Topic | Serious spelling problems!!!

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  • MissusLeata

    I need help.

    My 11 year old is doing 6th grade math with no problem. He can read well and is not struggling with anything other than spelling/writing. But it took a while to master reading (he was about 9) and I think he may be dyslexic.

    We’ve tried prepared dictation with both Spelling Widsom and Spelling U See. He struggled as soon as it as he had a whole sentence to write. So, I decided to switch to more traditional spelling. First I tried ACE — horrible!  Then Rod and Staff. My other boys do great with Rod and Staff spelling. He didn’t.  So, then we did Phonics Zoo last year (after we started with R&S). He did better, but it would often take 2-3 weeks  to get them all right. So, we only did about 15 word lists.

    We’ve already started school for the year and I got him 5th grade Practical Spelling. Today’s spelling test has 14 out of 18 wrong. And, granted, it was lots of words with a controlling r — or, er, ur, ar. But he still left of silent e’s, left vowels out of syllables, etc.

    A couple of years ago we did a remedial phonics course and that helped his reading, but not his spelling.

    I was a naturally good speller and I am baffled at what to do. I’m almost positive dyslexia is involved (he just told me a “b” was a “d”   and still reverses letters in writing.

    What do I do??????? What is the right approach to spelling for a child with dyslexia who struggles this much?????


    What about All About Spelling?   I’ve read that people have had good success using it, especially for dyslexia.


    Little Women

    My youngest was like this.  Major spelling problems are a definite sign of dyslexia, even if they can learn to read.  (Some experts prefer to use a spelling test over a reading test for this, even.)

    All About Spelling is, hands down, the best spelling program for dyslexic kids!   It goes back through the phonics and shows them, step by step, how to put it together to spell words, and in the process, it also teaches them a lot of words.  It also has the hands-on work that many dyslexics need, to cement the learning.


    Sequential Spelling is another option.


    Sequential Spelling is looking good. Has anyone used it?



    Barton Reading and Spelling Program.  It’s pricey — $300 per level.  The levels do NOT correspond to grades – you must start at level 1 and progress from there.  But it’s so good at teaching spelling and reading.  And it ends up being such a confidence builder when the child realizes how far they’ve come.


