Unlocking Literacy: The Importance of Daily Spelling for Dyslexic Students and Beyond
Spelling is a crucial aspect of literacy development, and it is especially important for those students identified with dyslexia. Most dyslexia curricula have a spelling component embedded in the daily lesson cycle, but many teachers find it difficult to get to spelling each day. Learning to spell enhances not only writing but reading as well. Let’s take some time to discuss why spelling is important and how you as a dyslexia specialist or classroom teacher can become more mindful of spelling instruction.
Builds From Phonological Awareness
Spelling supports phonological awareness. Spelling is supported when the child understands that words are made up of separate speech sounds and letters represent those sounds. As the student progresses, they will start to notice patterns in the way letters are used, recurring sequences of letters that form syllables, word endings, word roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Memories for whole words are created faster and more easily when children have an understanding of the structure of language and receive sufficient practice writing the words.
Additional Instruction of Word Patterns
Half of all English words can be spelled accurately on the basis of sound-symbol correspondences and the pattern of the letter sequences. This means the letters used to spell these words predictably represent their sound patterns. A grapheme is a letter or letter combination and the sound-to-symbol relationship will not exceed four letters. Using phoneme-grapheme mapping in spelling pattern instruction (along with some memorization) can be used to remediate many spelling difficulties.
Word Origins, Meaning, and Parts of Speech
English words are spelled according to both their sounds (phonemes) and their meaningful parts (morphemes). For example, the grapheme ch can be read three different ways (ch)-Anglo-Saxon language layer, (k) Greek language layer, and (sh) French language layer. As English borrowed from other languages, English grew in complexity. This complexity provides a rationale as to why English contains a rich vocabulary on which multiple words were created with a close synonymous meaning.
Many spelling instructional sequences and techniques can be brought into the general education classroom spelling curriculum to help support all students.
Sequential Instruction Taught in a Multisensory Way
Multisensory instruction, though a hallmark of dyslexia education, can be utilized for students in the general education setting as well. Having students verbalize spelling rules, echoing the word to be spelled, unblending sounds, and naming letters as the students write are multisensory techniques that can be employed for spelling practices. Spelling should be directly taught by the instructor and not dependent on a weekly spelling list for an exam at the end of the week. Mastery can be noted through student usage of words and rules in their everyday writing activities.
Spelling in the General Education Classroom
Just as spelling exists along a continuum for the dyslexic student within a dyslexia curriculum, instruction, and grading should be different in the classroom setting as well. Instructors should instruct students early on in phonological awareness, letter names, and sounds as early as kindergarten. Anglo-Saxon word study should continue in grades 1-4, and Latin/Greek roots and affixes from grades 5-7. Following an instructional sequence strengthens and enhances the effectiveness of a spelling curriculum.
Additionally, the dyslexic student will need support through accommodations and modifications in the classroom setting. Important accommodations and task modifications for dyslexic students could include the following:
- grading written work primarily on content,
- writing correct spellings over incorrect ones and limiting rewrites to a reasonable amount,
- providing proofreading assistance,
- encouraging students to dictate their thoughts before writing and giving them the spellings of key content words to use in writing,
- allowing students in intermediate grades and higher to type exams and papers or to use a voice-translation device on a computer,
- encouraging students to hand in early drafts of research papers and essays to allow for revision before grading.
Spelling does not need to be a laborious task. The teacher can employ multisensory, sequential spelling techniques that can help support the student identified with dyslexia. Furthermore, many spelling instructional sequences and techniques can be brought into the general education classroom spelling curriculum to help support all students and enable them to become “language scientists” in their understanding of the multiple layers and rules that are part of the English language.