Primed for School Success in Spelling, Social Studies
Question: My son, a third-grader, has a difficult time spelling many of the words he uses in his daily work. However, he does great on his weekly spelling tests — all "A" grades. Can you explain this? How can I help him? – No Speller
Answer: The words that children really need to learn how to spell are the ones they use in daily writing. It is quite possible that the words your son is learning on the weekly spelling tests simply aren't the ones he needs the most for his daily work.
Have you investigated what words your son is misspelling on his assignments? There are probably a number of words that he consistently spells incorrectly. Work with his teacher to identify these words. It would be best if a few of these words could be part of the weekly spelling test. If this isn't possible, then you need to help him learn these words.
Select the 25 words that he misspells most often, and work on them first. On Monday, test him on five of these words. After testing him, spell the words orally and have him write correctly the ones he missed. Once this is done, give him the same quiz again and have him correct any missed words. Follow the same steps on Wednesday and Friday. Work with five new words the next week and so on. After your son has worked with all 25 words, quiz him for a week on all of the words as a review. Then quiz him again on these words in 10, 20 and 30 days. This will help him master these words, unless his spelling problems are related to a learning disability.
Incidentally, the more your son reads, the more words he will see spelled correctly and begin to spell correctly. Playing spelling word games (Boggle, Bananagrams and Scrabble) will give him additional practice spelling words correctly.
Question: This year our son, a fifth-grader, has become fascinated with what he is learning in social studies. He wants to know more and more about this subject. How can we help satisfy his curiosity? – Seeking More Knowledge
Answer: One thing that seems to guarantee success in school is to develop a passion for a particular topic or subject. It's great that your son has one. Learning more and more about a passion turns into a win-win situation. What he learns can be used later as topics for speeches and reports. Plus, the more children learn, the wider the knowledge base they have to build on when learning new material.
Below are some suggestions to enhance what your son is learning in school:
Read stories to him that complement his current social studies work. There are loads of books and short stories about historical figures and events. He could enjoy hearing about Lafayette, Paul Revere or President Kennedy, as well as events from Gettysburg to the Boston Tea Party to the Mayflower voyage. By reading to him, you are also sharing his interest.
Take a virtual field trip to a rain forest, Williamsburg, Va., or Washington, D.C., with the help of Web sites. He can easily search for places related to the topics that he is studying in school, and they will become far more meaningful to him. Furthermore, this is cost-free travel.
Visit historical sites when you are on vacation. Try to choose destinations related to what he studied this year in school or what he will study next year. Don't forget about the history in your community and state. Visits to museums, the State Capitol and historical re-enactments will further enhance his interest in social studies.
Parents can send questions to email@example.com or on the columnists' Web site at www.dearteacher.com.