Overcoming Dyslexia: Spelling in English just doesn’t make sense

I find it fascinating how children can become good readers and remain poor at spelling. Many of my students arrive in this confused state and their parents just can’t understand it. It makes no sense until you understand a little about the neuroscience of what is happening.

About 50% of the students who are taught phonics will naturally progress to recognising words in the occipital lobe at the rear of their brain.  The ones who achieve this will become fluent readers.  But for spelling they may never make this transition and continually try to spell words phonetically that isn’t the whole story for english.  English is not a purely phonetic language like Spanish.  In Spanish you write what you hear.  In English we have homophones (e.g. sure, shore, there, their etc) that have different spelling and meaning but the same sound.  We also have silent letters, words that break the rules and those which are difficult to distinguish, such as the ending of stopped and soft where the t sounds very like the ed.

I was driving down the M4 recently and marvelled at the sign for Reading. Why is it pronounced Red_ing and written Read_ing; enough to confuse any student.

We are not going to change the English language overnight, but if we add mental imagery of words to our phonics teaching students can make very rapid progress.  One teacher told me recently that she has children who have only been in reception class for 3 weeks, reading and spelling 3 letter words, now she was teaching phonics and mental imagery together.  She said she had never seen this level of success for the whole class in 30 years of teaching.  3 weeks later they were all up to 5 letter words. The progress of these children through the school is going to be amazing.


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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