How do I deal with my student's spelling problems?

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How do I deal with my student's spelling problems?

Unread postby mirrena » 04 Jun 2007, 19:57

Dear Lucy,
I've been teaching English for about 9 years and there, predictably, have been various joys and problems, but the latest problem I've encountered seems to be a bit confusing.
It's about a boy (12 years old) I'm teaching individually - he seems to need some extra help outside school classes but the problem is that at times he is completely unenthusiastic and my efforts then seem to be quite ineffective. He is really good at speaking, knows a lot! of words but when it comes to reading, and in particular, to writing, I mean spelling, it's a real disaster. The book they are using at school is elementary level and everything's ok with grammar there but spelling...
The confusing part is that he appears to enjoy our lessons but does not concentrate enough and mistakes a lot of the words we've already practised, checked, incorporated in vocabulary games etc.
I feel at a loss because I do want to help him improve this skill but apparently, he doesn't.
Thank you in advance.
Best regards,

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How do I deal with my student's spelling problems?

Unread postby Lucy » 10 Jun 2007, 11:45

Dear Mirrena,

I can see that this situation is confusing. Your student has a lot of vocabulary and speaks well but has difficulties with the written word.

My initial thought is that this boy might be dyslexic; I’m saying this mainly because of your comments about his spelling ability, but also because you say that he has a good understanding of grammar. Speaking in a broad sense, people who have dyslexia often have good understanding and good oral skills but have problems with individual words and series (e.g. odd numbers). Lack of concentration is another trait that is associated with dyslexia. Furthermore, people who have dyslexia can get very demotivated; they make efforts to succeed (and they need to make more effort than people who don’t have dyslexia) and these efforts don’t always give the desired result.

I suggest you start by talking to somebody, his parents are probably the best place to start. They will need to ask a professional to assess whether dyslexia is the cause of his spelling difficulties. They could ask for assistance with finding a competent person at their son’s school. If he is assessed as having dyslexia, you can ask the person who diagnoses it for tips on teaching your student.

If this turns out not to be the case or if you think I have not understood correctly (you’ll have an idea from your contact with your student), please write in again and I will give you ideas for dealing with the situation.

It is rather sad that in many cases dyslexia is not recognised as a situation that can be worked with and the student’s difficulties are attributed to laziness or something else. When dyslexia is confirmed and the students are taught and tested using methods suited to their situation, their results soar.

Kind regards,


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