Why is Spelling so hard for my child?

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If you have a child who struggles with spelling, you may be wondering why they find it so hard.
As a parent or carer, it can be difficult to watch your child struggle with something that you take for granted.
Understanding why your child finds spelling so hard can help you to provide the right support and guidance.
In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why spelling may be so hard for your child and provide helpful tips and strategies to help them succeed.

English orthography is difficult

Learning how to spell correctly can be a difficult task for even the most proficient reader.
English orthography, the spelling system used in the English language, is notoriously challenging due to its irregularities and complexity.
It is unlike many other languages which follow logical rules when forming words.
The English spelling system is made up of a variety of rules and exceptions which must be memorised in order to spell correctly.
This system can be especially confusing for children who are still developing their reading and writing skills. For example, the letter ‘c’ can make different sounds depending on the word, such as ‘cat’ and ‘city’.
The letters ‘ough’ can also make different sounds, such as in ‘thought’ and ‘through’.
There are also many words that are spelled differently in American and British English, such as ‘color’ and ‘colour’.
These irregularities can make it hard for children to remember how to spell words correctly. Another issue is that English has many words that are irregular, meaning they do not follow normal spelling rules or patterns.
For instance, the word ‘knows’ does not follow the pattern of other regular verbs (such as ‘love’, ‘run’, ‘play’), which all end with an ‘s’.
Additionally, some words that have similar meanings can have completely different spellings, such as ‘their’ and ‘there’.
Memorising these irregular words and understanding when to use them can be difficult for children who are still mastering the basics of spelling.


Many words are irregular

English spelling has a high degree of irregularity.
This means that, in many cases, the same sound can be represented by different letters, or the same letter can represent different sounds.
For example, the letter “c” can be pronounced as a hard “k” sound in “cat” and a soft “s” sound in “celery.”
The letter “a” can be pronounced as a short “a” sound in “mat” and a long “ay” sound in “play.”
The irregularities don’t end with individual letters.
Words themselves can also have irregular spellings, such as the difference between “right” and “write.”
Many words have multiple acceptable spellings, like “gray” and “grey.”
And some words have spellings that are completely different from their pronunciation, like “island” and “colonel.”
When it comes to spelling, there are no shortcuts.
It requires memorisation, practice, and patience.
As a parent or carer, it can be frustrating to see your child struggle with spelling.
But rest assured that with time and effort, they will eventually get the hang of it!

National Curriculum Spelling List

The relationship between phonemes and graphemes is complicated

Phonemes are the smallest units of sound that make up language, while graphemes are the written symbols that represent those sounds.
The connection between them can be complicated because they do not always match up in a one-to-one manner.
For example, the letter “b” can represent different phonemes like b as in boy or p as in pour.
Additionally, some phonemes can be represented by more than one grapheme, such as the “sh” combination of letters representing the phoneme ʃ.
This can make spelling difficult, especially for young children who are still developing their reading and writing skills.
It is important to remember that phonemic awareness and understanding the relationship between phonemes and graphemes is an essential part of learning how to spell correctly.

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Spelling requires memorisation

Memorisation is a key component of learning how to spell.
Memorisation helps children develop an understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds.
Memorising words also helps children remember the correct spelling of words, even when they’re writing without referring to a dictionary or spelling list.
To help your child with memorisation, you can use flashcards, repetitive writing, and mnemonic devices.
Flashcards are an effective way for children to learn new words and practice spelling them.
Have your child write the word on one side of the card, and then draw a picture or add other information on the other side to help him or her remember the word and its meaning.
Repetitive writing is also helpful for memorisation.
Ask your child to write each word multiple times in order to help him or her remember how it is spelled.
Mnemonic devices are another useful tool; these are phrases or rhymes that can help children remember how a word is spelled.
For example, if your child is trying to remember how to spell “vacuum”, you could create a phrase like “Vacuums Are Clean Underneath Mats”.
By helping your child understand the relationship between letters and sounds, giving them tools to practice their spelling, and teaching them memorisation techniques, you can help them become better spellers and make spelling easier.

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Some children have difficulty with phonemic awareness or phonology

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and recognise individual sounds (phonemes) within a word.
Phonology is the study of the sounds of a language, including how they are made and how they are used in speech.
Children with difficulty in phonemic awareness or phonology may struggle with recognising and using individual phonemes.
They may not be able to hear the difference between two different sounds or pronounce words correctly.
This can lead to difficulties in spelling words, as many words contain multiple phonemes that must be accurately distinguished and represented in order to spell them correctly.
Additionally, some children have difficulty making the connection between sounds and their written representations.
This means they may have difficulty understanding that certain letter combinations represent certain sounds, leading to mistakes when spelling words.
To help improve your child’s phonemic awareness and phonology, it’s important to provide activities that focus on listening, repeating, and discriminating between different sounds.
For example, you can have your child listen to different sounds and ask them to identify which one is different.
You can also have them practice saying and spelling words with a specific sound in it.
By providing these types of activities, you can help your child become more aware of and better able to distinguish between different sounds.

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