How can reading be better than spelling?

wfasmallParents often ask me this question: How can my child read a word but can’t spell the same word?  Children can have a reading age of say 12 years old with a spelling age of say 5.

Neuroscience has the answer for bewildered parents. As a child learns to read and progresses from phonics (breaking down the word) to word recognition they are actually holding an image of the word in their word form area, sometimes called the brain’s letter-box.  So if all goes well, once they have seen a new word 3/4 times it will be in the word form area and then they will simply recognise it: not the shape of the word but the whole word. The word form area literally holds an image of the word. When a student is reading aloud, you can easily tell the words that are in their word form area as they recognise them, and pronounce them without hesitation.  New words need to be broken down and blended to read, often with a bit of assistance to get the correct pronunciation, in English.

So now what happens with spelling? In English the student needs to access the work form area, see an image of the word and then copy the letters down.  Sounds easy but many children go back to phonics to try and spell the word, that simply doesn’t work in English – for example, phone would be spelt fon or fone. On the other hand, if you are spelling in Italian, an exempla phonetic language, using sounds to create written words would be fine.

To resolve this problem that often leads to a diagnosis of Dyslexia, you simply teach students, quickly and easily how to access the words they have already stored in the word form area.  It normally takes about 1.5 hours to learn how to do it and then practice is needed like mastering any new skill.  I know you will think that 1.5 hours is unbelievable, but brain plasticity really helps here and the younger the child is the better.

Elephants in the Classroom mockup 6To learn more you will find 2 books at, Bridges to Success and The Elephants in the Classroom.

If you are outside the UK go to The Elephants In The Classroom (New Perspectives) £14.95.

#brainplasticity #phone #phonetic #english #neuroscience #dyslexia #phonics #theelephantsintheclassroom #newperspectives


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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