PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2008, 12:00am

My son is in Primary Four. He gets good marks on his dictation but a few days after the test, he can't spell the words. What should I do?

Education consultant Florence Robertson replies:

Many children do extremely well on dictation tests but cannot spell the words a few weeks later. In most cases the students have memorised the words. They have not understood the reasons for the particular spelling.

Students need to know the reasons and rules for the spelling of words, such as the repetition of letters. The following are some steps that may be helpful to your son in remembering the correct spelling of words.

Have your son look at each word carefully on the dictation list. Ask him to close his eyes and visualise the words as you say them. Then ask him to spell each word aloud after you say them again.

Tell your son you will help him with his spelling by giving him a daily quiz. Explain to him that you will first say each word aloud and then within a sentence. Then you will say the word again.

Point out that after you follow these steps, you will ask him to write the word or the complete sentence. Begin this procedure by saying the word and the sentence slowly and clearly. After he has written all the words or sentences, read the complete list to him again. Ask him to correct the test himself and to identify the words he missed or spelled incorrectly. Request that he look at the correct spelling of each word that he misspelled and say it aloud. Then ask him to close his eyes and picture the correct spelling of the word, and then spell the word out loud.

After that, ask him to write the word and check to see if he spelled it correctly. If he still spells the word incorrectly, have him repeat the last three steps. He should spell each word correctly before moving on to the next word.

Continue this procedure throughout the week before the class test. Examine the words he has misspelled during the week to see if there is a pattern of errors. If there is, teach him the spelling rule or the reason for the particular spelling.

The night before his test, give him another practice quiz.

Check the quiz of words and sentences together to determine if all the words are spelled correctly. If not, have your son follow the procedure for studying the correct spelling of the word.

Following the class test, review the results of the dictation with your son. Praise him for his achievement. Review any misspelled words.

During the following weeks, follow the procedure that you have used before for individual study and practice quizzes.

Include words in each quiz from his previous dictation tests to ensure that he is remembering the correct spelling of these words.

Keep a chart of his results from his class tests and from his practice quizzes. This will enable your son to see his progress.

Always watch for any pattern of errors. If any, review the spelling rules for these words.