Spelling and Social Studies

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Q. 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

A. The words children really need to learn how to spell are the ones they use in their daily writing. It is quite possible 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 several words he consistently spells incorrectly. Work with his teacher in identifying this list of words. It would be great if a few of these words could be part of the weekly spelling test. If this isn’t possible, then you need to step up to the plate and help him learn these words.

Here’s how you can do this. Select the 25 words he misspells most often, and work on them first. On Monday, test him on five of these words. Then spell the words orally for him and have him write the ones he missed correctly. 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 on all the words for a week as a review. Then quiz him again on these words in 10, 20 and 30 days. Hopefully, 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. Plus, playing spelling word games (Boggle, Bananagrams and Scrabble) will give him additional practice in spelling words correctly.

Q. 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

A. 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. What has been learned can be used later on as topics for speeches and reports. Plus, the more children learn, the wider the knowledge base they have to build upon when learning new material.

There are so many things that can be done to enhance what your son’s learning in school. Why don’t you read some stories at night to him that tie to his current social studies work? There are loads of books and short stories about historical figures and events. What’s great about reading stories to him is that you would be sharing in his interest.

Also, help him go online to find Web sites that offer virtual field trips to places like the rain forest, Williamsburg, Va., and Washington, D.C. He can easily search for places related to the topics he is studying in school, and they will become far more meaningful to him. Furthermore, this is cost-free travel.

This summer, your family could plan to visit historical sites while you are on vacation. Try to choose ones that are related to what he has studied this year in school or what he will study next year. Don’t forget about all the history in your community and state. Visits to museums, the capitol and historical re-enactments will further enhance his interest in social studies.