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Help! My Child Dreads Spelling Tests

Dorothy Massey

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My son once faked a nose bleed to avoid learning his spellings for a test. He has dyslexia, which makes spelling tests particularly stressful. But it is not only dyslexic children who dread spelling tests. Here are four simple steps you can take to help your child survive them:

1. Encourage your child to talk about why he dreads spelling tests so much.

Some good questions to ask are:

  • Do you remember the spellings one day and forget them the next?
  • Does the teacher allow you enough time to write the word down?
  • Do you worry because you get fewer marks than other people?
  • Are other children making fun of your low scores? Do other children mark your tests?

    Don't worry if he is unable or unwilling to answer. Go to the next step anyway.

    2. Now ask specific questions which offer practical solutions, such as:

  • Do you need more practise?
  • Do we need to try some different ways of learning?
  • Would it be better if we just learned one or two words at a time?
  • Would it help if I talked to your teacher?
  • Are you worried about getting upset or angry at school too?

    3. Tell your child's teacher about your child's feelings and/or behaviour. The teacher should reassure your child and talk about ways to lessen the stress.

    Possible solutions may include:

  • extra time to learn spelling lists
  • extra support at school
  • techniques you can use at home
  • shorter lists, for example 5 spellings rather than 10
  • setting achievable goals with rewards

    4. Tell your child you have spoken to the teacher and now have some ways to help. Try out these methods right away. Be positive about the changes. Never say things like, “Your teacher suggested this, but I don't think it will work, " “I suppose we'd better give it a go. '" or “Who cares about spelling anyway?"

    More positive things to say are, “This sounds like a really good idea, doesn't it?" “Come on then, let's try this method/book/game. ", or, “I know you find spelling difficult, but you're great at writing stories, punctuation. etc"

    Hopefully following these four steps should solve the problem, but if not go through them step by step again and try a different solution. Remember, if you believe in your child, he'll believe in himself too.

    Dorothy Massey is the author of Better English published by Studymates and the Ghost Twin Tales: Mini Mysteries and Kooky Spookies, a Pinestein Press publication. An expert in literacy for adults and children, she writes quality educational materials and children's fiction. To find out more about Dorothy and writing for children in the UK, visit Dorothy's blog:

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