Ideas of How to Help 12 Year Old Improve Spelling

Updated on June 11, 2010
P.H. asks from McKinney, TX
14 answers

I have a 12 year old son who needs help with his spelling. He just brought home some end of the year work and I was shocked at how terrible his spelling is. I was very surprised as he is a straight A student! Any ideas of how I can help him, I would greatly appreciate it. I plan to help him over the summer. Thank you.

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answers from Dallas on

I tutored a little boy who was making very bad grades in spelling. After just a couple of weeks, he was making 100's on all his tests. The school had a list of each week's words so I knew all the words in advance for the next test.

I made flash cards and would hold each word up and make him stare at the word. I would make him use the word in a sentence. We would make up funny sentences and laugh and laugh.

The next day, I would make him write each word 10 times. You could play the memory game and have each word written on two flash cards and play that with him. You could hide the words around the house and make him find them.

Since he is older then have him look each word up in the dictionary and read aloud the definitions. I just tried to make everything as fun as possible and like a game and that seemed to work.

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answers from Dallas on

Hi. I was wondering, is it words that could be spelled correctly if he just slowed down and sounded them out? If so, I'd start there. Have him work through things a bit more slowly and then go back over his work and check it. This is a skill many of us don't do, and should do. If it is words that can't necessarily be sounded out, I'd have him have some type of different colored pen/pencil next to him while he writes. Then, as he's writing, he can write and circle the words he's unsure of. After writing, he can look them up in a dictionary and correct his mistakes. Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think his grades are good because many enlightened teachers realize that spelling is dependent on a part of the brain that is simply less developed in some people (probably including some of the teachers themselves). It's sort of like tone-deafness or an inability to remember names.

With that in mind, I think it's fine to help your son to whatever degree he wants to be helped. Perhaps he can help formulate your action plan for the summer. For me, I get my familiarity with words from reading, so helping him find appealing books may be one answer.

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answers from Washington DC on

Some people are just bad spellers. Not everyone's brain works in the right way to make spelling an easy thing to do. My dad is a self-made, very successful business owner and he is a TERRIBLE speller. My husband is a very intelligent man and works in anti-terrorism for the federal government and he's not a great speller either. Spelling success does not denote life success. Just keep that in mind. (And truly, how important is it to be able to spell every word they hear? These days there is spell check. It's the ideas and concepts that are important, not the spelling)

That being said, there are actually a lot of online free spelling practice programs out there. Myself and a few other homeschoolers I know use some of them for spelling word lists and fun practice. Just look it up online.

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answers from Boston on

I have used flashcards for ever! work great. Also it seems children do not write as much as they used to. I would call the school and find out what books are being used in English so that you can either purchase or borrow them for the summer. Summer reading will help also. With him writing a report for you.



answers from Dallas on

Unless he wants to be in a spelling bee, spelling will come. Not a great speller, I am 38, was valedictorian of my class, went to A&M and was on the deans list, was a successful systems architect in corporate America.... learned to use spell check on EVERYTHING! :)

Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it too much... He's 12 and is getting great grades! Sounds like you have a great kid. Don't push too hard and let him have a break over the summer. They need down time too...

I do like the suggestion of playing games like boggle an scrabble.



answers from Dallas on

I have to say that I always believed I was a bad speller - I wasn't I just had never been TAUGHT spelling rules & phonics (correctly!). Many teachers DO NOT understand either themselves (I can say this because I am a teacher and a reading and dyslexia specialist - I have taught many teachers through workshops to understand things that they were NEVER taught in school either!).

Your child CAN spell correctly if TAUGHT! Look into a program called Spalding - not a huge advocate of some of their ways but they do list out spelling rules and teach true understanding of the phonograms! There are tons of websites that use interactive teaching and say the sounds for you so that you are learning things correctly.

No one is a bad speller - they just weren't taught correctly. I've taught plenty of children and adults to be good spellers!


answers from Dallas on is a great tool and it is free!

