Homework Help

Help for very poor High School spellers!I am just completing the Summer School program...

user profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 5, 2008 at 2:41 PM via web

dislike 1 like
Help for very poor High School spellers!

I am just completing the Summer School program in English at my school.  I have never come across so many poor spellers in one group of students.  These students spell the basic words wrong, it is frustrating and maddening.  I know as a Summer School teacher, I won't be able to influence these students very much.  I have painfully corrected paper after paper, but nothing changes.  What is interesting is, that these students did not fail because of their spelling, most of them cut class, or did no homework, no projects, or fell asleep in class.

How can I help poor High School spellers without humiliating them?  I had one student during the regular school year who was a really poor speller.  I tried the worksheets with repetition, but he avoided this process like the plague.  I did not see any improvement after chasing him for an entire year.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to help these students? It shocks me that they made it through elementary school without  mastering the basics of spelling.  There is an awful lot of phonetic spelling going on in High School!   

10 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 5, 2008 at 3:12 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

Before I started teaching, I worked for many years in publishing, mostly as a copyeditor. As copyeditor chief, one of my responsibilities was to test and train proofreaders. I came to the conclusion that being able to spell is like being able to play a musical instrument: it's a talent that has to be nurtured and not something that comes easily to everyone. I don't know what the solution to bad spelling is. But has anyone noticed that today's students don't know the old rules that my generation grew up with? I was very surprised when students told me they'd never heard "i before e except after c" or "there's a rat in separate." Are we not even giving them the shortcuts?

And one more thing--spelling is not something that lends itself to filling in bubbles on a standardized test answer sheet. When all we're concerned with is "state standards" and testing, do we have time for other things?

user profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted August 5, 2008 at 3:18 PM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

I don't have any solutions that probably haven't been mentioned already; however, one thing that helped me when I was going through school was reading the newspaper everyday in class.  I really built a good vocabulary and spelling skills, in part, due to this.  Many local newspapers will give schools free newspapers if they participate in a readership program.  When I taught high school, I gave weekly spelling tests.  This seemed to help the students, too.

user profile pic

mrerick | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted August 5, 2008 at 3:28 PM (Answer #4)

dislike 0 like

This isn't much of a solution, but it's how I deal with spelling in my high school classes...I don't. 

I don't have my students turn in anything handwritten (except for short answer test questions).  Because of that, everything they give to me is subject to a spell checker on the computer.  The reason I started doing this was when I realized how little I had to know how to spell in my day to day activities.  Think about it - I use the English language as my profession, and there are VERY few instances in any given day where I would have to know how to spell a word without assistance, so I'm not sure that I need to beat my head against a wall making sure these kids all know how to spell.  Instead, I spend more time focusing on reading and vocabulary, particularly word choice (plain/plane, their/there, etc.). 

Maybe I'm being too cynical and it's feeding the problem, but the majority of today's students simply won't have to be good spellers in order to be exceptional people and professionals after high school.  Shoot - even their text messages spell the words for them now...

user profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 6, 2008 at 1:47 PM (Answer #5)

dislike 0 like

This isn't much of a solution, but it's how I deal with spelling in my high school classes...I don't. 

I don't have my students turn in anything handwritten (except for short answer test questions).  Because of that, everything they give to me is subject to a spell checker on the computer.  The reason I started doing this was when I realized how little I had to know how to spell in my day to day activities.  Think about it - I use the English language as my profession, and there are VERY few instances in any given day where I would have to know how to spell a word without assistance, so I'm not sure that I need to beat my head against a wall making sure these kids all know how to spell.  Instead, I spend more time focusing on reading and vocabulary, particularly word choice (plain/plane, their/there, etc.). 

Maybe I'm being too cynical and it's feeding the problem, but the majority of today's students simply won't have to be good spellers in order to be exceptional people and professionals after high school.  Shoot - even their text messages spell the words for them now...

