A joint dossier of L'École branchée and Carrefour education

The text of this dossier is available in PDF format.
It is also available in OpenOffice / LibreOffice format.
And in ePub format for reading on tablet or phone.

Spelling: why isn't it always easy?

Writing well is not a natural gift for many young people, or even for many adults. While some students have diagnosed disorders such as dysorthography, others are simply not intuitively efficient and balk at their dictations and texts.

Alloprof distinguishes between dysorthographic children and those who simply didn't fall for the spelling potion when they were little. The organism defines dysorthography such as: "a persistent difficulty in acquiring and mastering spelling." It mainly affects the learning and automation of phoneme-grapheme correspondence (correspondence of the sound unit to its written unit) as well as the ability to visually represent the spelling of words. This learning disability frequently results in omissions (the child writes fagile instead of brittle), inversions (fargile instead of brittle) and substitutions of letters and / or syllables (vragile instead of brittle) in written words. "

It will therefore be understood that children who make a lot of mistakes do not necessarily have a learning disability. Indeed, the difficulties, even if they generate the same result in the notebooks, can come from a variety of sources, which it will be useful to identify in order to intervene adequately and to propose relevant tools. That said, whatever the cause of the students' problems, everyone can benefit from tips for spelling better and improving their writing situation.

In this context where the needs are enormous (according to a report of the Office québécois de la langue française, if the criterion of the evaluation of the spelling was eliminatory during the single test of French in 5e secondary, about half of the students would fail), this file offers you many ideas and resources to get there, whether in class or at home, on your own or in a group.


Table of contents of the file


The elements to observe
- The causes of the difficulties: a wide range of possibilities
- Take into account the variety of intelligences

Spelling: how to learn for a long time while having fun
- Word perception
- Understanding words
- The feeling of words

Reinventing traditional methods
- The study in stages
- Dictation in all its forms

Build the study list
- And the choice of words in all of this?
- How many words should we suggest each week?

The best of ICT to the rescue

The elements to observe

The causes of the difficulties: a wide range of possibilities

Spelling learning problems appear to be more varied than one might think. They are not simply a lack of memorization and an inadequate working method.

Several things can be at the root of the spelling errors that occur during a dictation or when writing a text. Here is a list. As you will see, many causes are geared toward the student's attitude or basic skills, not just spelling knowledge. By observing the young people around you, you will probably be able to identify the main sources of difficulties among them.

Concentration problems : Concentration is essential for the child to be able to write properly, otherwise there is a risk, for example, of forgetting words or letters. By learning to concentrate better, he can increase his chances of success. Various exercises that you can do on your TBI / TNI, such as the cardiac coherence (which also has an impact on relaxation and the management of emotions and anxiety) may help the child (simply project this video in class, or any other of your choice).

Memorization problem : mnemonic strategies are not innate. While some students get creative in tapping their memory, others just don't know how to put it into motion. Consult the section How to learn for a long time while having fun? of this file to discover various memorization techniques.

Inappropriate thinking : the child imagines the concept, but not the word. For example, he sees a gray elephant in his head, but not the word "elephant" as such. It then becomes difficult for him to write it.

Problem understanding the text or word : A word that is not well understood or defined will be less likely to be spelled correctly. It is therefore important, especially during dictations, that the choice of sentences and words make sense for the pupil. The Alloprof tips also go in this direction.

Lack of correction of errors : some young people simply do not have any revision strategy, or at least they do not know how to implement them.

Lack of strategies related to the nature of words. Understanding the nature of words is central to writing. Also, a child who does not make an inference upon seeing a plural determinant and the noun it determines will be subject to tuning error. For this type of problem, here is a interesting resource from Alloprof. As a strategy, we simply propose to systematically identify the determinants, nouns (common or proper), adjectives and verbs, as well as the period and the capital letter. It will then suffice to ask the questions associated with it (eg: “Who is this?” To find the subject of the verb). Moreover, to clearly distinguish the various classes of words, this memory aid proves to be an interesting resource.

Thinking problem : Often, children are familiar with the various rules, without being able to apply them.

Stress and false beliefs : pernicious, negative perceptions of children about their writing skills influence the results obtained. The youngster then puts unnecessary pressure on his shoulders and believes that he is not able to write well. It becomes difficult, in such a case, to act other than according to these beliefs.

From this list, it seems important to try to target at what level the pupil's lack (s) are located, which will allow a better intervention. As you have seen, sometimes the spelling is not directly involved.

This other article offers a typology table of spelling errors related to the result and not to the student's attitude. For the spelling of words, we will thus distinguish sound errors (the student used a phoneme that does not correspond to the correct sound, e.g .: gitare and not guitar) as well as dictionary errors (pronunciation is correct, but the choice of phoneme does not correspond, e.g .: ask rather than asking).

Whatever type of errors you are looking to identify, it may be worthwhile to use or create some simple diagnostic tools. For example, a perforated dictation and a reference table of uncontrolled rules. Or a dictation, pictures to describe and a short text to produce. Each can be very useful in looking at students' spelling skills, and you can obviously adjust these types of tools to the grade level in which you are teaching.


Take into account the variety of intelligences

Although Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences be refuted by research, it may be beneficial to use a variety of methods to accommodate student preferences.

Some children may prefer to sing along to learn their words or to clap their hands to indicate the number of letters or syllables in a word. Others will prefer to move while studying, etc.

We most often hear about “visual / auditory / physiotherapy” means when it comes time to choose strategies. This method makes it possible to combine these three types of approaches at the same time. Children will take a picture of the word in their head, outline it, type words to identify syllables, spell, identify difficulties using symbols or pictures, then write the word in space, and this, both with eyes closed and on a piece of paper or a board.

Here are other methods and tools, including strategies developed according to the previous categories, taken from the deceased site The world of 2e cycle :

Visual strategies : highlight the difficulties visually, whether by adding color, symbols, highlighting ... To do this, you could also use drawing software (some are free and very fun for children , as TuxPaint). You could print these creative words in a binder, but also place them on your classroom website so that students can study from these pictorial lists (grouped together as a slide show if necessary).

Hearing strategies : spell words in any way, whether using nursery rhymes, singing, clapping, changing intonation, etc. In this context, we can make sound recordings of songs where we spell the words (with Audacity, among others) or even create a ABC sung like this.

Kinesthetic strategies : here, the body is put to good use in many ways, whether by moving entirely or by writing in another way (with various materials, parts, textures ...) In addition, we could use ICTs to film small choreographies where the children will personify the syllables of the words under study or make them move, as in this Dance of words, etc.

In short, a variety of strategies exist: there are all kinds. The next section of the file will introduce you to several, which you can adapt to the needs, personality and interests of your students.


How to learn for a long time while having fun?

Research and experience have shown that regular and frequent reading influences writing outcomes. Indeed, there is often a correlation between being an avid reader and a good writer. In addition, the so-called “traditional” methods of learning spelling, although not very attractive in terms of fun, have proven their worth. However, on the Bri-Bri et cie speech therapy blog, it is rightly pointed out that “while it is true that for most children it is effective to write a word several times or to spell it to oneself, these strategies are not sufficient for a child with a speech disorder. 'spelling'.

In order to overcome these difficulties and, at the same time, to avoid or stop the vicious circle of errors and the feeling of incompetence (the more mistakes we make, the less competent we feel, and the less competent we feel, the more we make mistakes), it is important to try other techniques. They will even have the advantage of making the daily life of students who are already successful even more enjoyable. Here are some models and methods which we hope will enchant you.


1. Word perception

To write well, you must be able to perceive and imagine words. In order for children to enjoy this type of exercise, it is in your interest to develop the interactive aspect. Here are some ideas that you may or may not exploit using ICT.

Rebuild words : the manipulable material will delight children. So, for example, they can use plasticine or even Lego blocks or play pieces to build the words. The good news is that even without such hardware, you can use the computer for such manipulations. The Lego company, for example, offers a virtual design app free. As for the budding artists, they will be delighted with the online sculpture site. SculptGL. From a virtual clay ball, young people will be able to model and even paint a 3D work inspired by a vocabulary word. You could print this image on the screen, then paste it into a slideshow or do an artistic word exhibition every week.

Animate words : Obviously, animation or slide show creation software are ideal for generating a lively result. The pupils will have a lot of fun with this type of achievement, and they will be able to watch the result at home to study, if you put yourself online, for example, on a YouTube channel for this purpose. We can explore for this purpose PowerPoint, Keynote or OpenOffice Impress software, but also Powtoon or Prezi online, or Tellagami on mobile tablets.

Show words : rather than just listing them on the board or on a single sheet, you can use an application like Wordle to automatically generate a colorful poster that includes all of your vocabulary words for the week. If you use this website, be aware that if you type a word more than once, it will appear in larger font than the others. Thus, it is to your advantage to bring out the words that have potential difficulties so that they become more fixed in the visual memory of the students.

Create mind maps or diagrams : schematization, which sets in motion the use of words, drawings, colors and a precise location in space, allows better memorization. You will see it in this funny video that you can project in class, but know that the technique has also been the subject a complete École branchée file. One thing is certain, this method is worth it, whether it is to learn and retain the spelling or any other type of concepts, because it proves to be a formidable and lasting effectiveness.

