Are You Naturally a 'Terrible Speller'?

Experts agree that most who have trouble with spelling are right-brained, but here are some tips to help to help those visual learners with the weekly spelling list.

I’m a terrible speller and secretly jealous of people who can spell effortlessly. I harbor the same ill feelings toward people who are natural spellers as I do toward those who are naturally organized  – another area I am constantly waging an uphill battle against. I read constantly, obviously write a ton, so why have I not honed my spelling skills?

In an effort to find out why spelling is so difficult for some people, namely me, I googled “bad spelling.” I found an assortment of reasons, ranging from a chromosomal deviation to learning disabilities, but most experts agree it has something to do with the visual area of the brain. People with a strong visual area, tend to be right-brained and weaker spellers.

Aside from being more visual, right-brained people tend to be imaginative, disorganized, have trouble prioritizing, creative, talk with their hands, are unlikely to read an instruction manual before assembling Ikea furniture, are led by feelings, and are likely to walk around your house touching everything the first time they are invited over.

Those “left-brainers” tend to be analytical, good with numbers, rule followers, list makers, plan ahead, process information sequentially, highly organized, and logical. Since spelling is usually taught sequentially, left-brained people tend to spell better. Right-brained people tend to spell much better when they are taught to visualize the words.

Here are some quick tips to help your visual, right-brained child with spelling:

  • Quiz your child with the spelling list of the week. 
  • For words that were spelled incorrectly, color the mistaken letters another color. So, if he spelled “Saturday” as “Saterday,” write all the correct letters on an index card in black and fill in the incorrect letter with the correct one in another color (omit the “e,” add the “u,” and write it in blue).
  • Hold the card up in front of your child so he has to look up to see it (make sure his chin isn’t up, just his eyes) and have him spell the work backwards and forwards.
  • While he is still looking up bring the card down and have him spell it a few more times bringing it up to where his eyes are until he knows it well, or says he can “see it” in his head.
  • Repeat this a few minutes a day until the test and let me know how it goes!

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

Paul Bahre April 09, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I am a bad speller. I was diagnosed with being "dis-graphic" when I was younger. It's the inability to write in a manner (by hand) to where anyone can read what I wrote. So I learned to type and block print. Now a days no one writes in cursive any more so it's really nothing that has plagued me in adulthood. Thank God for spell check but you still have to recognize the correct form of the word you want to spell.
Barbara Daly May 05, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Why on earth would you drill a child to spell a word with which he/she is having difficulty backward? I would imagine it would only confuse them and get in the way of them learning the pattern of the letters in the original spelling word.


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