Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Hi Real Spellers!

I suppose that I am just venting today. Has any of you ever had a day working with children where you were so frustrated that you thought maybe you need another job? I have that feeling from time to time, but today seems to have been the worst.  How do you deal with such frustrations, when you just feel like quitting?

My work with children is mainly remedial.  I am not a regular classroom teacher. In the course of helping children with reading and spelling, I find Old Grouch’s emphasis that English spelling is for people who know (understand) English to be so true.  The first problem I encounter is the fact that most of the children do not know English sufficiently enough to engage with it properly.  Even though English is the official language here (Ghana), we are all second language learners. The second problem is that (I am not sure whether it is a result of the first) all the children physically make some phonemes wrongly.  The more phonemes they articulate wrongly, the more muddled their speech is and the worst their spelling (and reading) becomes.

I often have relative success with some of the children in correcting some of those articulation problems, but with others it seems as though nothing I do works. Until I can succeed in helping them perceive and correctly (to some extent) articulate the phonemes we seem to be stuck in a rut. Coupled with this is the fact that some persistently leave out letters out of words even when the words are right in front of them.

This brings up the issue of “phoneme awareness”. What should we make of it?  I understand it when the children engage in phonetic processing instead of phonological processing.   For example, today one child wrote <bait> for <bite>.  That is one mistake they make quite a lot.  Also, for some reason (that I yet do not understand) most of the children seem to have trouble with the phoneme /l/. They often either transpose it or insert it in words even when it is conspicuously absent.  And then there are times when some of them do not even seem to perceive certain phonemes.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago two children had difficulties perceiving the phoneme /æ/ in words like <ash>, <cash>, <crash> & <rash>. The kept leaving out the <a> telling me that they did not “hear it”. 

I know that in oral speech certain phonemes may not be as distinct as when uttered in isolation due to co-articulation, but what should I do when they seem completely unaware of certain phonemes in words? What will be the most effective way to target this weakness (other than telling the parents to look for help from some place else)? When, for instance, a child keeps writing <gong> for <going> from a matrix of <go> : go + ing --> going; and you find that this child has a hibit of leaving out letters in almost every word she writes; would the problem be due to visual perception, auditory perception, both or none of them. I can understand that in case of <going> the <i> would be easy to miss, but it happens with several other letters as well.

Any suggestions?

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