    Your child sounds exactly like mine!  Mine is 12 now and spelling has ALWAYS been such a struggle.  I’ve tried so many things.  I started with All About Spelling.  It’s an Orton-Gillingham method which is suppose to be the gold standard for teaching spelling to those with dyslexia.  I found it to be okay; but not right for my son.  It teaches by teaching spelling rules.  When we used it at about 9 years old, my son really struggled with learning/memorizing mundane rules.  No point, right!  I just found myself having to remind him of the rules.  Maybe it would have been better taught by someone other than me!  There is a lot of going over and over the rules.  The next program we used was Spelling You See.  I liked the idea of the visual approach but I found that he would highlight the “chunks” with no problem, it became a monotonous routine for him.  When it came to the dictation, all the chunking and rote practice wasn’t really sticking.  He would still spell the difficult words incorrectly!  Next we tried Sequential Spelling.  I like that probably the best of the above.  About this time, he also worked with a dyslexia tutor who taught him how to chunk a word into syllables and a few other strategies.  Sequential Spelling works by starting with a small word chunk and add to it.  My son did well with this approach, but again it didn’t seem to really help him learn how to spell anything that wasn’t phonetically correct.  Plus, there are a lot of words that felt very pointless to me in the lists.  I eventually used the list as a guide, but would add and subtract words as we went.  I noticed he was spelling words like “adjustment” correctly, but still misspelling words like “they” as “thay”.  Crazy frustrating.  When it came down to it, I didn’t feel like he ever developed a good grasp of the basic sight words.  All the words that aren’t phonetically correct.  He struggled very early on and had modified lists of words (word families vs. sight words.)  So, I did and little research and found the Frye List of 1,000 words.  This past year, I started at list 1 and we did all 1,000 words.  This is how I did it.  I printed off the Master list of words (10 lists, 100 per page).  I made a template on Excel with 6 columns (I’d be happy to share).  I gave him a pretest of about 10-25 words depending on how easy they were, going in order on the sheets.  They get progressively harder.  If he got the word correct on the first try without struggling, I put a check mark on my master list.  If he struggled at all, had to think about it, erased, etc. but eventually got it correct., I put a dash.  If he missed the word, I put an X on my master list.  The words he missed, I’d write the correct spelling on his sheet (column 2).  I had him write out a note card for each missed word dividing it into chunks/syllables.  I then would have him do some strategies like study the word, say it aloud emphasizing the chunks, close his eyes and say the word aloud, draw the word with his finger on the desktop, and trace the word with a red pen (red is suppose to be good for spelling!).  Then he would cover his paper and use column 3-5 for “check”.  He would proceed to the next word he missed with the note card.  At the end of him studying the words and doing the check, I’d give him a final “test” of the just the missed words to see if they stuck!  The following day, I would spiral back in the words he struggled with (the dashes) and the missed words (X’s) into his spelling test.  I’d just keep spiraling them in until he got them correct consistently and then throw them back in here and there.  My son needs lots of practice before it sticks! I’d keep track on my master list with my check, dash, X.  Some words we had to do over 10 times!  But, we were able to get in all 1,000 words this year.  He is gradually getting better, but it’s not perfect.  So much better than a few years ago.  I haven’t decided what I’m gonna do this year.  I’m looking at the Spell to Write and Read program.  It’s rules again, but maybe that would be okay now that he’s older???  Also thinking about using the Spelling Wisdom program for dictation.  I’d have him write the difficult words out on a notecard like I described above.  I’m probably going to start with Level 1, because level 1 looks like it would be a challenge for him.  I’d say that if your son missed 14 of 18 words in your new program than it’s just too difficult.  Don’t be afraid to go to a much easier level.  I think a lot of times it takes building confidence on easier words and learning patterns.  My son was so debilitated by spelling that it greatly influenced his writing….which is actually his most naturally gifted subject.  Not sure what you’re using for writing, but I’ve been using the Institute for Excellence in Writing program (and their grammar program).  Both have been a lifesaver; I didn’t think my son would ever be able to learn grammar.  For writing, my son can jot down his key word outline, verbally narrate his writing before he even tries to type it up.  It’s the methodology taught throughout their program!! No more losing his train of thought while trying to figure out how to spell something; or trying to write the shortest sentence possible so he doesn’t have to struggle to spell ALL the words!  He relies heavily on his spell check while he’s typing and uses Alexa quite often during the process but spelling is no longer a serious road block for him.  It’s been quite remarkable!

    All the best!!!  From what it sound like I’d suggest having him evaluated for dyslexia.  There are different types, and different degrees of severity.  My son has “phonetic” dyslexia (really just effects spelling), reads well, and does fine with math too.  That means he doesn’t have “dysgraphia” which is the term used to describe dyslexia involving math skills.  There are free online screening exams you could give him that involve spelling nonsense words.  They’d show you pretty quickly if he can come up with the correct pattern of sounds he hears and write them down correctly?  They are seemingly easy sound patterns (like “brog”) for someone without dyslexia; but very difficult for someone with dyslexia.


    I did some on-line screening tonight and I’m sure it’s dyslexia. The only effect it seems to have on math is that he prefers to do math in his head. But I’m having him write his problems out and he’s handling it ok this year.

    Mimib, I’d love to see your graph. I was just thinking tonight of working on the most frequent English words and just helping him memorize them.

    I’m so grateful we homeschool because he doesn’t know this is a problem and it hasn’t affected the rest of his schooling much. We do so much out loud. Thank you, Charlotte Mason for that!!!

    Rachel White
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