Brain research explains visual spelling

It has recently been shown that the front of the brain is involved in the slow analysis of a word that the reader has never seen before. Once someone has seen that word a few times they then develop the skill to recognise the complete word. This is the skill of fluent readers and is carried out in the back of the brain. So the back of the brain recognises, or ‘sees’ the word, whilst the front of the brain tries to analyse new words.

We had been noticing for sometime, how slow readers, pick apart every word, making it into syllables, using phonics and blending the word together. This is where they may get into total confusion turning the word, or parts of it around, e.g. confusing “ea” with “ae”. But if they visualise the word, once they have seen it a few times they can then literally recognise the whole word.

Developing the skill to visualise whole words, accelerates the speed with which the client transfers reading/spelling from the front to the back of their brain. This is the part of the brain where fluent readers just see words and have immediate access to the same ‘visual’ dictionary for spelling.

We have also noticed that some children develop the skill to read fluently, but find it very hard to spell. It therefore would seem that spelling is going on in the front of the brain, whereas reading has migrated to the back. We often describe this to a client as “you seem to have one dictionary for spelling and another for reading, or in some cases no dictionary at all for spelling”. Little did we realise that we had actually found out the answer – for these individuals fluent reading, using a visual dictionary, is going on at the rear of the brain, whilst spelling is probably still in the front of the brain, until they become confident to trust their internal image of a word. No wonder the same dictionary is not being used.

When we teach Visual spelling, we first get the client secure in seeing words and spelling them. Then, when trying to spell a word, we often ask them to imagine they are reading as part of a sentence and they can then confidently spell it – this enables them to access the words from the rear of their brain.

Learning Visual Spelling through, always improves reading too, for those who are challenged both by spelling and reading. So learning to see words visually appears to automatically put those words into the rear of the brain for use when reading. This appears to explain why clients change into more fluent readers, when learning to spell – they recognise the words.

You will find all the additional information you need in “Bridges to Success – how to transform learning difficulties” and on the web-site

You will find there the research references.

About olivehickmott

I am a Forensic Learning coach, showing people how they can improve their own learning and change their health. Working with creative neurodivergent students is a joy, as they learn new skills to overcome many of their learning challenges.
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