My wife reported one day that my eight year old daughter was having a hard time spelling and asked me if I would work with her to see if I had any ideas.  I asked my wife what the problem seemed to be and she reported that my daughter “just can’t seem to sound out the words.”

Well, I also knew that my daughter was quite bright and picked up on other school subjects quite quickly, so I asked my daughter to come over to the kitchen table and had my wife ask her to spell different words from her spelling list while I watched.  The first thing I noticed was that my daughter’s eye patterns suggested that she was trying to hear the words in her mind.  She would then proceed to try to spell the word phonetically, which my wife would reinforce by stating, “Sound it out honey.”

My daughter then gave all sorts of creative phonetic spellings of a several words before I told my wife that I clearly saw what the problem was.  I asked my wife if I could have Laura for three minutes to test a theory.  My wife agreed.  Then I asked my wife for the hardest word that Laura had ever tried to spell.  My wife said the word was “parasympathetic,” and that she hadn’t come close.  I took the word and broke it up into smaller content groups, not necessarily syllable groups: “,” writing it onto a piece of paper.  Then I held the paper up into her visual remember field (slightly above her eyes and to her left) and had her practice looking at the letter groupings until she could see them in her mind.  I tested to make sure that she was seeing the letter groupings and not trying to hear them in her head by having her spell each grouping forwards and backwards to as she learned it, which confirmed that she was seeing the word and not sounding it out (try sounding out a word backwards sometime).  About four minutes later, she could spell “parasympathetic” both forwards and backwards, so I invited my wife in the room and had my daughter spell the word proudly forwards and backwards.  My wife was impressed.  Needless to say, all my daughter’s spelling woes didn’t disappear in one day.  But now, equipped with a new strategy, my wife has been working with my daughter on visual spelling and her spelling has improved dramatically.

If your child is a bad speller and you would like help teaching him or her to spell better, contact William Wood CHt at 385-432-0729 or [email protected].  Visit my website at

I wrote this article for a continuing education course I did through