We use a book called spelling power, it takes 10 minutes a day and has them only work on words they do not know. You test them into what area they should start and it covers elementary to highschool.




answers from Dallas on


Once my kids learned how to break down words into syllables, spelling became MUCH easier! Next, do a search for "spelling rules" (you will find many lists). Go through and see which ones he doesn't know. Then, I would cull through the schoolwork he brought home and use those misspelled words as his spelling list. If he's reluctant to do spelling over the summer (most kids don't want to do "school" over the summer), you might think about paying him a dime or a quarter for every word he learns.

To put into practice the work he's done, either have him write letters or postcards to family and friends this summer. If possible, have him write on the computer; then he can spellcheck his work. My son writes on the computer and then copies his writing down by hand. When he writes on the computer, he is ten times more likely to write longer essays, letters etc.

Hope this helps!
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answers from Dallas on

Lots of good advice already given, but going to add my 2 cents worth. I am a professional and see lots of resumes and cover letters; also many emails. When I see a word that is spelled incorrectly, that person's resume moves down the stack. Although many people just blow by spelling and think it isn't important, I want to stress that it is. We all have typos when we type so often in this computer world; however, it is important to learn to spell correctly and not just to rely on spellcheck (that will not distinguish between "there" and "their").

Now, trying to get someone interested in learning to spell can be difficult. I learned at an early age, because my grandmother played Scrabble with everyone who walked in the door. I find that the best way to get students to learn better spelling is to get involved in fun games. Let me suggest one that is on the internet (also an app for iPhones) called Words with Friends. It is an online Scrabble game and it can be played with someone you know or just a random game with someone else online.

Or.....if your family enjoys board games, get some of the word games (like Scrabble or Upwords) and have a family night of games. This type of learning mixed with some of the other suggestions may help. Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

Dear P.:

That sounds like me as a child and my 14-year-old daughter! My spelling improved by entering a profession that demanded excellent spelling. My daughter's spelling is improving through lots and lots of reading, plus a little writing.

I would suggest have your son read whatever books he likes, then ask him to write a short summary about what he read for you. Tell him you're going to be looking at some of his spelling. (My daughter sometimes knew how to spell something, but was in a hurry writing it, so was careless.) Tactfully look at it, correcting some of it and having LOTS of praise with correct spellings.

Throwing in a treat for improving spelling, like going out for ice cream, et cetera, since it's summer would be nice. Another thing is having him doing more writing in general, i.e., my daughter started writing the grocery lists, et cetera.

L. F., mom of a 14-year-old daughter


answers from Austin on

Ha! We are a household of terrible spellers. I remember a beloved teacher at a teacher conference answering our concerns about our daughter and her terrible spelling grades (barely passing). We told her our daughter really studied and we had tried all types of different ways to help her, but she was just not getting it.

The teacher hemmed and haaa'd for a moment , then quickly spit out, "I think, I am thinking, I think..... Yourdaughterwillneverberanaturalspeller."
We laughed so hard.. we assured her we were also horrible spellers..

Our daughter has an amazing vocabulary, but the spelling is lacking..

Our daughter was a National Merit Scholar, but is still dependent on "spell check".. Just help him as much as possible. Maybe play scrabble, boggle, Bananangrams and make sure he reads. These were the best we could do without driving our daughter crazy.



answers from Dallas on

My youngest son has trouble with spelling. The school district we used to be in preferred a method of having the children spell words how they sounded to develop confidence in writing. Well, he never un-learned that habit!
He makes his own flash cards, which is great practice. We love board games so we made up a game using a Scabble board. I get spelling lists from the internet. We use the words in a race to see who can spell the word correctly first. If you do not spell the word correctly, you have to use the word in a sentence and then write the word 5 times. I have four children (ages 9, 9,10, & 13) and they all love playing "Speed Words"! We try to make the sentences as funny as possible. We laugh a lot, learn a lot, and have family time!



answers from Fort Wayne on

Phonics, phonics and more phonics. Knowing the sound each letter makes and the rules that govern that makes a HUGE difference. Of course, English is a tricky language with all the exceptions to the rules, but knowing the rules inside and out will help. I'm sure you can google phonics lessons and find stuff.

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