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4 surprising free activities to boost your child’s ear (and so improve their spelling)

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If you’re dyslexic, then spelling is one of those areas which remains dodgy, no matter how much time passes. The reason tends to be due to issues with phonological awareness (hearing the speech sounds). But, this is a very teachable skill, so a few free, simple activities can make a massive difference.

Brain imaging has shown how effective carefully targeted reading and spelling interventions are at improving the way the brain processes language. But, things improve much faster if you also include phonological activities.

  1. Hangman  

If you do nothing else, then please play hangman with your child!  When they come to you for a spelling, instead of telling them, play hangman (unless it’s a crazy sight word, like Mrs. that doesn’t make any sense).  This helps them to pay attention to every sound in the word and the sequence of these.

2.  Orchestral Music

Turn any activity into a learning experience by whacking on Classic FM (or Radio 3 if you’re classy).  Orchestral music forces the ear to work very hard.  Listening through headphones whilst doing something soothing or physical (like lego, crafts, gardening or whatever they are into) is ideal.  My eldest son and I compromise on gaming, as long as he’s listening to orchestral music.

3. Rhyming

I force my kids to play games like “I spy with my little ear, something that rhymes with…”  Obviously, they are annoyed, but any rhyming activity helps them develop this crucial skill.  The goal is for a child to analogise their spelling, so that if they can spell ‘page’ they realise they can also spell ‘age, cage, rage, sage, stage, engage, wage, mage etc.’  Or if they want to spell the unfamiliar word ‘ploy’, they can use their previous knowledge of ‘toy and boy’.   There are lots of great ‘onset and rime’ or ‘word families’ activities to be found online.

4. Singing and Drumming

Lots of studies have shown the great effects of basic musical training, especially developing a child’s awareness of rhythm and pitch.  Plus, there are truly amazing benefits from both vibration and bone conduction.  When singing a child hears their own sound through their bones, as well as air conduction, where they just hear others’ singing through their ears.  Even drumming on the desk and humming in the shower should be encouraged.

Click here for other easy ways to help your child gradually become a super speller.