Touche! If you look at the history of the English language, you'll notice that spelling changes from era to era. Good point about focusing on word choice.

user profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 8, 2008 at 3:49 AM (Answer #6)

dislike 0 like

Your replies are all very helpful in understanding why spelling is such a problem today, but, the student that I worked with last year, wondered by he never received a grade of 90 on his report card.  He was a competent student who did well on tests, but I told him he would never receive a grade of 90 unless he improved his spelling. 

As a teacher, I feel frustrated by the fact that students have gone through several years of school by the time they reach High School, and have not mastered basic words like: taht, dose, these are the two that I see most often.  Forget about word choice, in Summer School, witch, and there, were the top offenses.  I can't believe that students used witch for which.  The there for their is very common.  Thanks for your comments!  

user profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted August 8, 2008 at 6:08 AM (Answer #7)

dislike 0 like

Your replies are all very helpful in understanding why spelling is such a problem today, but, the student that I worked with last year, wondered by he never received a grade of 90 on his report card.  He was a competent student who did well on tests, but I told him he would never receive a grade of 90 unless he improved his spelling. 

As a teacher, I feel frustrated by the fact that students have gone through several years of school by the time they reach High School, and have not mastered basic words like: taht, dose, these are the two that I see most often.  Forget about word choice, in Summer School, witch, and there, were the top offenses.  I can't believe that students used witch for which.  The there for their is very common.  Thanks for your comments!  

The problems you are describing seem solvable through word choice exercises like those detailed by other posters. Homonyms give kids fits at almost any level, it seems. I must respectfully disagree with others' assertion that spelling does not deserve attention as an entity unto itself . When students are coming into high school spelling poorly because they were "hooked on phonics," there is still time for corrective action. The best way students learn proper spelling rules is by encountering the words in reading, foremost.

As in all things, practice makes perfect. Some experts state that adolescent learners must use a word 40-60 times before they "own" it. That means that if they haven't been utilizing "received" or "enough" with any real regularity, they won't be using it correctly during those few instances when they put such words into action.

I'm not saying that kids' papers need to bleed red from all the corrections in spelling, but I do feel that we have an obligation as educators to ensure that tomorrow's generation of leaders won't slaughter the few remnants we have left of our language. Call me old school, but that's where I stand.

user profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 8, 2008 at 6:37 AM (Answer #8)

dislike 0 like

Another approachable solution for high school students is to use peer editing to reinforce spelling.  Have the students complete in-class essays, but have them skip every other line when they write in order to provide space for editing.  Then, exchange the papers.  Arm the editors with grammar books and dictionaries and tell them that they are being graded on how well they edit the essay they have been given.  Give them plenty of time to do the editing and help them use the tools to find the answers.  Really insist upon correct spelling, forcing students to look up any word they see that they aren't absolutely certain are spelled correctly.

Here is a good site with some spelling worksheets that might help, as well:

http://www.spelling.hemscott.net/index.html

user profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 16, 2008 at 6:16 AM (Answer #9)

dislike 0 like

Part of the problem stems from the texting these kids do day in and day out.  Nothing is spelled correctly there, and they want to abbreviate everything!  I work on root words and affixes for vocab building and we also talk about spelling rules whenever several in the class have broken them in their writing.  One can only hope that it sticks with some of them...

user profile pic

reidalot | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted August 16, 2008 at 10:25 AM (Answer #10)

dislike 0 like

In reply to #4, I see a problem when students are allowed to hand in all writing after it's been word processed. What happens to those students if they are in an IB English programme where two hand written pieces are 50% of a two-year course? Or students writing essays for SAT or LSAT? I agree spellchecking is wonderful; however, students also need to be able to write by hand using proper spelling and grammar. I have taught many college students whose word processed work is far different from their in-class essays. Sometimes their word processed work is not even their own!

user profile pic

litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM (Answer #11)

dislike 0 like

Students in summer school are often the ones who are not doing well.  When I taught 9-10 summer school, I had students keep a spelling log.  They recorded words they spelled wrong more than once in their writing.  Then, they had individual spelling lists based on that.  I hope that I was able to teach some of them how to spell their most commonly misspelled words a little more carefully, but at the very least it made them more aware of the importance of spelling.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes