Using Visual Spelling Cues

Visual spelling cues are every teacher and tutor’s best friend because they are amongst the best possible ways to teach younger children how to spell. Similarly, they are incredibly effective for older children too because visual images of words or that are associated with words are easy to memorise and recall as and when you need to (Powell & Hornsby, 1993, p. 29). If you have yet to start looking into using the visual memory to help teach spelling to your student then now is the time to do so.

As a teacher, you have a lot of scope to use this particular technique during spelling lessons. There is any number of visual aids and exercises you can use to help your students achieve their goals. However, there is a good reason why it is largely considered one of the best ways to teach children and it goes above and beyond the scope you have. It also has much to do with how the brain works. Children absorb information, especially that transmitted to them visually, regardless of whether they have learning difficulties or issues with spelling that are unrelated to such problems. As such, they absorb the way a word looks, they image that it is associated with and the patterns that are located in the words (Kumar, 2006, p. 137). This is why it is such a great tool when it comes to learning how to spell.

You should note that there are exceptions to the rule. Some children do learn better via their other senses, particularly sound. If this is the case with your students then there are modules further on that will help to advance their learning but the best place to start is undoubtedly with the visual memory and the cues you can provide to jog it.

Visual stimulus is vital to teaching a child anything so some of the information here will also help to advance other related areas of language too, such as literacy and vocabulary. However, these are by-products of the lesson plan that is outlined here.

Your Lesson Plan

Content – Using visual spelling cues and engaging the visual memory to enhance spelling skills

Goals & Objectives – To teach students how to use visual stimuli to remember words they have difficult spelling in a variety of ways.

Materials & Resources – Pens, crayons, paper, a map, a variety of word games, post it notes and a little creativity.

Introduction – Introduce the concept of learning via the visual memory, discussing how kindergarten teachers encourage early awareness of spelling (flash cards, games, rhymes etc). Discuss the advantages and encourage creativity.

Development – Before moving onto the exercises outlined in the next section, you should warm up your class or student with some basic image and word links. For example, encourage your students to draw animals that they already know how to spell the names of to get used to the concept.

Practice – Choose any one or two exercises from those outlined in the next section to help students to practice the skills that should be taught in this particular module.

Notes – You may want to draw this particular module out over several lessons if it is successful because linking images and words that students have problems spelling can be a little complex to start with. In addition, the exercises can take quite some time, particularly if you students get involved. The more involved they get, the better so giving them a little leeway is worth it.

Finally, be sure to stick to the teaching rules of this particular module:

  • Make sure that the visual cues are stark and easy to remember.
  • Keep it simple to avoid overcomplicating it or causing confusion.
  • Make sure that it is fun for your students or else they are less likely to remember.
  • If you find that one visual memory exercise is not working then change it. There are plenty of options so make the most of it.

Selected Exercises

Of all the modules in this eBook, this particular one has the most possibilities when it comes to teaching spelling via exercises, games and puzzles. Ideas for visual cues are easy to come across or formulate so you can use your creativity.

Although the exercises do have to be tailored to suit the needs and requirements of your students, be careful to ensure that they are at the right age level. Going up too high can overcomplicate the process whereas making them a little too young in nature can knock the confidence if your students feel that you have made them so for a reason.

The following exercises are all incredibly useful. They are also easy to use and teach with so be sure to choose from them carefully:

  • Use post it notes to decorate the walls. Write down a word that your students have problems with and then place it on the walls somewhere. Do this with a whole range of words and space the notes out. From there you have two options for your children:
    • Compose a quiz that your students have to locate the answer for because they will remember the route they took and where it was placed
    • Give them a word and ask them to match it up with a post it. When they find it, ask them to draw an image of the word and then place the two side by side on the wall.
  • Make the most of word games. For example, use Scrabble letters or letter cards to spell out words, getting your students to fill in the blanks or create words of their own during a game. Both options are ideal for helping them to visualise creating the words and learning how to spell them. This exercise is also a lot of fun but you should use certain restrictions, such as only using words on the lists created in module #1.
  • Use tools to create mental images for your students. Use teddy bears, building blocks, toy cars or any other similar items you have at your disposal to encourage children to spell out words. This is most effective with your children but with older children you can encourage them to draw words with lip gloss or scratch it into pieces of wood. When you get to know your students, finding a little inspiration as to how to encourage them to use these visual cues is easy.
  • Spend 30 minutes setting your students drawing tasks. Give them a list of words or three word sentences and get them to draw something that will help them to visualise the spelling of the word in future.
  • Get creative with a map. If you are teaching older children that know a little about geography then use it to your advantage. Ask them to create words out of countries so that they will remember them. For example, ARITHMETIC can be America Russia Ireland Turkey Honduras Mexico Egypt Tunisia Iran Canada. The countries will leap out of the map at them when they think of how to spell the word again.

All of these exercises do take time so make sure that your schedule is clear and that you stick to allocated time slots. You could always reschedule another module if you find that this one is working effectively.

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