Difficult Spelling Words
Difficult spelling words may seem to occur
frequently in the English language. But they are not as
frequent as you may think. About 10 per cent of them are unpredictable. The
remaining 90 percent can be worked out with a little knowledge.
Try Different Methods
How your child copes will depend on what they
already know and how they tackle a new spelling word.
Adult students I have taught feel as if they are in a spelling minefield until
they understand these different approaches to spelling …then they
stop seeing spelling as being a huge obstacle.
How Difficult Spelling Words Can Be Spelled
Here is a list of difficult spelling
words I gave one of my students to test her spelling ability. You will
notice that every one of the 21 words tested contain errors. By
analysing each of her spelling mistakes, I was able to identify the
individual spelling patterns she needed to learn. Once she had been
taught these she was able to spell this list and other similarly spelled
words perfectly. I will show you how to do this yourself, below.
How to Tackle Difficult Spelling Words
- sound out the letters in the word and write them down
- understand that the English language has adopted many words from
other languages eg. French and Greek. This means that there are some words
with recognisable letter patterns from those languages
- know about prefixes and suffixes, which are groups of letters
that get tacked on to the front and backs of root words. Here's an
example...mis is a prefix meaning wrongly. When mis
is added to the root word spell (meaning to spell wrongly) it is
spelled misspell. Unless you know that mis is a prefix you might
spell it mispelled with only one s.
- break difficult words into smaller chunks, called syllables, so that they don't seem so big and overwhelming. Take the word philanthropy. First break
it up by tapping out the rhythm of the word. There are four syllables. Here's a hint. Each syllable must contain at least one vowel for any word
to be spelt correctly. Remember the letter 'y' is also counted as a vowel. Now
write it...phil an thro py. Many capable spellers automatically use
the syllable approach. Once taught, this method makes the spelling of difficult
words so much easier
- find quirky and fun ways to remember difficult spelling words. I
had an adult student who couldn't spell the word 'Monday'. For 57 years he
had tried. I told him to imagine that he had the weekend off to relax and went back
to work on Monday. On that day he began to earn money for the new week.
Every time he practised the word Monday he would turn the letter 'o' into a
coin. He never forgot again.
- use the three senses, sight, sound and touch to practise
difficult spelling words. Use your eyes to look carefully at the word and
notice anything unusual about it. Use your ears to hear the sounds of the
letters as you spell them. Then feel your wrist and fingers forming the
letters as you write them. MRI scans have shown that this sends blood
flowing to three parts of the brain simultaneously rather than just one. This means that you are much more
likely to remember the spelling than if you use just one of your senses.
- notice patterns in words and see how many words you can find
with that same pattern. Make up memorable, fun sentences with the words.
If your child is learning the ow sound in a word like clown,
teach your child this sentence… The clown with a frown went
to town in his brown dressing gown. Ask them to draw it. They will find it
easier to remember because it rhymes and they have a visual memory from drawing it.
How To Solve Spelling Mistakes
Below is a table containing some examples of
spelling mistakes and how I solve them with my students. In the boxes on the
left you will find a misspelled word followed by the correct spelling. In the
boxes on the right I have included explanations, tips and ways to learn them.
Try Several Approaches
There are endless lists of what appear to be difficult spelling
words...unfortunately, far too many to include and discuss on any one website. The best
advice I can offer is that you help your child approach each tricky word armed
with the the range of approaches mentioned above.
When I diagnose a student's spelling, I become a
spelling detective. Often I discover they have repeated the same kind of
mistake several times.
They might, for example, have difficulty with
silent letters and consistently leave them out. Alternatively they might
not be aware of the different ways of spelling the sound ear. Often there are several faulty patterns that need
correcting. Once the student realises this, mistakes can be corrected quickly.
It is an exciting step forward. Almost immediately
their self-esteem lifts and they tackle spelling as an adventure rather than
becoming paralysed by it.
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