My son can’t read his spelling words, is this ok? (submitted by L Mison)

If your child can not read their spelling words then it doesn’t make since to expect them to learn to spell them.  It is really sad that in many of our schools teachers have their spelling curriculum that for struggling readers is just too high.  If your child has an IEP and is struggling in reading, I would highly recommend you asking your special education teacher to consider writing in your child receiving an alternative spelling list.

Spelling is an important skill.  It should not be dismissed.  Spelling helps reading skills and there is so much more to spelling then just memorization.  Research shows that children who learn how the spelling system works in English with its patterns, sounds, and definitions through spelling skills, increase their reading fluency, comprehension and writing skills.   If a student is given spelling words that they struggle to read, the spelling lists become more about memorization instead of the skills that go with spelling.  We want to teach the phonetic patterns and how the system works through spelling, making the process the most important, not the level of spelling.

Scientifically, it has been found that students learn spelling best when their spelling words come from the words they are misspelling in their writing.  This means that those words are being used on a regular basis by the student and they are not spelling them correctly.  They can immediately begin to use the word and should be expected to spell it correctly from then on. 

For teachers that are not willing to create an alternative list for students that can read the spelling list, “You are just plain lazy.”  It isn’t that hard.  Just find words they can read.


8 Responses to “My son can’t read his spelling words, is this ok? (submitted by L Mison)”

  1. 1 Allan November 27, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    ‘Spelling is an important skill. It should not be dismissed.’ You are correct in wiritng this!
    But it should be made sensible. It is asking too much of many children (and, indeed, many adults) to expect them to be able to spell well.
    Our spelling is dum (any spelling ‘system’ that spells that word with a ‘b’ must be dum!). When 20 percent plus of our students and population fail in literacy we blame teachers, parents. politicians, anybody and anything but the spelling that we impose.
    Spelling is part of the alfabetical writing communication tool, and needs to be upgraded, modernized, and honed like any other tool. It needs to be logical, so we dont have to memorize the dictionary to be ‘good spellers’ and literate.

  2. 2 everyonecanlearn November 28, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I can empathize with you on how our spelling system is structured however it has been this way a very long time. I do not expect it will change. The importance in this post is in regards to students needing to be able to read a word in order to learn to spell it. Most of our spelling system does make since and students can be taught rules for how the system works. There are some exceptions but I do not believe this will change.

  3. 3 Allan November 28, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    Reading to learn to spell? I have a sister-in-law who is the worlds most avaricious reader and the worlds worst speller!!!
    Reading is the goal, spelling only a tool to help get u there. But as we eventually read word shapes (like the Chinese) spelling is not a necessity. Good if u can manage it; but not terminal if u cant.
    But we should be trying to make it possible for it to help everyone because of its logic, which is weak at the present.
    There are more than ‘some’ exceptions to spelling rules. English spelling abounds with exceptions. Its been said there are more exceptions than there are rules!

  4. 4 everyonecanlearn November 29, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Wouldn’t we all love to have our spelling rules as simple as other languages, like Spanish. You see it, you know how each letter sounds and you can always say it right. You might not know what it means, but you can certainly say it correctly if you have learned their sounds. Vowels always make the same sound. They don’t have 2 or 3 sounds they make. If only…

  5. 5 flighttoinsanity November 30, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Yeah, i took 3 years of spanish, and i can sit down to a book written in Spanish. i can read it aloud with confidence and i sound good…. i don’t have any idea what i just said, but i sound good. too much time conjugating verbs and not enought time in conversational enviroment. que lastima.

  6. 6 Allan December 1, 2008 at 3:05 am

    Dont just ‘if only …’.
    Change can come, but ‘only’ if we work for it.
    Use some simple changes, like omitting silent letters, eg,
    hav, ar, dum; and some variants that ar in use, eg, thru, lite, dialog, tho. And talk change with your frends.

  7. 7 Barb May 24, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I agree with Adam, my daughter is the same, an excellent silent reader with great comprehension but not so good at spelling. She has a learning disability and I spent a fortune with Lindamood Bell and other phonics-type private tutoring and it never helped with fluency.

    What do you do when phonics doesn’t seem to work?

    By the way, as a first year special education teacher, I admit that I have not given the spelling the attention it deserves and I love the idea of teaching the words they misspell in writing. But, having said that.. I don’t give writing its due time either… any suggestions on tying that all with reading?

    • 8 everyonecanlearn October 8, 2009 at 5:55 pm

      I am sorry, been out of pocket for a while. If phonics isn’t working, they really need an Orton Gillingham based program. Checkout for some descriptions and a possible program that is pretty inexpensive and doesn’t require the level of training most of these programs do. Out of all students about 25% of the population can not learn to read through phonics.

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Lynnette Crawley M.S. Ed

As an educational consultant, I work with families, students, adults, parents, teachers, schools and corporations in relationship to the many disabilities affecting their lives. Many times all anyone needs is a little coaching, direction or tools to close the gap between where they are and where they should be. Making progress is not good enough. We must be closing the gap. Email:

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