Helping a first grader learn to spell can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. Whether you are a teacher, parent, grandparent, or volunteer, there are ways to help a child spell words. The best strategies to encourage him are based on knowing more about his spelling skills and the early stages of writing.
Method 1 of 2: Teach Spelling Strategies
Step 1. Assess students' spelling knowledge
The best teaching practice begins with learning what the student already knows. Take a moment to test his spelling knowledge by asking him to spell out a list of common words for first graders. The assessment will allow you to begin teaching in the student's area of competence.
- First grade words are short, one to four letters long. They are one-syllable words. Some examples are light, sea, las, plus, gol, sol, dos.
- Assessment begins by analyzing the child's independent writing. Provides opportunities for students to write, either on art projects or academic activities.
- Keep evaluating throughout the school year. Continuous assessment is vital to effective teaching practice.
Step 2. Teach in small groups
Teachers are generally aware of the disparity between their students' abilities and know that small group instruction is preferable whenever possible. When helping first graders to spell, teaching in small groups is essential. Group assignments should be based on what you've discovered through spelling tests in order to teach students with similar abilities at the same time.
- Keep in mind that some students' reading and spelling abilities may differ slightly. Don't base spelling tests on reading ability.
- Have other students do word-based activities in their seats or participate in literacy activities in class centers. This will help you manage the other students while working with small groups.
- Having an aide or volunteer in the class can be helpful in managing small groups of students.
Step 3. Prioritize teaching spelling
It is important that you find the time to test and teach spelling to first graders. Controlling this can be difficult, since it requires individualization based on the learning capacity of each. Plan ahead to include teaching spelling every day, several times a day.
- Consider creating inclusion of spelling words in different study areas.
- Spend a little time each day doing independent word work and individual or small group teaching.
Step 4. Teach word knowledge, not just spelling
Teaching sight words, words the student may observe frequently, helps a first grader with spelling. Post familiar words in the classroom. Teach students to evaluate why the word is spelled that way. Teach the rules behind spelling.
- For example, teach why the letter "g" is pronounced differently depending on the letter that follows. Explain that if it is followed by a "u", it is pronounced differently than if it is followed by an "e".
- Teach sight words that are not commonly present in the first graders' curriculum, in case you notice that your students use them a lot. Post these words in the classroom and refer to them when they come up naturally in another lesson. These sight words can include all, after, over, put on, sing, etc.
Step 5. Show the usefulness of spelling
Students will be more motivated to learn spelling if they understand its importance. To a first grader, it is important to explain the connection between reading words and spelling them correctly. By teaching students to recognize the power of spelling in comprehension, you will help them transfer their knowledge of spelling to other activities in their lives.
- Group activities can have many opportunities to fill in the blank. Mad Libs is a great activity to teach spelling.
- Scaffolding can help beginning learners. Reminding the student of what they already know, the strategies they can try to complete a word, and the ratio of clues and encouragement support a first grader with spelling.
Step 6. Integrate independent spelling strategies
When helping first graders, say each word you want them to spell slowly. Teach them to listen to the sounds they hear (beginning, middle, and ending sounds). Help them identify any parts they know (eg "du" for candy).
- Encourage them to notice how the words come together to create a longer word. For example, joining "web" and "spider" forms "cobweb". Students might enjoy clapping the syllables and then writing the letters for each one.
- Help them identify the spelling of words that rhyme, such as "night" and "car" or "hard" and "safe."
- Students need many opportunities to correct spelling and see if it looks good. Provide classroom resources (dictionaries, calendars, charts, word wall, etc.).
Step 7. Encourage everyone to write, regardless of spelling
Writing and spelling are two distinct academic areas. Having students write without worrying about spelling will help them be more confident writers and spellers.
- Provides opportunities for students to write about things that are important to them. Soccer games, video games, field trips, and pets are popular topics.
- These learning opportunities are found throughout the student's day. Play games about writing about new topics.
Step 8. Expose students to written words
The more they are exposed to written words, the more likely they are to internalize the spelling of the word. If you work with specific words, point them out in books, magazines, and online. Underline them with a marker to emphasize that the word they learn is also found "in the real world," if possible.
- Students sometimes enjoy "correcting" spelling mistakes.
- First graders can feel comfortable reading the same stories over and over. In this case, take advantage of this repetition to highlight the different words present in the same story.
Method 2 of 2: Recognize the Early Stages of Writing
Step 1. Know the signs of the precommunicative writing stage
A first grader might be in the precommunicative writing stage, which means they only have a rough idea of the alphabet. They may recognize different letters of the alphabet, but are not aware of words as a visual construction. You may not notice the spaces between the words.
- For children at this stage, continue to teach alphabet shapes and try to expose them to written words by reading aloud to them.
- Never try to correct a child's spelling at this stage of writing.
Step 2. Learn about the semi-phonetic writing stage
In first grade, some children will be in the semi-phonetic stage of reading. This means that they make connections between the sound of words and the sound of a letter or two within the word. Words could be abbreviated a lot, like using T or S for "toad."
- The word you try to spell first could be your name, or the M for Mom or the P for Dad.
- The child's ability to segment or separate the different sounds in a word may still be emerging.
- Encourage your child to write frequently, no matter how difficult the word is to read. Don't worry about spelling at this stage, but provide help if the child is open.
Step 3. Understand the phonetic spelling stage
This is a common stage in first graders, a spelling stage that assumes basic knowledge of the alphabet and understands that words and sounds are connected. A child who spells at this stage might use "made up" spelling patterns based on the sound of the word. Children at this level will be more interested in learning correct spelling. Provide well-spelled word models and start encouraging them to think about how to spell the words on their own. This is a wonderful time to help a child with spelling.
- Some examples of made-up spellings might be "aba" for "water", "dopa" for "clothes", and so on.
- Another thing you might notice is that the child begins to recognize initial patterns in words, rhythms, and similar sounds.
Step 4. Learn more about the transitional spelling stage
Some first graders may be in this stage. Here, the student will have an emerging reading skill and will recognize many words. He begins to understand that sounds are represented by combinations of letters, and that words can be plural or modified in other ways by suffixes and prefixes.
- Being patient with mistakes at this stage is essential. Words may be more difficult to understand than a phonetic speller, but a child's spelling errors are based on an inadequate understanding of spelling patterns. Keep teaching patterns that make up good spelling.
- Teach your child to laugh at spelling inconsistencies. You can also teach correct spelling reminders at this stage, such as "m" before "b" or "n" before "v."