What Methods Do I Use to Teach Spelling & Writing?

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Writing is a much more complex brain activity than is reading.

Parents often presume that because their child reads fluently, he or she should naturally be able to write fluently, as well.  Actually, writing requires a completely different set of mental processes and motor skills than does reading.

While reading is the mental process of decoding and comprehending words presented by another, writing requires the author to:

  • Plan and organize complex thoughts
  • Understand how to formulate sentences and paragraphs
  • Choose appropriate words and be able to spell them correctly
  • Possess a command of the rules of capitalization and punctuation
  • Inscribe the chosen words, using complex penmanship skills

It is not at all surprising that children are routinely overwhelmed by these tasks and groan, wriggle, wail, or rebel, whenever asked to write a paragraph or an essay.

Parents may also dread helping with such assignments and can become as frustrated as the student.  A parent may succumb to the urge to just write the assignment for the child, who then copies it and hands it in as his or her own work.  The child is grateful and relieved, but the parent retains a sense of lingering guilt.

As difficult as it may be for some, All Students Must learn to write clearly and correctly.

Not only is this skill emphasized on standardized tests, but it is vitally important for success in life.

The One-to-One Home Tutoring Method of Teaching Writing

Writing Skills Must Be Taught in Stages.  Students must learn to:

  1. Construct basic sentences
  2. Combine simple sentences and phrases into more complex sentences
  3. Organize those sentences into coherent paragraphs
  4. Organize their paragraphs into a well-structured essay

Writing skills do not just occur spontaneously.  Development requires targeted lessons specifically created to engender confidence in young writers.  As with spelling, the mechanics of writing, including grammar, punctuation, and capitalization, must each be introduced and reinforced before lazy and erroneous habits become entrenched.

The One-to-One Home Tutoring writing program introduces the mechanics of writing in successive stages, determined by the learner’s unique reading and writing proficiency level.

Students must be made to recognize that good writing demands:

  • Reflection
  • Clear thinking
  • Self-discipline
  • Craftsmanship

Essentially, students must learn that writing is indeed, work.


Pre-writing is the most important part of the process. It is essential for producing quality results.

Research indicates that skilled writers spend as much time organizing and planning what they are going to write as they do in writing itself.


Learners must become adept at producing quick outlines and multi-paragraph outlines that are coherent, well-integrated, and logically consistent.  Once mastered, this technique enables them to clearly express their ideas in a variety of contexts.


Students must also learn how to revise, rewrite and proof read their material before their final version is submitted.

Without a solid foundation in grammar and the mechanics of writing, students flounder.


The One-to-One Home Tutoring Method of Teaching Spelling

Excellent readers and talented writers can sometimes be terrible spellers.  For instance, Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Albert Einstein, all highly respected writers, were notoriously poor spellers!

In general, the ability to spell correctly appears to be uncorrelated with intelligence.  Instead, it appears to be an inherited gift, like perfect pitch.

In this regard, it is quite advantageous to be the offspring of good spellers.  Likewise, its absence can be a burden for a child whose parents were also born without this specific talent.


Fortunately, humans are not just the sum of their genes.  A child may not have been genetically predisposed to be a good speller, but with determination, effort, and effective training, a poor speller can improve considerably.

A child not genetically predisposed to be a good speller, but who possesses determination coupled with effective training, can improve considerably!

Public schools generally do a poor job of teaching spelling.

Standardized word lists are assigned and activities around them organized and completed, then tests are administered, scored, and forgotten.  Essential words are seldom reinforced with needed methodical repetition.  Parents often complain, “My child gets 100% on spelling tests, but doesn’t remember the same words the next day!”


Educators place less emphasis on correct spelling than they did in the past.  Spelling errors are routinely overlooked.

Students are seldom required to rewrite carelessly written, error-ridden assignments.  This is an unfortunate trend.


Whenever a child’s spelling errors go uncorrected, those misspellings become deeply imprinted upon the young brain.

Regrettably, once learned, misspelled words can be quite difficult to unlearn.

However, with early intervention, heavy repetition, and targeted skill practice, all children can become better spellers.

Weak Spellers Become Better Spellers by Memorizing Sight Words and by Learning to Recognize and Apply Spelling Patterns.

The One-to-One Home Tutoring approach provides a systematic, repetitive drill of the most common words required of each student, at each grade level.

Some words are phonetically consistent and relatively easy to learn.  Patterns and generalizations are presented in such a way as to be “discoverable”.  Learners can then become self-enabled, capable of spelling a wider array of words containing these same sounds.

Others words must be memorized. For instance, the words “sure” and “where” are not formed from a predictable sound pattern.  Learners must be taught to rely upon their memory or defer to some clever mnemonic devices to retain the correct spellings.  This skill always requires repetition and review.  There is simply no other way!

The One-to-One Home Tutoring method provides students with repetitive exposure to such words by means of dictation, games, puzzles, and pertinent worksheets.  New words are not introduced until the previously required words are mastered.  Progress therefore occurs in stages.

Will the One-to-One program differ or conflict with the reading and spelling methods used by our school?

The One-to-One Program will differ and complement, but not conflict with other programs.

All US schools must follow state mandates for the teaching of reading and writing.  However, each school district is free to choose their preferred method for achieving that end.  At their core, all elementary reading programs emphasize either one of these two basic approaches in the early stages of reading instruction:

    • Phonics-based
    • Whole Language

Whole language advocates believe that all children will learn to read naturally, just as they learn to talk and walk; that simply immersing children in good books is all that is necessary to produce fluent and capable readers. It is considered a “top down” approach

Does it work?  Yes, with most, but not all children. Students who thrive in a whole language environment are global learners, meaning they learn best through hands-on learning and interaction.  They tend to be tactile and visual learners.

Phonics advocates believe that all a child needs to become a fluent reader is exposure to a sequential and explicit phonics program that teaches the alphabetic code and how it works to represent speech. It is considered a “bottom-up” approach.

Does it work?  Yes, with most, but not all, children. Children who are analytical and auditory learners seem to do best with phonics instruction. Decoding words through sounds comes easily for them.

The Phonics Approach and the Whole Language Approach practiced in isolation and without consideration of the child’s preferred learning style, deprives children of instructional opportunities that may be critical to literacy.

One-to-One Home Tutoring is firmly committed to “The Balanced Approach to Literacy”; one that recognizes that students need to use multiple strategies to become proficient readers. If a particular strategy isn’t working well for a given child, an alternate or combination of approaches can be used.  Flexibility is a must.

The One-to-One Program is squarely centered on responding to the individual student's learning needs, rather than relying upon a specific philosophical approach.

These needs are determined by thoroughly assessing the child's learning style, by analyzing individual strengths and weaknesses, by reviewing the student's educational history, and by investigating any exogenous factors that may affect the child’s performance.

When this assessment is complete, a customized system of instruction is then planned, but, in order to remain effective, these plans need to be continually updated in response to changing conditions and new information.

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