Spelling is NOT usually FUN!
It’s not often that your child says, “My favorite subject is… Spelling!” More than likely, it’s not a favorite at all. More often, no one likes to do it. Many classrooms have stopped focusing on spelling and instead focus more on the whole language approach. I, personally, like a balanced approach where spelling is taught, but differently than the traditional approach.
Traditionally, spelling has been taught as a separate task. Teachers typically give 10 words a week and the students practice these words for a weekly test. Often these words are taught in isolation, or by themselves, with no connection to familiar text. Sometimes, especially in the early elementary they are taught by word families: words that look and sound similar to each other. Skill and drill prepare the students for a test. The problem with this approach is that the correct spelling of the words and their meanings don’t always transfer to reading and writing skills.
Teaching Spelling to Deaf Children
Where children who are deaf are concerned, teaching new words in a way that they will remember them is crucial. Teaching spelling and vocabulary through context and world knowledge is a must. I love to teach new words and vocabulary together and focus on words that are in the literature book that is being read and re-read in language arts class. This does several things that naturally reinforce the learning and memorization of spelling words.
- The context of the story and the content will provide world knowledge that the students can connect the individual vocabulary/spelling words to.
- The reading and re-reading of the book provides repetition in context so that the students are not only seeing the word again and again but understand the meaning of it as they practice using it in natural language.
- The students enjoy the story AND spelling the words, as well as what the words mean.
- Reading strategies including how to figure out what new words mean can be taught as the spelling words are practiced. (hitting two birds with one stone)
- As the children re-tell or answer questions about the story, in ASL or English, they have the opportunity to use the spelling words naturally.
In other words: teaching spelling from context is VITAL to the deaf child.
Another place where deaf students struggle with spelling, is when words have multiple-meanings. There are also multiple ways to sign the same spelling word. It’s important to teach the different meanings when you focus on that word, even if that meaning is not used in the text you may be reading. Remember how I said that I like a balanced approach? Students will need direct teaching of words with multiple-meanings as well as natural interaction with the words in text. This sounds like a great topic for another post!
Find ways to have FUN with spelling!
- matching games (have the student make the matching cards by writing the words out)
- Hang man
- make up silly sentences or stories using all of the words
- Post the words around the house and have the kids spell them out before they can go into a room or use an appliance.
- games using ASL, like the one below
This game is awesome because it not only helps kids remember the word and how its spelled, but also what it means! New words CAN be FUN!