seem able to 'learn' spellings?
Yes.

I have never known a mastery learning approach to fail, but with average to bright children the instructor is almost always tempted to try to cover too much, too fast, with too little consolidation along the way. Teaching multiple spelling options at once is a very dubious protocol for MANY students, and a complete failure for those with poor orthographic memory (which is likely the case with your student).

Using a multisensory approach (I have seen Y7 kids who needed the JP actions to spell!) combined with a LOT of overlearning, teaching component skills to mastery, and daily practice are key ingredients to success. You might fare better with a prepared program than with one you devise (it is extremely difficult to organize the instructional elements into a comprehensive, clear and consistent sequential presentation). Have a look at the Burkards' "Apples and Pears" and be prepared to start at the beginning if necessary. It is absolutely imperative to observe the mastery criteria (there are tests every ten lessons) and repeat the lessons if the student does not meet the criteria. Often (I know this from experience!) the teacher is sure the student "knows" the material, but the mastery tests show otherwise. The materials are simple enough to use that the parent could do 10 minutes daily at home.

It may take a year to do 30 "levels" of A&P (some students need to repeat every level 3 times) but what they learn they will really know and be able to build on. There is no short-cut for the students such as you describe. Get page-protector transparencies so you can do the lessons over without buying multiple books. Direct Instruction spelling programs are also very effective, but the Burkards program is UK-based and provides more overlearning for those who really need it, such as your student.

Here's the website:
http://www.soundfoundationsbooks.co.uk/

Placement tests are here:
http://www.prometheantrust.org/admin/fi ... cement.pdf

We find it works with children who have managed to learn absolutely nothing about spelling for years -- but it is not a "quick fix."

Susan S.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Sun Nov 18, 2007 10:58 am

Thank you very much, Susan, for your very helpful reply.
We find it works with children who have managed to learn absolutely nothing about spelling for years -- but it is not a "quick fix."
You have made me realise that I have been trying to go too fast, partly because I know that the girl's mother is finding it difficult to pay for the lessons, but also because I am constantly aware that there are programmes that claim to remediate in a matter of weeks!

I have always felt dubious about introducing multiple spelling alternatives together but again, this seems to be how other remedial programmes work and eventually students will have to be able to select the correct option in their writing. So, as a compromise, my basic programme works for a long while with just two alternatives, (eg 'ow' and 'ou') very gradually working up to three or four, while always revising the first ones that were taught.

I'm wondering if what you are saying is that it would be better to completely separate the teaching of the second option from the first and so on, teaching other correspondences in between?
Last edited by Judy on Sun Nov 18, 2007 11:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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palisadesk
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Post by palisadesk » Sun Nov 18, 2007 11:14 pm

Judy wrote:I'm wondering if what you are saying is that it would be better to completely separate the teaching of the second option from the first and so on, teaching other correspondences in between?
I wouldn't want to generalize too much here. Teaching multiple alternatives must work for a number of children, but my observation is that it is more successful for teaching reading than in spelling. Even in reading, teaching all the /oe/ spellings at once (for instance) confuses many learners. A teacher who was using Abecedarian (a linguistic phonics approach) with children aged 9-11 last year found that about half could not cope with learning 5-7 spellings (for reading) at once. They got totally confused. She didn't even think of trying it for spelling!

In such a situation the best policy is to adapt to the needs of the learner. She apparently has difficulty keeping two spelling alternatives straight if they are taught together. Therefore, she needs to back up a step. What I would do is something like this (I'll use your ou/ow pair as an example.)

She already knows that there are different ways to spell the same sounds. Introduce /ou/ by saying there are other ways to spell this sound, but we will start with the/ou/ spelling because it is very common, and she has had trouble learning two at once. By learning /ou/ securely first, you assure her she will have more success learning a second way to spell ow, and knowing when to use which one.

I would start with "out" which she likely already knows. You then add, most words that sound like OUT are also spelled like out. You can map shout, scout, about, clout, outer, sprout, etc. Also do it with endings -- pouted, snouts, shouting, stoutly.

I would have some other OU words on cards: ounce, pouch, mouse, count, etc. Have her read and map them, highlight the ou with a highlighter (or underline it). You want her to notice some patterns, but often you need to set up the learning situation so that she will notice the essential ones. Have a large paper with three columns, Beginning, Middle, End and have her sort the OU words by where the OU is in the word. out, our, outer,ounce, oust will go at the beginning, the rest in the middle..... you can ask her what she notices (we hope, that ou never occurs at the end) and tell her that in English that is true, the /ou/ sound at the end of a word (or morpheme) is never spelled ou.

Practice dictating various ou words, some known and some not, but expect her to learn 15-20 words that have ou and are high utility.

