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Why Does My Child Spell a Word Right One Day and Wrong the Next?

By Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH

Question: My fourth grader is inconsistent when it comes to spelling. She’ll spell a word correctly in one paragraph but wrong in the next. Or she’ll get it right one day but not the next. Is that typical?

Answer:

First, it’s great that you’ve been observing your child’s work so closely and have picked up on patterns.

All kids make mistakes as they’re learning, whether it’s with spelling or any other skill. You asked whether the mistakes are “typical.” The better way to think of it is: Are they typical for your child’s grade?

Your child’s teacher is a great source of information on this. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for time to talk. The teacher can tell you how your child is doing with spelling overall. You can also find out if what you’re seeing at home is happening in class.

The more information you give, the more helpful the teacher can be. So you might want to do some more detective work before you talk. Here are two things to consider:

  • How many errors is your child making? Are most words spelled wrong or are most words spelled right?

  • What types of words does your child struggle with? Are they words that are spelled the way they sound or ones that aren’t? What about common words that appear often, like was, and, or the?

Lots of kids have trouble with spelling. The English language can be pretty tricky. There are many rules to follow, and exceptions to every rule.

When kids are first learning how to spell, they often use an approach called invented spelling. They try to figure out all the sounds in the word and write down the letter that stands for each sound.

They may make mistakes. But if they write out most of the sounds in the word, then it’s OK. For example, a child who’s trying to sound out flowers using invented spelling might write flawrs.

When they’re using this approach, kids may spell the same word wrong in different ways. It’s usually not a problem, though. Especially if they’re fairly new spellers and their skills get better over time.

But if skills don’t get better, there may be something else going on that’s causing the trouble with spelling. Certain learning and thinking differences can make it hard to spell for different reasons.

If you think your child is struggling with other skills besides spelling, share those concerns with the teacher, too. Together you can talk about ways to help.

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom