From the archive...
The following discussion was originally posted on the old LOE Forum.
A customer posted the following question:
I have a question about finger spelling. When I give my daughter a spelling test, she spells the word correctly 99% of the time when I use finger spell the word for her. When I do not finger spell, she has a very hard time spelling the word correctly. My concern is that she will always need my assistance with spelling in this way. She is only 7 and we are using Essentials. Over time, will she learn to spell correctly without my assistance of the finger spelling?
You could say there are two levels of learning spelling: learning all the phonograms and rules and how to use them in words, and memorizing which of the permitted spellings are used in each particular word for which more than one is permitted.
The first is far more important. I have several thoughts on the second, but first - when she spells the words wrong without finger spelling, is she using the phonograms accurately and just guessing the wrong one (so, writing "owt" instead of "out" or "cleen" instead of "clean")? Or is she writing things that don't follow the spelling rules, or that suggest she doesn't understand the phonograms?
I would say both. (Sorry if that's not helpful) maybe more so that latter though. For example the other day she spelled "milk" as "milck". She said she used Ck at the end because it followed the rule "Ck is used at the end of a single short vowel." She said the "i in milk is a short sound and it ends in the "k" sound." I did not finger spell when we did our test for this situation. So at least she is thinking.
But when I do finger spell sometimes she does get the phonogram wrong. she has spelled "clean" as "cleen" but that's still using the same finger spelling. "Ea" vs "ee".
Maybe part of it is that we don't know all the rules yet? We are only on lesson 6.
I agree with you that it's mostly the latter (with "milck," I would make sure you clarify that CK is used only when it is RIGHT after the single vowel, so because the next sound is /l/ we don't use it here - but also affirm that she is remembering and thinking about the rules well!).
When there are two phonograms that make the same sound and are finger spelled the same way, such as ea and ee for /ē/, keep in mind that you'll need to give a verbal cue - "use /ē-ĕ-ā/" - in addition to finger spelling, since that's the only way she can know for sure which one.
Now, to your original question!
Two parts to the answer. First, yes, I definitely expect that she will get better with this over time as she grows. At seven, it is fine if kids' spelling is still developing, as long as they are making good progress in reading and laying a strong foundation for spelling. In Foundations spelling is much less emphasized than reading, and she is on the younger end of the age range for Essentials. So I wouldn't worry too much at this point of you need to cue her to help her remember which phonogram is used. You may want to consider increasing the time you spend doing spelling games from the Game Book to practice - but cue her as much as needed in the games so she gets familiar. Make sure to do the Spelling Journal whenever it's suggested, as this is the component specifically focused on helping kids keep track of words with sounds that can be spelled multiple ways. But I wouldn't stress about her getting them all right all the time just yet.
On the other hand, while I'm confident that she will be able to do this more and more as she gets older, learns the rest of the rules from Essentials, and gets more practice, it also does come much more easily and naturally to some kids than others. Students with weaker visual memory are likely to have a harder time, and some never master it completely to the point where they always know how to spell every word correctly. It's important to remember that that's really OK. If someone can read well, can spell proficiently, and has the tools to use spell check and dictionaries effectively when they can't remember, I think it's important that we see that as a success and not a failure. But again, I am confident that she will improve with increased practice and growth!
I would not see finger spelling as a crutch that will inhibit her progress. When you think it's time, you might try weaning off and letting her ask you for a finger-spelling hint whenever she needs one, rather than providing it automatically (that way she has to think through her options for the sound and decide if she needs a hint); but if she really just needs it for now to be successful, that is fine!