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    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 17

    How to help learners to spell

    Here's something I think worth sharing. Like many EFL teachers I struggle to get my students spelling. Just recently I came across a technique that seems to work like magic.

    Simply put, it is to learn to look at words, see them as pictures. It may sound weird, but it does work. Some of the best spellers of English are speakers of Asian languages which use pictures or ideograms instead of letters. They tend to spell well in English because they see words as pictures.

    Here’s what you do:

    look at the word and take a picture of it
    use your eyes as if they were a digital camera
    zoom in on it
    focus carefully
    close your eyes and see the word in your head
    now ask yourself what the third letter of the word is
    what’s the second last letter?
    how about the fifth letter?

    It really does work. The point is to think with your eyes and not your ears. The really, really good news, however, is that once students start to do this, once they have looked at 200 words or so in this way, the process becomes almost automatic. What happens is that your brain changes channel and learns to "see" words and not just hear them.

    One excellent internet site to help with this is BBC Skillswise Look, say, cover, write and check. The words it focusses on are elementary, but it is excellent for learning the skill.

  1. Junior Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • France

    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 61

    Re: How to help learners to spell

    That idea makes me think of the fact that we only use 10% of our brains, if that. We are all probably capable of developing photgraphic memories if we took the time.

    With spelling it's important to remember that students need to read / see the words several times before you can expect them to be able to spell them. Here is a game that may be used for reading and speaking, or reading and writing practise.

    Include the words you want your pupils to be able to spell in your sentences or questions.

    Give your students a task to complete while you prepare the board, unless you have an electronic board. Using the target structure and vocabulary write up a series of jumbled questions under letter A with jumbled answers under letter B. For example:
    A B
    you how old are? years am seven old I
    name your is what? Shelley name my is

    Tell your pupils to form pairs and for one to be A and the other B. On the word "go" the As work out their question and the Bs work out their answer. A then asks B the question and B answers. When a pair has finished your list they stand up. Wait until a few pairs are standing and then hear some of the answers.

    You don't have to use a question and answer format, but can use only questions, or only sentences. The sentences can be repetitive if you are drilling a certain structure, and you can throw in a few sentences, which revise what you have been teaching in recent weeks.

    If your class will not perform pair work exercises correctly, but just talk all the time, or you are not sure what they are doing because there are so many of them, then use this game for fun reading and writing practise. Give a time limit for the task so everyone who finishes in the given time wins. If possible allow the pupils who struggle the most to sit next to the best students and allow copying so students may learn from each other!

    Kind regards
    For more fun game ideas to use with all group and class sizes please see:
    Teaching English Games
    Last edited by Teaching English Games; 01-Dec-2009 at 11:59. Reason: changing content

    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 17

    Re: How to help learners to spell

    A second idea that is less gamey, but really does tend to get students engaged is the wordsearch.

    I have a particular variant in mind where the words you enter are from the same word families:

    enjoyed etc

    This works a treat as a wordsearch activity: the students discover for themselves how words are built. It is both spelling and grammar simultaneously.

    Another of my variations is to include wrongly spelled words in the activity for the students to find and reject. That process is too a vital part of the general learning process.

    There are lots of sites out there that will create wordsearches for free for you.

  2. Newbie
    Student or Learner
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      • Chinese
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      • Hong Kong
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      • Hong Kong

    • Join Date: Dec 2009
    • Posts: 20

    Re: How to help learners to spell

    thanks for the sharing...

    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 17

    Re: How to help learners to spell

    Here's another idea for you. Use the spelling test to teach, not just test. Most students in my experience actually love this type of test, if it is done well. There are ways to do this. The significant point is to make sure you don't say the word, but you get the students to look at the words visually.

    How do you do it? Simple really. Don't say the word, describe it. Give the students several words some of which are misspelled. When you correct the test, give the students a chance to self-correct. This is much more involving.

    If this doesn't make sense to you. Try reading this.

  3. Cold Killer's Avatar

    • Join Date: Dec 2009
    • Posts: 21

    Re: How to help learners to spell

    ...god bless you

  4. Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Senior Member
    English Teacher
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      • English
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      • United States
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      • United States

    • Join Date: Dec 2009
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    Re: How to help learners to spell

    You might also consider teaching them about Chaucer, Middle English, linguist dirft, and the invention of movable type (with the subsequent "freezing" of spelling). Then, at least, they would know why it is so unreasonable.
    Linguist Farmer

    • Join Date: Dec 2009
    • Posts: 2

    Re: How to help learners to spell

    Thanks for sharing your ideas

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