Draw the words : From a basic word, children can transform its appearance through drawings or symbols. Here you will find many examples very relevant, which you could even display in class. Obviously, these drawings could also be designed using the computer or, at the very least, digitized to develop a computerized repository, accessible in the classroom or at home. This type of exercise is also an excellent opportunity to stimulate the creativity of young people. So why not launch a big contest across your school to invite all the children to illustrate words? A vast pictorial dictionary will thus be born in a short time.

Break down words into syllables : Sometimes, it is enough simply to shorten the reference elements (the syllable rather than the word) so that the spelling is mastered. This board structure this type of exercise. In addition, we will give you a demonstration of this technique in this video, which you can project in class.


2. Understanding words

If, for adults, the meaning of words and sentences is usually taken for granted, we forget that in children, this is not always the case. However, if the child does not understand what he is writing, he will find it harder to spell the words correctly. Here are some tips that will increase the lexical understanding of the scriptwriters at the time of the study.

Contextualize the words to write : When the student writes the words, ask him to insert them in a sentence or dictate to him.

Establish similarities : in front of a word of which he is not certain, lead the young person to ask himself: "Do I know other words of the same family or which have similar elements?" (eg: words that use the same suffix or prefix). »Hello Prof explains very well this notion and the ways of identifying the lexical field similar to the initial word.

Highlight difficulties and create mnemonic tips : in front of a word, the student must identify the difficulty (s), and be creative in determining a memorization trick. For example, to distinguish the spelling A / E in the words aunt / tent, we could invent a sentence: "I am sleeping in a tEnte toEx outside with my tATnte who meATgolden. "An ex-dunce (she said it!), Now invested in a mission to help young people write better, says in This article du Monde that this was her unorthodox way of remembering words. As an illustration of her technique, she told herself that "old" takes two i's, because they are the two canes of an old lady, or that the word "accused" takes two c's to symbolize the latter's handcuffs.


3. The feeling of words

Children of the kinesthetic type will need to move or feel more. For these, other techniques can be beneficial.

Visualize : when studying words, imagining yourself in the context in which the words will be used (eg: dictation, exam, writing text, etc.) can make a difference. Teachers could also experiment with dictation against a relaxing background, and instruct students to use the same background when reviewing their vocabulary words at home. The site, among many others, includes several musical lists, including Tranquil Landscape, which will be very suitable for this type of exercise.

Create games : this document prepared by a remedial teacher provides several that will captivate young and old alike. Other websites, like Eugenie's games, will also inspire you and allow students to manipulate.


Reinventing traditional methods

As mentioned earlier, reading words and spelling them (or better still, writing them, when the study context allows) produces some performance. However, it is possible to structure these types of methods so that they become formidably effective. Here are some examples that can be found on the web.


1. The study in stages

This six-step individual study can be done alone or in a team.

  1. Read the word
    2. Memorize (here, the use of the mind map may be relevant)
    3. Hide the word.
    4. Write the word.
    5. Check the spelling.
    6. Correct potential errors.

In step 4, we can spice up the writing of the word a little. To this end, the idea of remote writing appears interesting. It's simple: you have to read the word and write it with the vocabulary book in front of you. Then we read it, then we go further to write it. We keep memorizing to go and write the words down somewhere else in the classroom or even in the school.

The Spelling Superprofs propose an eight-step process that varies slightly and that includes a touch of creativity, because the student can draw a picture or invent a sentence. These steps are presented on a leaflet on page 4 of the document available here.


2. Dictation in all its forms

The site The World of 2e cycle offers here dictations of all kinds. They will never have the same flavor again! It illustrates various types of so-called “learning” dictations. These all have one thing in common: they focus on learning rather than assessment. However, in a classroom setting, most teachers still use dictation in the form of a graded assessment. However, it can prove to be a precious ally in learning, since it puts the editor in a situation of writing and correction. By allowing students to discuss, question and use their mistakes to learn, the transfer of knowledge and the application of correction strategies become more concrete.

Here are some examples of dictations that aim to acquire strategies and prevent a decrease in self-esteem (sometimes the unfortunate result of too many bad results).

First, the "Zero mistakes" dictation seems a must. During this, the student is entitled to an unlimited number of questions, just like the teacher, for that matter. The latter can thus question the young person to get him to find the answers, or explain them to him if there is no light on the horizon. Carried out in groups, this type of dictation allows all the children to help each other, since each one can offer possible solutions. Other ideas will please you:

The dictated sentence of the day : the pupils compare their different ways of writing the words coming from a sentence. You will find some here various examples for the 5e primary year, accompanied by dictations in the form of texts. Using your IWB / TNI, this type of exercise becomes very easy: just plan a variety of ways to write a word, then let the students discuss and vote on the likely spelling.

