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Sit for a Spell - How to Learn to Spell Easily and Consistently Well

February 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 138

Many people say they can't spell or are poor spellers and one of the most common complaints parents and teachers make is that a child doesn't learn their spellings. The reason for this is mainly that most people are not taught an effective strategy for learning to remember how to spell words. Good spellers are people who have stumbled across an effective strategy for themselves and of course they are not necessarily aware of how they do it. Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) provides the skill set to enable people to use their brains very effectively, especially for learning. One definition of NLP is 'the study of excellence' and so if we study excellent spellers we can teach other people to do the same thing. Contrary to popular belief there isn't one strategy or 'THE NLP spelling strategy'. However it is possible to identify some key processes that great spellers do well and poor spellers don't do.

When we ask someone how to spell a word, good spellers will usually look up to their right, look at the word in their mind (their spelling database) and when they see it there, they get a good feeling down their midline - a positive yes! Ask a person who is OK at spelling to spell a word they will look up to their right, check it by sounding the letters out or sometimes breaking the word into phonemes and then get a positive yes. Ask a poor speller to spell a word and they will do a whole range of other things! For example they may look up to their left and discover the word isn't there, then they say to themselves 'Oh no I don't know how to spell this', then they will look down and feel bad, then they will try to work it out phonetically and finally they get a yuck feeling and are still not sure!

So what we see is that a person has a strategy for recalling information and a strategy for learning something too. What is meant by a 'strategy' is the steps that a person goes through in their head to learn something. In other words how they think! NLP teaches us that we 'think' by making pictures and sounds, talking to ourselves and having associated feelings. We have 5 senses which we use to experience the world and five ways to represent or re-present the world to ourselves. So when we know this we can 'Think on Purpose'!

Most effective strategies are very short. So it's not that some people are naturally good at spelling and some aren't, it's that they have learnt to do it in a way that doesn't work very well. It is perfectly understandable that people do these things because, as intelligent individuals, faced with the prospect of learning something new and without any guidance as to how to do it, they will work something out for themselves. Teachers and parents present spelling in some way that they have been told or believe works (this may just be the way they do it). It's inevitable that some learners get it right and others don't.

So when we take the components of a good spelling strategy we can help someone who can't spell well yet, to do the same sort of thinking in their heads and become really good at it. The key to teaching someone to spell well is to be very attentive to the language you use and the instructions you give them. So here is a step by step approach to magical spelling. You can of course do this for yourself or help someone else to spell well

The first thing to pay attention to is how you are feeling before you start. It's really important to feel good whilst you are learning something new because this feeling is glued to the learning. If someone is doubtful or scared it's not a good starting point. So think about something that you feel really confident about and can do easily. Keep reminding yourself of this as you go through the steps and make sure that you are playful and have fun enjoying the new strategy.

Now take a really big piece of paper and some coloured pens and then using a different coloured pen for each letter write the word on the sheet. Check in a dictionary if you are not sure. Look at the word on the page and make a picture of the word in your head. Make sure the picture is BIG and STILL. Small moving pictures are harder to remember.

When you have the picture in your head check that it matches the one on the page and say yes! Feel really good about the fact that they match.

Now repeat this a couple of times more to make sure you have the image firmly in your spelling database and write it out. If you are not sure of a letter, think about what colour it is on the sheet and this will help you recall the shape and the letter.

Once you have done this for a few words you will have installed a new strategy and you won't need to keep buying lots of big sheets of paper. In future you look at the word you want to remember and make a big colourful picture in your head without the need for paper and pens.

When you help someone else to do this there are a few things to remember. Don't phonetically sound out any letters. Phonics may help in a reading strategy but are not helpful in English for spelling. There are too many inconsistencies in English spelling, such as silent letters and variable spellings. For example, just think of through, threw and thorough. Use the correct name of the letter to indicate which one you are referring to. This is particularly important with adults as they have often developed a poor spelling strategy based on phonics and need to be encouraged not to use this method. Old habits die hard so be clear with your language.

When they have correctly called out each letter in the word, ask them to spell the word again but this time read each letter of the word in reverse. This is a great way to convince them that they have really learnt the word thoroughly and also lets them be sure it is a big still picture. Celebrate with them the fact that they can not only read a word forwards but can even spell it backwards!

With adults in particular, some people are sure of the letters at the beginning of the word and sure of the ones at the end but there will be a few in the middle that they mix up or can't see clearly in their mind. For example people will say they are not sure how many c's or s's there are in "necessary". In this case put the middle 'cess' in one different colour from the rest of the word so it stands out. I often use their favourite colour as this helps to make it memorable. The next stage is exactly the same as with a new word but the process is quicker as you are focusing only on the blurred part of the word.

As you read this simple step by step way to teach spelling you may be thinking that this is really easy. When we learn an elegant and effective way to do something it often feels like we have always known it.

For further applications of NLP for Teaching and Learning visit

Source: EzineArticles
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