Picture Learners Can’t Learn to Spell

…by writing words 100 times!

Ventura, CA (PRWEB) March 3, 2005

How many adults do you know who have trouble spelling? Are you one of them?

Ask “poor spellers” if they had to write their misspelled words over and over when they were in school—the majority will answer YES. Ask them if this helped—the answer will be NO!

Anyone who has trouble spelling can tell you that writing words 50 times, 100 times, even 1000 times does not help at all. So why do educators continue to insist that students use this method to learn to spell?

It’s a case of doing the same thing in the same way over and over again and expecting different results, which has come to be known as the “definition of insanity”!

But if writing the words doesn’t work, what else is there?

The answer lies in learning styles. Find out what kind of learner you are working with so you can recommend the appropriate strategy. In the case of spelling, it’s pretty easy to identify the modality style of a student who is struggling. People who have a natural ability to spell are Writing/Print Learners and they are born that way. These people don’t even need a spelling program—they just spell. If a word happens to come along that is a little more difficult, they can write it a few times and know it forever. Writing works for these learners because they are Writing Learners.

People who are not natural spellers are NOT Writing/Print Learners. Therefore, a student who struggles with spelling can immediately be identified as a non-Writing/Print Learner. This means he is a Picture or Tactile Learner. People who are Picture or Tactile Learners do not learn by writing!

They do learn by making picture clues, using textured materials, or even “acting out” the word spellings. Some educators think that these strategies take too long, but not as long as it takes to write a word 100 times and then end up never learning it at all!

Here is an example of using picture clues with the word FRIEND. FRIEND has a letter in it that is silent and very confusing. A poor speller might remember there is something odd about this word and might even remember that there is an i and an e in it, but might not remember the correct placement of these letters. Possible spellings are FRIND, FREND, FREIND.

Now coach this student to write “fr” with a colored marker. Next write a giant “I”, in a different color and perhaps make it into a character by putting hair at the top, drawing arms and legs, etc. —you don’t have to be artistic—the sillier the better. Next write “end”, in a third color. Now the student can look at this picture and practice saying I am a FRIEND to the END. This picture clue for friend can be put on a 5×8 card, pinned to the wall, and visualized often during the day, with the student closing his eyes and “seeing” the picture he drew.

Students who learn one or two words at a time like this become quite successful at spelling. Sometimes, just making the picture clue and rehearsing it once is enough to put the word into long term memory.

By the way, the idea that the more students read the better they can spell is a myth. Because of the complexity of our language, reading and spelling are two very separate functions that use different parts of the brain. There are many great readers who are terrible spellers!

And one more thing: the kids have to be developmentally ready before any of this will work. Most are not ready to learn to read and spell until they are 8 or 9 years old!

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