Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to a question from readers regarding a behavioral problem. Today’s question comes from a close friend who has a child struggling with spelling. She asked,
“Missy, our child is struggling with spelling. Because spelling skills are the basis of writing skills, we feel that if we help her over the summer, she will enter school this fall in a better place.”
Spelling Starts with Letter Fluency
Well, you could not be more right with that line of thinking. Spelling is directly tied to reading. We know from a line of research that ABA strategies are successful in teaching basic skills such as spelling. In order to improve spelling skills, you first need to make sure that your child is fluent with her alphabet. Some people call this Letter Naming Fluency, others call it Letter Recognition. To check her fluency, hand her a stack of letter flash cards in random order. Set the timer to 60 seconds and tell her to read the letters as fast as she can. Tell her you will give her a special treat if she can do X number of letters in X seconds.
Next Step: Letter Sound Fluency
After your child becomes skilled at letter naming, then it is time for her to master letter sounds. Not only does she need to know the sounds but she needs to know them quickly. This includes short and long vowels. This time, use flash cards that include short and long vowels as well as common blends (e.g., ch, sh, cl, sl). Set the timer and tell your child to go fast. Continue working on this until she can fluently name all the sounds the letters make.
Your child should become familiar with word families and how to change words by changing the beginning sound. Take an, at, and all for starters and have her quickly change the words with various letters. Again, she needs to have the skill but she also needs to do it quickly.
Phonemic Awareness Games
Play games with your daughter to help her become fluent in phonemic awareness.
- Ask her to name words that rhyme with target words. Have her do it quickly.
- Ask her to think about a word and then remove the beginning letter. Ask her what the new word would be. Have her do it quickly.
- Ask her to think of a word and then add a letter or blend at the end. Ask her what the new word would be. Have her do it quickly.
Last Step: Stretch It Out
Now that your child has mastered the sounds that words make, ask her to start spelling words. Make sure that she stretches out the entire word and remind her to remember the rules (e.g., “e at the end makes the vowel long”). Use the iPad to keep it fun. For example, open up the notepad or some other note taking application. Have her write the word and then use the speak button to read the word aloud. This will help her see her mistakes and it will help her recognize that she has left out some important letters.
And of course, she needs to do this quickly.
Spelling Apps Make Learning Fun
You should not be surprised, “there is an app for that!” Here are some of the apps that we use to support spelling and early phonics development.
- First Words Deluxe
- Bob’s Books
- Teach Me Toddler
- Teach Me Kinder
- Teach Me First Grade
- Montesorrum Intro to Letters
- Dora’s ABCs
- Dora Hops in to Phonics
- Super Why!
And for those of you whose readers are beyond basic phonics and really need to work on spelling, try these:
- Montessori Cross Words
- Word Magic
Good luck this summer! Don’t forget to reinforce your daughter for her hard work!
Readers, if you have any spelling apps that you would like to add, please share them in the comments. If you have a behavioral question for me email me directly at askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot com. Thanks!