Our seventh grader has been through extensive remediation. He reads beautifully now, but he still wants to work on his spelling. I am a huge fan of tutoring, and he has had years of it. The thing is he is asking to continue to work on spelling. He does continue to improve each year on spelling, so it is not that he has plateaued.

Is there a program a parent can do at home or a computer program you recommend for a middle schooler who has had (in spades) all of the direct 1:1 interventions and now just needs to gradually improve spelling?

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

There are a few good resources for you. Dr. Marcia Henry's book, “Words: Integrated Decoding Instruction Structure” would be a good place to start, and it is not expensive. You could administer the pre-test and see where to begin. Your son will need to be taught the spelling rules explicitly. For example, when writing a regular past tense verb, we spell the suffix with -ed, whether we hear the sound “t” (e.g., walked, jumped), “d” (e.g., hugged, rained), or “ed” (e.g., punted, needed). While many people think that English isn’t rule bound, there are many spelling rules that students need to learn. Dr. Henry’s book has a list of them at the end.

Dr. Henry addresses the origins of the English language, which is helpful to older students as he will need to learn to recognize and spell Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes. We teach students that the root spelling doesn’t change. So, for example, when you hear the word “portion” pronounced ("por-shun"), it helps to know that the Latin root is 'port.’ The spelling remains consistent. Therefore, you spell the root (i.e., port) and then add the suffix (i.e., -ion).

Moose Materials is a great resource for games that support learning Latin and Greek roots and affixes. These are really nice because they have pictures paired with roots, and some students find those helpful.

I also like William Van Cleave's materials. Here is a piece that I have on spelling. This book by Diana Hanbury King is also excellent at helping understand the structure of the English Language.