Spelling long words (1)

a rat
If you can't remember how to spell a word, you need to really look at it closely to find ways to help you to remember. Look at this word: 'separate'. Some people write 'seperate' or 'separite' - these are wrong. Just remember there's 'a rat' in it separate.

Try to look for words inside other words. Here's an exercise you can try: http://www.elgweb.net/wordword1.htm . Find the short words inside the long words. The letters are in the same order.

If you don't know the meaning of some of the long words, check them in a dictionary, then try http://www.elgweb.net/wordword2.htm to try to spell the long words.

Do you know more words that have other words in them? Please put them in the comments if so.

Have fun!

Dictations for improving spelling

doing homeworkDictations go in and out of fashion. But who cares about fashion? A traditional dictation can be a nightmare for someone who can't spell well. They listen, they write what they hear and then they are told that they got it wrong! But this is when dictations are used as a test.

Here's a way to use dictations to really help learners improve their spelling.

1. Lead in to the topic of the text - get the learners interested in it.

2. Ask a couple of general questions about the text and then read it aloud to the learners. Check they understand by answering the questions.

3. Now give the text to the learners and read it aloud again so they can follow.

4. Tell learners you are going to dictate this to them in a few minutes. First they underline any words they think they will have trouble spelling. Allow them time to learn these words. Use methods from http://thespellingblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/seeing-spelling.html or Look Say Cover Write and Check.

5. Now they cover the text and put away any papers with the spellings on and you give the dictation in the normal way. (Read a small meaningful chunk out loud, now say it twice silently to yourself while students write, then aloud again, then twice to yourself again - this seems to make the pace about right for most people, but allow more time if necessary).

6. Now check the dictations or get learners to check against the original text. But be aware that people who can't spell well often can't see their mistakes either. Any words which have been misspelt should be listed (correctly) and learnt before the next lesson.

If learners have made a lot of spelling errors, then this suggests the error was ours! Choose an easier text. Aim for 90% success and then gradually increase the difficulty. Get a learner to do this every day for a month and you'll really see a difference in their spelling.

I learnt this technique from ex-colleague and now successful ELT author, Gillie Cunningham

Let me know how it goes.

Write or Die - making writing fun

I've just found a cool new tool for students who don't really like writing or who at least are not very good at getting started. It's called Write or Die and it gives you a box to type in and if you stop writing it starts to delete words you have already written as a kind of punishment. So you set a number of words that you want to write and then you can decide what speed you want to write at and how forgiving you want the program to be with you. It's really motivating to get you going with writing. In fact I am writing this blog posting in Write or Die now. That's why it may not be my best blog posting but, hey, it gets it done quickly. Of course I will have edited what I'm writing by the time you get to read it. (I bet my spelling is awful - no time to check). What do you think - would this help your students to write? I find that it's difficult to work on editing, spelling and other aspects of spelling if my students don't write anything but I think this could motivate them to. Phew, made it to 200 words.


By the way, I got this link from one of Nik Peachey's wonderful blogs:

Perhaps I should use Write or Die myself to speed up the process of finishing my forthcoming book "How to Teach English Spelling" (hopefully out by the end of the year).

If you use Write or Die, or if you have encouraged your learners to use it, please post a comment about the result. I'd love to hear.