10 Steps to Build a Better Speller

10 Steps to Build a Better SpellerPerhaps you, like myself, were one of those students who could get A’s in spelling without ever becoming a competent speller.  The key to becoming a better speller is simple attention to spelling. Here are our 10 steps to build a better speller:

  1. Pull words from current work whether writing, dictation, or copywork assignments.  Rather than using words from an arbitrary list, choosing spelling words from your child’s own work allows him to focus on words HE needs to learn to spell, while fostering attention on good spelling habits.
  2. Focus on no more than five words at a time.  If spelling becomes a chore, we have lost the battle.  We wish to develop the habit of focusing on spelling words correctly — not punishing the speller.
  3. Dictate the misspelled word to your child to write down on a page in his notebook letter by letter.  Before he writes the word, have him repeat the word to you to ensure he is pronouncing it correctly.  Go slowly — it is very important that the word be written correctly the first time!  Once he has written the word, have him repeat the spelling back to you.
  4. Have your child look at the word carefully.  Help him see where he made his mistake.  Have him circle the mistake on the corrected word.   Is it a common mistake for him?  If possible, find a spelling rule that will help him spell words of a similar type.  Are the letters out of order?  Help him spell the word mnemonically, such as b-e-a-utiful.
  5. Have him close his eyes and see the word, writing it in his head.  Have him check the imaginary word against the real word.  If it is not correct, try again.
  6. Have him write the word without looking at the original.  Check.  Is it correct?  If not, try again.
  7. Write the word correctly in a sentence.  An abbreviated version of the original sentence is best.
  8. The next day, have your child turn to a fresh page in his spelling notebook.  Dictate the words from yesterday’s list one at a time, spelling each after he has written it.  He should immediately check each word.  If it is incorrect, have him cross out the word and spell the word correctly for him to write on his page.  If he has fewer than five words to work on, add words he missed in his writing work (again, working on no more than five total words at a time on any given day).  This new list will be the one you use tomorrow.
  9. Spend one day a week reviewing previous words.  Spend one day a month reviewing all of the words he has missed (again — no more than five at a time).
  10. There are a few commonly misspelled words that you may want to start incorporating into your child’s spelling list after he has become reasonably proficient in his daily spelling activities.  (Please, do not overwhelm your child by doing this too soon.)  A complete list broken down by age group can be found in You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick.  You will likely find a similar list in your favorite grammar reference.  Or you can use this list for older students.


Additional Resources

Free Lined Spelling Paper
These free pages at are our favorite spelling pages (scroll down to Free Language Arts — free membership required).

Spelling Notebook
Free 8-page sample of Character Quality Language Arts (CQLA) that includes spelling pages arranged by rule.  This may be useful with step 4 above, determining the correct spelling rule, and copying the misspelled word on the correct line.

Commonly Misspelled English Words
Interactive that includes quiz.  When you start typing the word the word disappears and you have to type it from memory.  This is very similar to step 5 above.