How to Improve Spelling Results

Whether it is more effective for your child to learn by repetition or other methods can be explained with this simple analogy.


Try and recall what the last car was that you passed on the way to work this morning or the last dog you saw or the last time you saw a postman on his bike. Struggling? I’m not surprised.  Your brain would have acknowledged all of these things to some extent and then promptly forgotten them. This is totally normal.  Our brains will dismiss most things that we ‘see’ and ‘do’ just once. It is the way our brains work and saves them from being overloaded by unnecessary or non-critical information.


Now consider the effectiveness of a spelling method where the student is required to learn a list of words by writing each word just once a day.  Do you think these words could be subject to the same memory patterns described above?  The answer is YES!


Observing results in our Reading Clinic helps to reveal the most effective model for rapid learning of spelling word lists for challenged readers and spellers. Notice that I specifically mentioned ‘challenged’ children.  This is because the higher achieving student will succeed using whatever method he/she is taught.  It is only really critical for those children who are struggling with their reading and/or spelling.


Comparing the models:


Model 1: Write and say words once each day,



Monday           1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Tuesday          1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Wednesday     1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Thursday         1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

Friday              Test day


Model 1 just practises the words once each day and for many children, this is not enough for the word to be retained through to the next day. This is a very common method being used by children at school when they first visit our Reading Clinic.  Typical spelling test scores for these children will often be as low as 3/10 for their weekly test.  Making the change to Model 2 below will often allow for improvements to 8/10 or higher in only a single week.


If improvements of such a large magnitude are evident from the change in Model, it provides strong support for the idea that memory effectiveness can be influenced by the way that a word is initially learned or imprinted.  When a technique or method is correct for a given child the results will be rapid and accurate in only a matter of minutes of instruction and a few days of practice.



Model 2: Write and say each word multiple times and then refresh


Monday:  Write and say the first word on your spelling list four times, then write the second word on the list four times.  Repeat for the third word and then the fourth word.


i.e.  1111, 2222, 3333, 4444


Tuesday:  Write and say the fifth word on your spelling list four times then the sixth word four times.  Do the same for the seventh and eighth words.  Now refresh the four words learnt on Monday.


i.e.  5555, 6666, 7777, 8888

1, 2, 3, 4


Continue the pattern as outlined below:


Wednesday:    9999, 10, 10, 10, 10, 5, 6, 7, 8

Thursday:        1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Friday:             Test Day


Model 2 “tricks” the brain into remembering the words because of the multiple repetitions in a single episode. The brain is quite literal and cannot be told to remember something, memory retention occurs through doing and/or saying something multiple times or by association.


In our clinical experience, challenged readers and spellers will often make substantial improvements in their spelling results with this simple change of model. The second model does not need to take any longer than the first and in fact, after a little refinement will usually be much quicker.


Conclusion: Try the simple switch from Model 1 to Model 2. If it is a better model for your child, results will improve in next week’s spelling test!


For further help please feel welcome to call our clinic at Tyquin Group Speech Pathology and Reading Clinic – 33998028


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