5 ways to improve your spelling
Writing
5 ways to improve your spelling

Do you get told time and time again that spelling is your weakness? Maybe it's time to do something about it. In today's blog I'll be discussing five (fun) ways to make spelling practice part of your daily routine.  Before you start, make sure to identify your weaknesses. If you have a lot of different problems, you will have to invest more time than if your problem is limited to one or two areas (e.g. often getting confused between b and p). If you have access to a teacher or fluent English speaker ask them to help identify your specific issues. If you’re mainly self-taught, do a dictation from a source where you have a transcript, pausing as often as necessary. Then carefully compare your writing to the original and see where you misspelled words. Ask yourself if all of your mistakes are similar, or if there are a lot of different types of mistakes and what exactly you keep getting wrong.  Once you have identified your problem(s), set aside a fixed time for spelling practice. Short and often is better than long and rarely as your brain can only absorb so much information at a time and things tend to become jumbled if we work on combining individual letters in the right order for too long.  The next step is to come up with fun strategies to improve your spelling. Here are some of my favourites. By the way, I have used every single one of these techniques myself, as spelling really wasn’t my strong point when I was little. Ask my mum! Study the rules Ok, maybe for most people this isn’t the most fun way to deal with the issue, but we do have a few spelling rules in English which may help you tackle your specific problem efficiently. For example, if you’re never sure if you should double a letter at the end of a word or not when using the -ing form. As an English teacher I like rules, and they have helped me improve my own spelling really quickly, which is why I have included this here.   Use your imagination  When I was a little girl, I was never able to spell the word business correctly. That’s because it is pronounced /ˈbɪznəs / so the letter u sounds like an ɪ and you cannot hear the letter i at all. So confusing! So my spelling of ‘business’ was typically ‘biznis’. One day my mum said to me: “Imagine a bus, yourself and the Loch Ness Monster. Now write down ‘bus’ ‘I’ and ‘ness’.” So to this day, when I need to write the word business, I still think of myself on a bus with Nessie. I’ve never misspelled the word since. Or when I need to spell ‘accommodation’ I always imagine a house with two double bedrooms and that reminds me that there are two c’s and two m’s.  If there is no suitable image you can make from your problem word, create a phrase or sentence to help you remember. A typical example is the word ‘necessary’. A lot of people struggle with this, myself included (one c or two, one s or two???). However, one day my teacher told me: “Just remember: ‘Never eat crisps, eat sweet salad and remain young’.” I was a little confused by the idea of sweet salad, but the sentence stuck, perhaps because it’s a little bit silly.  Say it out loud Another great way to commit the spelling of a difficult word to memory is to say it the way you would pronounce it in your language. Look at the word ‘usually’ / ˈjuːʒʊəli /, for example. I have a friend who mumbles ‘uh-suh-all-lee’ every time they have to write it, because that relates to the letters in their first language.  Play games There are lots of fun crosswords and spelling games freely available on the internet. At We Love IELTS we regularly share quizzes on our social media accounts. If you’re a very focussed student, you may feel that you shouldn’t be having fun when you’re meant to be studying, but the two of them really aren’t mutually exclusive. So give yourself permission to take a more playful approach to work for a few minutes every day. You may also want to enlist a member of your family or a friend to have little spelling competitions. I know that the prospect of my younger sister being better at spelling French than me was extremely motivating during my school years.   Here’s an example of a fun game you could play: Place a text at one end of the room with two pens and two pieces of paper at the other end of the room. Then you both read a sentence from the text, run to your pen and paper and write down what you have read. When you’ve finished, you swap papers and mark each other’s work. Whoever made fewer mistakes is the winner. Alternatively, you could work together and one of you dictates what they’ve read to the other.  Use your spellchecker Many of my students do not turn on the spellchecker on their computer, because they think it makes them lazy and stops them from improving their spelling. Quite the opposite! Your spellchecker shows you in red if there is something wrong with a word you have written. Try to work out what it is and change the word until the red line disappears. Then check in the dictionary to see if you have managed to find the right spelling for the word you really wanted. Remember that ‘loose’ and ‘lose’ are both correct words in English, but do you know which one means ‘not fixed’ and which one is the opposite of ‘win’?  Here's a quick language activity for you: (Click to enlarge) Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

15 June, 2020

5 ways to improve your spelling

5 ways to improve your spelling

Do you get told time and time again that spelling is your weakness? Maybe it's time to do something about it. In today's blog I'll be discussing five (fun) ways to make spelling practice part of your daily routine. 

