Friday, June 19, 2009

Teaching Handwriting and Vocabulary Through the Backdoor of Spelling

Many children need help with their spelling, especially if they have problems with dyslexia or other learning disabilities. Additionally, many children need additional help with handwriting. And, teachers are always looking for new ways to bolster their students' vocabularies. However, students can very easily feel infantilized or bored by repetitive exercises, busywork, copywork, and exercises solely devoted to one of these areas. For these reasons, AVKO recommends that short lessons be given. Further, we recommend that lessons serve as double-duty as much as possible. We call this teaching through the "backdoor."

Sequential Spelling is organized in clumps of 4 lessons, where 2-4 word families are taught in each clump. In those 4 lessons, the base words remain the same, but the various derivative forms (declentions) are taught in lessons 2-4 of the clumps. Instead of just teaching each of the lessons "in a vacuum," you can take advantage of the repetition to teach the other facets of language arts: handwriting, vocabulary, keyboarding, dictation, etc.

Teach the first lesson normally. You want the first lesson to be undiluted. Some handwriting practice, vocabulary learning, etc. will occur naturally because of the repetition of the word family patterns and the exposure to new words in their sentence context. We want the students to focus on just spelling the words the first time; let them do what they do automatically.

For the next lessons, you can instruct your student to focus on something additional -- making the strokes of the letters neatly, learning the vocabulary, typing speed and accuracy (you can have them type the words instead of writing them out), etc. As you progress through the lessons in the word family clump, you can divide their attention more as they will require less attention paid to the spelling.

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