Tag Archives: spelling

Teaching Spelling — Your Opinion Sought*

*your informed, considered opinion, that is

Victoria, nearing 6 1/2, is a fine reader, and once again I have dodged a bullet. I have no idea how to teach a child to read, I am suspicious of phonics except for children who are struggling to read, and I have no experience.


She cannot spell. At all. With Violet, I have never done any spelling work, formal or informal. I guess the Word Within the Word is as close as we come, but she has some kind of supernatural instinct for spelling, and always has.

I have often heard that you should not correct young children’s spelling, as that experimental spelling is part of their language learning process.


Victoria would like to be able to write. She enjoys writing letters and wants to write stories, and is somewhat hindered by her inability to spell. That is, she is quite asynchronous in her language abilities — her expression and her reading are far beyond her spelling. That does not always bother her, but sometimes it does.

So, do I intervene? And how?

I am wondering about doing some kind of simple spelling practice, but then leaving the rest of her writing alone, unless she asks for a specific spelling for something she is writing.

Were she in school doing “language arts” at some level approximating her current reading level, she would definitely be doing spelling. Then again, I think Violet had spelling words in kindergarten — which was interesting, because some of the kids could barely write. So school practices are not the most helpful guide!

I have always had a vague belief that reading is the best kind of spelling lesson — and that is probably true.

But what do you think? If you are going to do some kind of specific spelling work, when and how do you start?


Filed under Gifted Ed, Our Philosophy (such as it is)

Word within the word

We’ve been trying a new resource lately, and I’m ready to report our initial response.

I had never heard of Royal Fireworks Press or Michael Clay Thompson until commenter Kit suggested the RFWP/MCT curriculum.

I had a really hard time choosing the right level. The suggested grade levels listed for each text is pretty broad. And though they are designed for gifted kids, you never can tell just what that means. In the end I started with the secondary level series, The Magic Lens and The Word Within the Word.

I confess, we started off overwhelmed. Or at least, I did. I saw that they looked like workbooks, and I thought we would use them as workbooks. But they aren’t designed that way. They’re designed to be used as a classroom text, with discussion and group processes and lots of looking things up in the dictionary on your own. This threw me a little at first. Plus — OK, I’m sure MCT is a brilliant man with a great love for language but — editor, please! This must be what it feels like to talk to Violet at times: you turn on the faucet to get a little water and you get a full-on 30-second firehose-strength blast in the face. Or maybe I was just tired. And when they say designed for gifted kids — they mean it! It’s not just about jumping ahead a grade or two, it’s about thinking differently. Which is good, but for a few days I questioned whether I should have started with the last book in the earlier series. Now I think I made the right choice.

We have not had a lot of time to explore The Magic Lens, which is the grammar text, but I have started to give some regular attention to Word Within the Word. This is something we do together, and it has been pretty fun.

I’m not sure what kind of book to describe Word Within the Word as — it falls in the “Vocabulary” column of the RFWP/MCT scheme, but it’s not really a traditional vocabulary study, or a traditional spelling study. It’s mainly based on learning word roots, so our focus has mainly been an extended etymology study.

One of the examples MCT gives for his style of study is learning the stems for respect, “re” — again” and “spect” — as in looking, so to “respect” is to look anew at something or someone. A “circum” -(around) “spect” person looks around before taking action. It’s a fun and interesting way to talk about words.

One of our favorite discoveries so far is “supercilious,” which we had to look up because though I had a general idea of the word’s meaning, I really didn’t recognize the “cilious” word stem. Aha! “super” = “above,” and “cilium” = “eyelid.” “Supercilium”=”eyebrow.” So a “supercilious” person is one who looks down at you with a raised eyebrow. We laughed out loud at our discovery.

My hope is that this will enable Violet’s reading a little more. Yes, she is reading at a post-secondary level, which means she is reading at a level when it is absurd even to talk about it (you have no idea how much time I’ve spent on Youtube trying searching various combinations of “Simpsons” “Lisa’s wedding” and “I read at a 78th grade level” to illustrate this point.) But working on the history of English study has given me a sense of where she’s at beyond that, and what she needs to do to keep progressing in order to keep up with her interests.

Plus, hey, she’s got lots of years to qualfy for Scripps-Howard! Remember the goofy kid in Spellbound, the one who made crazy jokes and talked all the time? I’ve got the female equivalent, right here — calling aspiring directors of Spellbound 2: Electric Boogaloo!


Filed under Curriculum, Gifted Ed, Schoolday Doings, unit study -- history of english