From the archives...
A mom using Essentials with her dyslexic son posted the following question on the (now discontinued) LOE Forum.
There are several places in Logic of English Essentials where the logic runs out and the spelling of certain sounds must be memorized. For example, the sound of /er/, or several of the long vowel sounds.
My dyslexic son has been referring to his Spelling Journal to figure out which spelling to use, and this has been a great asset. But eventually he needs to move on to mastery without looking it up. What is the best way to get these spellings fixed in his mind when he is a visual dyslexic and an auditory learner?
Thanks for your question! You are correct that some sounds have more than one spelling permitted by the rules, and that ultimately words with these sounds will require some memorization.
We do have a number of tools and approaches in Essentials to help with this, but I suspect you may be using them already.
- Practicing with vocabulary-building activities (for example, coming up and writing derivatives, which inherently provides practice with the root word - night, nightlight, overnight, night-owl; research, unsearchable, searchingly... etc.)
- Practicing with composition and diction activities
- Having him repeat the segmented word with the phonogram hint when he writes the word, so that it's an auditory as well as a visual activity - "Learn. /L - er (use the /er/ of search) - n."
- The most powerful but not always available tool: morphology and etymology. Whenever possible, bring in related words that use a different pronunciation (hear/heard; major/majority; please/pleasant). If it's helpful to him, discuss the language of origin; for example, the _ _ GH phonograms and CK are used primarily in words with Middle English or Anglo-Saxon origin that have been in our language a very long time (like night, knight, light, weigh, sleigh, rough, tough).
- Pay attention to frequency - this simply helps him guess correctly more often, rather than providing certainty, but that's still helpful. So, for example, note that ER is the most common spelling of /er/ (these hints are in the Spelling Journal starting in the 2nd edition). With spellings that have limited usage (like EAR, OE, UI) it may be worth his time to simply memorize the group of words that do use it (auditorily). These are all listed on the Quick Reference.
However, I also want to add - a little hesitantly, as it goes against my general obsession with spelling, but I am beginning to believe more and more that it is true - that people with visual dyslexia will probably always struggle to remember which permitted sound to use in some words, and that it is OK.
Every dyslexic student I've taught has had so many other gifts, and while we don't want anyone to be handicapped or humiliated by trouble with spelling, at the end of the day it's so much more important that they be able to READ well, and to spell effectively and correctly enough that they can communicate clearly, than that they never ever mix up bred and bread or spell night "nite."
I'm thinking about a conversation I had recently with a former student (now a Montessori teacher) about spelling. She had had a great OG education to help with her dyslexia, and she is a strong thinker and beautiful verbal communicator, but she really struggled with spelling, even in high school. I mean a lot. She could read well, but her spelling was comprehensible, usually phonetic, and absolutely full of mistakes.
She recently told me that she felt like at the heart of every dyslexic person was this frustrated feeling "OK, but does it REALLY matter? You know what I'm trying to say... is it really THAT important that I picked the wrong phonogram in that word?" And I think she's right. We want to give dyslexic students every tool we can for spelling well, but in terms of freeing them from illiteracy and empowering them for life, spelling perfectly is ultimately not the most important thing. So maybe he doesn't need to have total mastery of these words without looking them up. Maybe he will master many of them, but still mix up others and have to look them up to check. The more he masters the fewer he'll need to check, and that's good, but there may be a point of diminishing returns in terms of the benefits of ongoing practice. Spell check and dictionaries are available, and once students know the phonograms and rules, they have the tools to use them effectively.
So keep working on it, but if he never gets this perfectly, please make sure you don't let him beat himself up (or you yourself) about it.
I hope this helps.
The mom wrote back:
Thank you Liz, for your insight and encouragement. I have a dear friend, with a dyslexic son, who told me much of the same things yesterday, and I just couldn't give myself the freedom to be imperfect. It feels like we're quitting or failing. I printed your reply for my file, as my "permission slip" to de-prioritize spelling in my son's life, and ordered him a hand-held spell checker. He was having a terrible time with his addition facts for a very long time, and they finally seem to have naturally sunk in, so I'm hoping that the same happens with common spelling words. He is not severely dyslexic, and the blessing is that he reads well (other than skipping small words), and his comprehension and retention are phenomenal. And we homeschool, so he doesn't have to encounter some of the hurdles that he would have to deal with in a classroom.
Dyslexia aside, LOE is a very impressive program, and I can't imagine anything better for the way my son's brain is wired. My non-dyslexic brain has thoroughly enjoyed applying some logic to our language too. It breaks my heart when I think of all of the dyslexic kids in classroom settings who are struggling, who could really use this program.