From the Mailbag: What about Spelling Mistakes?

Jul 28, 2020 | Posted by Jennifer


Individuals who registered for IEW’s online writing conference, From Imitation to Innovation, had the opportunity to submit questions with their registration. While Andrew and Julie weren’t able to respond to each one during the event, our customer service team is presently working to answer to each and every one of them. Some of the questions we received are likely shared by others, such as the following:

How do you deal with a lot of misspellings? Do you address them during writing or only during spelling? I have a dyslexic son; we are struggling with knowing what to do.

It is very easy to fall into a pattern of expecting too much from your student. But doing so unfortunately leads to students feeling discouraged and disinclined to write, even more so for students who struggle. Andrew addresses this specific situation (over-expectation) as the fourth deadly error in “The 4 Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing.”

To deal with spelling during the writing process, separate out the complexity. Help your son as much as he needs. When he is crafting his rough draft, be available to spell words he struggles with. If he has a smartphone or tablet, consider installing a spelling app. I quite like Easy Spelling Aid for my dyslexic students. The app allows students to use their voice, not only to look up individual words but also to confirm phrases. Being able to dictate phrases means that students are able to capture the correct spelling for homophones because they are used in context.

Even with the support, though, it is likely he will still have spelling errors. Don't fall into the trap of trying to teach the subject of spelling during your writing lesson. Instead, be your child's editor. If he turns in a rough draft that has spelling errors, simply correct them for him, hand the edited paper back with a smile, and say, "Great work! Now write up the edited copy.” No lecture. No fuss.

If you start trying to address spelling challenges in your writing time, your son might begin to pick easier, less rich or complex words that he already knows how to spell. If you are following a structured literacy sequence for his dyslexia, it is very appropriate for you to privately take note of misspelled words that reflect spelling rules he's either already learned or is currently working on in his reading and spelling sessions, and address them at that time.

Whether you have a student with dyslexia or one who simply makes a lot of spelling errors, hopefully this advice is helpful to you. While acting as your students’ human dictionary when they are writing and saving the spelling errors to discuss later, you are more apt to successfully move your students forward with their writing skills and to help them enjoy the process as well.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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