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- author Jackie French

Friday 15 May 2015

Speechie's Couch: G is for (Not) Getting it Right

Sometimes the score children get in spelling tests becomes important: too important. Believe me, passing a spelling test does not mean that a child has the skills they need to write anything they want.

Sometimes a spelling test indicates that a child can memorise letter patterns long enough to pass their test. That’s all.

Combining letters on a page to make a word is hard work, so how can we make this functional and fun? Engaging with letter sounds lays the foundation for future spelling skills, so it’s important to enjoy the adventure.

Forget about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Play with sounds. Experience the magic that happens when you change the first sound in a word. Take the word ‘zoo’. It turn into ‘boo’ in a flash, but what if you change that ‘b’ into a ‘p’? 

Children love a giggle and they really enjoy being in control, so instead of focussing on the whole word all the time, enjoy games that make it okay to experiment, just with the first sound. And laugh at the results you achieve.

Here is a game made for just this purpose. It’s called ‘Change’. Please be sure your child has the necessary skills before attempting it. Children need to be able to tell you the first sound they hear in a word before they are ready to play ‘Change’. They will also need to recognise most of the consonants in the alphabet. They do not need to know letter names: just the sound that these letters make.

To start, someone thinks of a word that has only three letters in it. 

Step 1) Write the word down. 

Step 2) Cross out the first letter in this word.

Step 3) Rewrite the two remaining letters on the line below. Leave a space for the new letter you will add at the beginning of the word.

Step 4) Choose one of the letters from the little letter chart below. Say this sound out loud, then add it to the incomplete word ( e.g. for ‘in’ —hin, zin, tin). Add just one letter. Stop. Think. Is it a word? No? Try again until you find a real word. Then write it down.

For children who love a story, get them to put their new real word in a sentence. This gives power to the word they have just ‘created’.

Now it’s time to let someone else to have some fun. Their turn starts at step 2).

Jo Burnell is one of KBR's editors and resident paediatric speech pathologist. As reviewer of children’s and YA books, editor of all types of text, and freelance writer, Jo is passionate about children's literature in all its forms.