Welcome back to the 12-part writing series between This Reading Mama and The Measured Mom! We’ve finished revising our writing, and it’s time to move on to editing. This is where kids fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation so that their writing is ready for publication.
But how can kids fix spelling when they can’t spell the words well enough to find them in a dictionary?
Use a spelling dictionary for kids. Today I’ll show you where to find a kids’ spelling dictionary and how to teach your child to use it.
(This post contains affiliate links.)
Simple Writing Lesson #9:
Use a spelling dictionary for kids
(an editing strategy)
(Note: I taught this lesson to my daughter who is just beginning first grade. You can easily adapt it to students in other grades.)
When to use it:
When your writer is editing her story for publication. She has a lot of misspelled words and isn’t ready to find them in a regular dictionary.
How to teach it:
1. Prepare your materials. You will need:
- your child’s writing that is ready to be edited
- How to Spell It
- a free copy of My Spelling Dictionary (get it at the end of this post)
2. Introduce the lesson. Here’s how it sounded at our house:
“You’ve worked hard to make this story about the garden your best work. Now it’s time to go back and fix some things. I can see some words that are misspelled. Today I’m going to show you how to fix them.”
3. Have your child read the story and circle potentially misspelled words.
Spelling comes easily to my six-year-old, so it was easy for her to find and circle most of the misspelled words. From my classroom experience, however, I know this is not always the case. Some children will circle words that are clearly correct or pass over words that are hardly recognizable! Your child may need guidance with this step.
Also keep in mind that you want this task to be manageable. If your child has 20 misspelled words, tell her to pick 10 to circle. Or maybe just 5. The point is to learn how to fix misspellings – not to overwhelm her into producing a completely accurate paper that does not reflect her true ability.
4. Introduce the spelling dictionaries that your child can use to check misspellings. Guide your child to find the misspelled words and correct them in his or her writing.
The first dictionary we used is the free “My Spelling Dictionary” that I shared earlier this year. (Get it at the end of this post.) This is a great resource for young spellers because it contains the most commonly used words in kids’ writing. You won’t find words like spaghetti, but you will find words like above, also, and because. You’ll also find lots of blank space for kids to add words they use in their writing.
My daughter loves her spelling dictionary. I actually printed a new copy for the sake of this picture because her old copy is full of words — mostly the words that are already there, which she likes to recopy. (She also likes to cuddle up on the couch with a thesaurus. This love of words is hereditary.)
She was able to fix wait on her own and found also in My Spelling Dictionary. Instead of erasing, I had her write the correct spellings beneath the incorrect ones. It’s so important to leave a record of your child’s progress in her writing notebook — which you won’t have if she erases her mistakes. Drawing a single line through errors is always preferable.
The next dictionary she used is awesome for kids because it’s full of misspelled words – really! You can look up words as you phonetically spell them so they’re easier to locate. Correct spellings are in red. With some guidance from me, my daughter could find garden, strawberry (I helped her with the plural form), and raspberry.
This dictionary, called How to Spell It, was written by Harriet Wittels and Joan Greisman and published in 1973. I bought new copies of this about 10 years ago, but I’m not finding them new on Amazon. Thankfully, you can still buy them used. If you are a classroom teacher, buy a bunch! If you homeschool, consider buying a few so that you have an extra if one wears out! I can’t say enough good things about this dictionary. It was an indispensable resource in my classroom. If you know of a newer version or a similar dictionary, please let us know in the comments!
5. Know when to stop.
Looking up words in a dictionary is exhausting for young writers. Even though we hadn’t made it through every word, my daughter was tired and shutting down. We might get to the last words before publishing this story (that lesson is coming in two weeks!), but no worries if we don’t. She learned an important skill, and as she practices it she’ll get better and better.
Stay tuned for next week’s lesson, when This Reading Mama will share another simple writing lesson for the editing stage. To see all our lessons, click on the image below.
Check out our practical guide for teaching writing!
Writing Workshop Guide K-8
Whether you’re new to the Writing Workshop or an experienced workshop teacher, you’ll love this giant handbook for teaching writing in grades K-8. In addition to this helpful guide, you’ll also receive over 150 pages of printable resources!