11 Tips for learning spelling

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1. First - don´t despair! Some of the world´s cleverest people have struggled with English spelling - you are not alone! Try out these ideas and you should soon see an improvement.

2. When you are practising spellings, use as many senses as you can:

  • LOOK closely at a word, try to remember what it LOOKS like
  • Think about the SOUND of a word - that will often give you clues about the spelling
  • To learn a word, WRITE it or TYPE it - or both

In this way, you are using three senses to learn a word: sight, hearing and movement - the method most experts agree is best.

If you only use a keyboard, use that for your practice. You will be training your fingers to use the correct movements to spell that word or sound. However, despite the growing use of computers, most of us have to write by hand at some time - and this can be a very useful aid to learning in itself. Think about writing your name:

Your pen ´knows where to go´ - it is automatic.

When you write several words with the same letter pattern, you are training your hand to work automatically - soon you will not need to think about those words.

Never use capitals when writing to learn words - the word will have no shape, which will not help your visual memory. If possible use cursive script (joined writing) - the ´flow´ of the writing helps the process become automatic.

3. We are all different and we all make different spelling mistakes. To make your learning personal to you, start a ´Spelling Log´ - your own personal dictionary.

Look carefully at the words you find hard and work out a way of remembering them (see the many tips on the next page). Write the words in your Spelling Log and keep the book with you at all times. Make use of odd moments to get some practice - you don´t even need a pencil - just looking at the words will help and you can also trace the letters with a finger on any surface - even your leg.

Make lists of words you find hard and learn them.

4. Dictionaries can be a help - sometimes - if you know how to spell the start of a word! If you need a lot of help with spelling, you might consider getting a specialist dictionary.

5. Playing word games with sympathetic friends will help your spelling. There are many games that involve making words from a random selection of letters, for example:  Scrabble, Boggle, Word Spin.

6. Read a lot - not just books but everything around you e.g. food packets, newspapers, catalogues, billboards, road signs etc.

This will fix the look of many common spelling patterns in your memory - which will help you to spot if one of your spellings doesn´t ´look right´.
7. Keep a scrap of paper to hand, to try out different spellings for a word - often you will be able to tell which one ´just looks right´ e.g. toylet/toilet    tois/toys

8. Often the words you need may be close at hand - perhaps in your college worksheet or textbook, or in the letter you are answering.

9. If you can´t recall the look of a word, use the sounds - then, even if the spelling is not exactly right, the reader will know what you mean. (This course will teach you which letter patterns are the most common for English sounds.)

10. Don´t be scared to ask people - most will only be too pleased to help you. (You could make a remark like: ´I´m just like Einstein - a lousy speller!´)

11. Get a friend to check through anything important for you.

18 Dec 2010
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