At the same time, you might work on some other spelling pattern (not a specific vowel digraph). Maybe something like would-should-could, steak-break-great, or here-there-where (threesomes most usefully taught together as similar words rather than teaching "ea" as /ae/ for instance, or oul as /u/) I teach here-there-where as place words. This leads into teaching their homonyms, hear (with your (ear), their (belongs to them) , wear (put clothes on). Mnemonics are sometimes helpful for children like this. Their orthographic memory is so poor they have to use what they can. If tracing helps, I do it. If actions help, I encourage it. Ditto mnemonics (You hEAR with your EAR, we EAT mEAT, FRIday is your friend at the END of the week).

I would only work on two items that are not review in any lesson. The rest should be review -- lots of review of previously taught words and patterns, especially in dictations of sentences and occasionally a bingo or crossword game. Movable letter tiles are also a good variation.

Once the OU is secure -- you might spend two lessons on it, or more if your assessment is that she is less than 95% accurate -- you can introduce OW as the other common way to spell /ou/. Again have her sort words. She will observe that OW can occur at beginning, middle, or end, but you can lead her to see that if it is in the middle, it is usually followed by n or l. A rule I have taught kids is, "if it ends ow, owl or own, it's spelled with OW, otherwise, it's usually ou." Some kids can use a rule, but all can see a pattern if you set it up for them to notice it, and keep referring to it.


Then teach a bunch of /ow/ words -- emphasizing ones she will use a lot, and maybe one or two to extend vocabulary .

Once you have taught both patterns to mastery you can put them together so she has to discriminate which to use. This will require the most practice and reinforcement.

Y'all in the UK use ough for /ou/ more than we do (plough) but I am not sure i would bother with this with a very challenged speller. I would stick to teaching the highest frequency alternatives to mastery with high-utility words.

Susan S.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Mon Nov 19, 2007 12:25 am

Once again, thank you very much for your help, Susan. You have given me plenty of fresh ideas to think about, and I hope they may also be useful to others reading these messages!

I think I was misled last year by her apparent progress when we were working on reading as much as spelling. I never introduced more than one spelling alternative at the time and she was coping with that for reading, though obviously not retaining it for spelling purposes, as I discovered when she did the standardised test in August. Initially, apart from having no knowledge of the Alphabet Code, she had a great fear of long words (for reading) and we overcame that. And as she has quite a good spoken vocabulary, she was able to 'tweak' enough words, with the help of her newly acquired code knowledge, to do well on the Burt word reading test, such that her reading age came to equal her chronological age. I had tested her at the end of each block of six correspondences and her spelling had not seemed to be far behind her reading so it was quite a shock when she did so badly on the Young's Parallel Spelling Test!

During the day today, I have been planning how to re-structure the course of lessons for her and had come to more or less the same conclusions as the pattern you suggest, (with something completely different and 'easy', such as final 've' in between two alternatives like 'ou' and 'ow'). though as I said, you have given me some excellent ideas for different activites within the lessons.

Probably the most challenging aspect is how to use the time between lessons most profitably, given that she has virtually no help at home. She does seem to enjoy, and benefit from, writing a word over and over on a whiteboard - especially using a timer to see how many times she can write it in one minute. But I have not been able to persuade her mother to get her a little whiteboard so I'm thinking along the lines of using plastic pockets over paper which she can write on and wipe clean to re-use. I have to be careful, though, what I send home as things frequently disappear under the sofa, never to be seen again!

I think it would also be useful if I could find out more about what she is doing in her extra lessons at school but that is never easy. :sad:
Last edited by Judy on Mon Nov 19, 2007 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Mon Nov 19, 2007 12:44 am

Some kids can use a rule, but all can see a pattern if you set it up for them to notice it, and keep referring to it.
I meant to say that I think this is a particularly useful observation! :grin:

Judy
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Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:57 pm

Post by Judy » Wed Nov 21, 2007 8:50 pm

We had a much more cheeerful lesson today, which I think will mean it has also been a lot more profitable!

I used letter tiles in two columns to demonstrate the doubling of the final consonant in words ending with /f/ and /l/. Unfortunately, the words I chose as examples of words that do not double, included 'pool. 'feel' 'roof' and 'beef' and the first pattern my pupil spotted was that one column had double consonants and the other had double vowels!!!

However, it was encouraging that she was paying enough attention to the letters to spot a pattern, even if it wasn't the one I had intended. It didn't seem to take her too long to spot the pattern of doubling and sort the words herself.

The only 'downer' was that when I explained what we were doing to her mother at the end of the lesson, she didn't seem in the slightest bit interested. :sad:

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