Tackling Spelling – Through a New Approach

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Last week, last Thursday to be exact, I was in a lot of pain. My back, which had been threatening to do it for weeks, and finally seized up. It was down low, on the left side, and I felt pretty useless.

At the same time as I was laying on a yoga mat, wishing the pain would go away, Em was gnashing her teeth over her spelling list for the week.

I get the spelling lists here by the way. They have them for First through Fifth grade and then High School and they have worked well for us. Well, usually.

As I said, Em was wailing and moaning about the spelling list. On Tuesday she had missed nine out of 21, on Wednesday she missed six, and she was not motivated to try for yet another day in a row.

“Come here,” I said and reached an arm out to her.


“Because I want to cuddle with you and I have an idea.”

If there is anything that wins this girl over, it’s cuddling with mom. She might be a tween and chomping at the bit to find her way through into her teen years, but she still loves to nestle her body against mine. As far as I’m concerned that can happily never end!

She scooted down to the floor, put her head on my outstretched arm and nestled close.

“Now, close your eyes, relax your body and take some deep breaths in and out.” She did this as I explained, “When I was your age and a little older, whenever I would take a spelling test I would imagine the word hanging before me, crisp black letters on a white background. I would visualize it, and then I would spell it.”

“Are you ready to try?” I asked her.

She nodded and I gave her the first word, “Spell ‘irrelevant.'”

She spelled it perfectly the first time through. Both times before it had been a mangled mess of letters and she had wailed at the long list of marked words.

We worked our way through the list and with any that she had trouble on or spelled incorrectly I would pause and ask her to re-spell it, thinking of how it might be spelled differently.

It was a phenomenal success. Even more so because she was happy curled up by my side, my arm around her.

This week, we tried it again and first time out of the gate she spelled all but three words correctly. I asked her to then practice those three words by printing them and writing them in cursive both while spelling them out loud.

I had tried getting her to visualize the words before, early on, but not in quite the same circumstances. There on the floor, close to me, and armed with the skills she has learned over the past two years of spelling tests, she was able to fully embrace the concept.

Go on, give it a try. And let me know how it works out for you!

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