Cooperative dictation : Students work in small teams of three or four to help each other. Everything can be done on a common tablet, which allows discussions and the delivery of a final version of the text. This version could even be then projected on the screen to continue the mutual aid in a large group.

Directed dictation : the teacher models the strategies by verbalizing them as they go. Once again, the interactive whiteboard proves to be a valuable asset here. Do not hesitate, for example, to use colors to distinguish the various types of words.

The prepared dictation : the text used for the dictation must have already been analyzed and worked on in a large group, in class (among those which will have been projected on the screen, for example). We then resume the exercise in individual dictation.

Mutual dictation : it is a student of the class who designs the dictation for the whole class, or for a small group of students. Everything can be done from home, using a word processor, then projected at the time of correction.

Reflective dictation : The concept of this is taken up in this document. It is proposed to classify the words according to two categories: those of which the pupil is quite certain, and those of which he doubts the spelling. The student is then invited to check the actual spelling in a reference tool, then to determine one or more strategies for memorizing the spelling.

Moreover, if you are looking for online dictations, know that Ladicté offers more than 1000 for young and old. This can help you in workshops, but can also be offered as a work tool at home.

Tweeted: Finally, do not miss to take a look at a resolutely modern way of understanding dictation: the "twictation". It combines dictation, intra- and inter-class collaboration as well as social networks (Twitter).


Build the study list

And the choice of words in all of this?

Tools for classifying vocabulary words according to grade level exist on the Web, such as the word list from the Quebec Ministry of Education (MEESR). That said, you may want to think more deeply about choosing the terms to study.

The use of a level of difficulty (from easy to complex) has the advantage of promoting success. As an example, as explained on the Speech Therapy blog, the tool “ÉOLE (scale of acquisition of lexical orthography) is a book based on a French study which focused on the normal learning of spelling in nearly 48,000 children from the first (CP) to the fifth year (CM1). The function of this book is not to put tags in terms of spelling, but when we see that in children without difficulty, the word "carrot" is a word acquired around the fourth year, one may wonder why our children see it in first grade. "

In the same vein, on the same Speech therapy blog, we wonder about the relevance and the real use of the words in the texts: "If we judge that this word is not so important (because in reality, do you often write the word carrot in a text?) and that we can make them learn later, well we may decide to make them learn frequent words that are easily successful at their level of learning. It should also not be forgotten that memory being what it is, a child frequently exposed to his spelling errors is very likely that his memory encodes his errors rather than the correct form. "

What is all this about? ÉOLE has established, for more than 11,000 words, the proportion of students who manage to spell these words correctly over the years. For example, the word House is adequately written by 85 % students of 1time year and 100 % of children of 2e year. However, the word carrot varies between 20 % and 79 % between 1time and the 4e year. Surprising? Not that much, because words used more regularly are, of course, spelled better. So, without even having access to this document, it can be interesting to create lists according to a meaningful use for the pupils, which, in parallel, also risks creating more situations of valorization. In addition, this kind of analysis could become an excellent opportunity to approach mathematics, since the pupils could proceed to the statistical determination of the words succeeded - or not - in their class. This turns out to be an ideal project for learning to use a spreadsheet (such as Excel or google spreadsheets).

Finally, the fact of proposing thematic lists can also be reviewed. Indeed, themes like Easter, Christmas or apples contain words whose use is very infrequent or probable. It may be better to invest your energy in mastering common words that cause problems. In addition, the themes can be oriented more towards functional aspects (places, characters, time ...), as in this very practical tool for students of 1er elementary cycle, but which will delight students throughout elementary school, especially those who are having difficulty.


How many words should we suggest each week?

Should quantity take precedence over quality? We can think about it. Is it better to focus on a few words and memorize them forever, or rather dilute your attention over a long list and remember only a few?

Whatever option is chosen, depending on their similarities or their spelling regularity, a longer list of words can be proposed. So that the child can establish links between the studied words, it may appear relevant to classify them according to certain points in common (spelling, prefix, suffix, star sounds…). A group of teachers offers a concrete example here, in a superb document for grade 1 studentstime and 2e year, which you could use to make your spellings lists for each week of the year (one page per week). As a bonus, the document highlights certain spelling rules.


The best of ICT to the rescue

To end this file, here are some high quality sites to use ICT for the benefit of learning spelling in general. Links will also lead you to a commented file from Carrefour education, which details the strengths of the sites in addition to providing many educational avenues.

Magimot (> Carrefour education sheet)

Gommophone (> Carrefour education sheet)

Interactive exercises of Allô prof (all levels)

CCDMD educational games (secondary and college) (> Carrefour education sheet)

Memot / Vocabulary games (> Carrefour education sheet)

All Carrefour spelling websites


Do you know others? Do not hesitate to let us know about them!



Comments are closed.