Before you start, make sure to identify your weaknesses. If you have a lot of different problems, you will have to invest more time than if your problem is limited to one or two areas (e.g. often getting confused between b and p). If you have access to a teacher or fluent English speaker ask them to help identify your specific issues. If you’re mainly self-taught, do a dictation from a source where you have a transcript, pausing as often as necessary. Then carefully compare your writing to the original and see where you misspelled words. Ask yourself if all of your mistakes are similar, or if there are a lot of different types of mistakes and what exactly you keep getting wrong. 

Once you have identified your problem(s), set aside a fixed time for spelling practice. Short and often is better than long and rarely as your brain can only absorb so much information at a time and things tend to become jumbled if we work on combining individual letters in the right order for too long. 

The next step is to come up with fun strategies to improve your spelling. Here are some of my favourites. By the way, I have used every single one of these techniques myself, as spelling really wasn’t my strong point when I was little. Ask my mum!

Study the rules

Ok, maybe for most people this isn’t the most fun way to deal with the issue, but we do have a few spelling rules in English which may help you tackle your specific problem efficiently. For example, if you’re never sure if you should double a letter at the end of a word or not when using the -ing form. As an English teacher I like rules, and they have helped me improve my own spelling really quickly, which is why I have included this here.  

Use your imagination 

When I was a little girl, I was never able to spell the word business correctly. That’s because it is pronounced /ˈbɪznəs / so the letter u sounds like an ɪ and you cannot hear the letter i at all. So confusing! So my spelling of ‘business’ was typically ‘biznis’. One day my mum said to me: “Imagine a bus, yourself and the Loch Ness Monster. Now write down ‘bus’ ‘I’ and ‘ness’.” So to this day, when I need to write the word business, I still think of myself on a bus with Nessie. I’ve never misspelled the word since. Or when I need to spell ‘accommodation’ I always imagine a house with two double bedrooms and that reminds me that there are two c’s and two m’s. 

If there is no suitable image you can make from your problem word, create a phrase or sentence to help you remember. A typical example is the word ‘necessary’. A lot of people struggle with this, myself included (one c or two, one s or two???). However, one day my teacher told me: “Just remember: ‘Never eat crisps, eat sweet salad and remain young’.” I was a little confused by the idea of sweet salad, but the sentence stuck, perhaps because it’s a little bit silly. 

Say it out loud

Another great way to commit the spelling of a difficult word to memory is to say it the way you would pronounce it in your language. Look at the word ‘usually’ / ˈjuːʒʊəli /, for example. I have a friend who mumbles ‘uh-suh-all-lee’ every time they have to write it, because that relates to the letters in their first language. 

Play games

There are lots of fun crosswords and spelling games freely available on the internet. At We Love IELTS we regularly share quizzes on our social media accounts. If you’re a very focussed student, you may feel that you shouldn’t be having fun when you’re meant to be studying, but the two of them really aren’t mutually exclusive. So give yourself permission to take a more playful approach to work for a few minutes every day. You may also want to enlist a member of your family or a friend to have little spelling competitions. I know that the prospect of my younger sister being better at spelling French than me was extremely motivating during my school years.  

Here’s an example of a fun game you could play: Place a text at one end of the room with two pens and two pieces of paper at the other end of the room. Then you both read a sentence from the text, run to your pen and paper and write down what you have read. When you’ve finished, you swap papers and mark each other’s work. Whoever made fewer mistakes is the winner. Alternatively, you could work together and one of you dictates what they’ve read to the other. 

Use your spellchecker

Many of my students do not turn on the spellchecker on their computer, because they think it makes them lazy and stops them from improving their spelling. Quite the opposite! Your spellchecker shows you in red if there is something wrong with a word you have written. Try to work out what it is and change the word until the red line disappears. Then check in the dictionary to see if you have managed to find the right spelling for the word you really wanted. Remember that ‘loose’ and ‘lose’ are both correct words in English, but do you know which one means ‘not fixed’ and which one is the opposite of ‘win’? 

Here's a quick language activity for you:

Spelling Language Activity

(Click to enlarge)

Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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