Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mashallah ka spelling

This started as a comment on Mad Mommas blog and it became so long that it has become a post.

Both me and my hubby are going crazy trying to teach our kid spellings. Last night, after we put the boy to bed, we were watching Chocolat, which had a boy with a too strict mum, hubby had tears in his eyes.

'Aren't we being too strict with him?' he asked.

'Yup. It's the computer age. Her doesn't need to know his spelling s perfectly.' I offered.

'Have you seen his spellings?' he asked.

'Well, I don't need to. I have been trying to get the concept of vowels in his head now for more than an year .'

'Lets see if you, or your computer, or the one who wrote them, can make out what these words are.'

1. vaega

2. yung

3. commande

4. fretent

5. roste

6. corke

7. sartenle

8. permmstes

9. pretes

10. Dapchre.

As I write in these apologies for words, Pavan is biting my shoulder. Any teachers out there, or parents, please help.


Smita said...


Navjyoti said...

Hey Manju, I also read your previous blog where Mamma and baby went to the bus nange pair!! I always delighted in his caring (not to mention the violently affectionate) behaviour, his staunch sense of justice and his popularity amongst his peers. Your blog reminded me of all these again! He's a fine boy, with a strong sense of logic. I will say the same about his language keeping in mind his amazing Hindi...About the spellings, what can I say - my heart aches to see this 7 months after we thought he will get there slow but steady...

Couple of things you can look into:

Is he confusing the non phonic pronunciation of letters with the phonic? Then wean him off any one that he is uncomfortable with. If you feel he is unsure of either, then go with phonics. He needs to be very clear with the sounds and how they behave in different arrangements.

Buy a book on spelling rules and teach him the rules slowly, one by one. I am assuming he is way too confused by now, about why words in English dont sound the way they are written. This wasn't the case with Hindi. He will find comfort in the fact that spellings are not ambigous but guided by a set of rules that he can remember and use.

When he hears a word, ask him to break up the sounds and then recollect how those sounds are symbolised through letters, which he should then write.

When reading, ask him to combine individual letter sounds into syllables and syllables into words; and remind him to use the same process whilst writing.

Paste spellings with authentic pictures of respective objects/emotions/events etc around his room. Its important that he sees them repeatedly and connects them to the pronunciation by spelling them out whenever you he sees them. Take dictations by clubbing these words into a story. Individual word checks make it boring, because they mean nothing in isolation.

When he is well versed with the current lot of spellings and pictures in his room, move on to a new lot. Let him select pictures on the computer and figure out the correct spellings with your help, put them up in his handwriting. Choose attractive paper to write on, if possible.

Show pride in what he puts up and more when he recollects those spellings later.

Some words are spelled such, that when put together, they sound completely different. 'The' for example. Such words are called sight words. Ask him to remember such words not by breaking them up but like a photo, altogether. Refer to the Dolch word list online for the same.

Give him a lot of practice. Keep a list of words he comes across or that you assign, keep going back to them. Revise what was done 3 months ago too, keep testing him. Maintain a database of spellings learnt through the year.

He can keep building a spelling tree by pasting all spellings he knows really well onto a big tree on the wall of his room. He will be happy to see more and more spelling fruits :-)

He should READ A LOT, every single day. A natural sense of spelling will develop when he repeatedly reads different words over a period of time.

The spellings he learns should come out of context, i.e. through conversations, stories, hoardings, writing on food packets etc. Ask him to also prepare such outputs and present them to people he doesnt know. It will motivate him and help him understand the relevance of spellings, when people cant understand what he has written.

Keep him oriented to this relevance always. Ask him to write letters to people he likes and help him ensure they understand what he writes.

All the best for your book, I am sure it rocks...and love to Pavan!

Grasshopper said...


Thank you so so much. If only you were in Bangalore, I would pack Pavan off to your house every Sunday.

I can see how boring a teacher I have been to the poor kid, but that's the way I was taught.

In fact, one of the reasons I avoid teaching Pavan as much as possible, is because I don't enjoy the process. It's so frustrating. He understands everything else, he jokes with me all the time, he speaks good English, he plays good cricket, he knows how to play a cd on the comp, he plays computer games, so why the hell cant he spell?

I will follow all your suggestions, but I have just one more question.

Do you know where I can buy some patience?

Navjyoti said...

This is something one wonders...we all went to traditional schools, did the usual nonsense but came out just fine! We mostly slept our way through classes, didn' we? When we were awake we were busy grappling to fight our fear of teachers, exams, punishments, report cards, parents, peers and worst - books. For most of us, life started after school was over. Till then, no choice, no freedom, no subject beyond English, Science, Math and Social Studies. And just one way of you know these - by mugging up facts, its ok if u forget them the evening after your exam.

It may be true that it is our experiences with our parents and teachers that we unconsciously transition into the lives of our children, without introspecting what works and what doesn't.

Childhood is about so much more. When it comes to learning, why does it have to be suddenly isolated from real life, from the concept of joy, excitement and choice? Which such thing has borne any good for us in our life? Who said that human beings need to be forced into their seats everyday, read and write from a prescribed curriculum, reproduce in an exam to be happy and successful in personal life, relationships, professionally and as citizens? Its not funny how most schools bear much resemblence to mental asylums and jails. Routines, punishments, isolated from the real world, constant supervision, no freedom, no choice, spending YOUR time according to how OTHERS decide, reminders that you are inadequate.

About patience, its within all of us. Pavan will bring it out in you, heh!