The process of learning to spell occurs throughout the elementary school years and beyond. How can you help your child during the years from kindergarten through third grade?
First of all, know that your child’s journey toward mastering English spelling begins with learning to read and write. Read to your child every day, allowing him or her to “join in” when he or she wishes to, and encourage him or her to write. As children are learning the names of the letters of the alphabet, learning to read a few words and trying their hand at writing, they are developing an understanding of how letters go together to form words--they are learning to spell.
At first, your kindergarten or first-grade child’s writing will be a string of consonant letters. For example, “Bye-bye, see you soon” may be written as BBCSN. Before long, however, you will see vowels appear: “I like playing ball” may be written as I LIK PAE BOL. This type of “phonic” spelling helps young children pay attention to sounds within words and plays a critical role in helping them apply phonic knowledge to “sound out” words when they are reading.
Support the teacher’s spelling instruction. At this early stage teachers help children explore simple consonant and short vowel spellings, as in the words “bat” and “shop.” Later, children examine simple long vowel patterns as in “cake,” “bike” and “rain.”
Throughout first grade and much of second grade, most of the words children study will be single-syllable words. This is because children must have a firm understanding of short- and long-vowel spellings in single-syllable words in order to understand the spelling of words of more than one syllable.
These short and long vowel patterns usually determine what goes on within bigger words--for example, we double the “t” in “batting” because of the short vowel pattern; we do not double the “n” in “raining” because of the long vowel pattern. Your child will explore these types of words and patterns, as well as other simple two-syllable words and patterns, later in second grade and on into third grade.
Have your child sort the words in different ways: According to short or long vowel sounds (“bat,” “nag,” “sack,” “track,” and “make,” “rain,” “gain,” “cake”); spelling patterns (bat, nag; sack, track; make, cake; rain, gain) or any way your child wishes.
One second-grader sorted these words into two groups: bat, sack, track, cake, rain (“things you can touch”) and nag, make, gain (“things you can’t touch”).
Encourage your second- and third-grade child to keep a “spelling notebook” in which he or she writes down the different types of word sorting that are done. He or she may also keep a list of the words that are hard to remember, and they can refer to the notebook to help them out. A word may be crossed out when it is spelled consistently in writing.
In closing, keep it fun! You want your child to be curious about words and to enjoy exploring them.
Tuesday in Los Angeles: Celebrate Read Across America at the Central Los Angeles Public Library with stories and puppets honoring Dr. Seuss. 630 W. 5th St., 7 p.m. (213) 228-7250.
Wednesday in Glendora: Preschool story time at Glendora Library. 140 S. Glendora Ave., 10:30 a.m. (626) 852-4891.
Saturday in Westwood: Children’s story time at Barnes & Noble bookstore. 10850 W. Pico Blvd., 10:30 a.m. (310) 475-4144.
Saturday in La Verne: Story time at Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop includes a reading of “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.” 1030 Bonita Ave., 10 a.m. (909) 599-4558.