Teaching spelling strategies to ESL students is challenging for instructors. Many of the inconsistencies of the English language with regards to word meaning and pronunciation are directly confronted by students when they begin to put words to paper. In addition, the homophonic, multi-syllabic nature of English can pose particular challenges to second language learners. Luckily, there are many tips and tricks to help instructors and students sharpen their spelling skills.
ESL students benefit from many of the same spelling strategies that instructors use with native English speaking populations. However, ESL students will inevitably require more time and practice when learning how to understand many of the spelling-related intricacies of the English language.
Mnemonics are simple tricks students can use to help commit spelling words to memory. Associating the spelling of a word or part of a word with another word has proven to be a successful learning strategy. Providing students with some existing mnemonic examples will help them understand the concept, but students will be more successful if they create their own mnemonics for the words they have trouble spelling.
For ESL students, spelling mistakes are often caused by a simple misunderstanding of word meaning.
These similar sounding words are less problematic for ESL students in spoken conversation, but become a source of frustration for them when they construct written sentences. Calling attention to some of the most common similar sounding words can help demystify this confusing aspect of the English language. Consider the following examples:
Rhyming is a classic spelling strategy for students of all ages. Rhyming a word or a part of a word with another word that is spelled the same is a great technique to help students learn.
These words are all spelled the same except for a different letter or two. Identifying how root sounds like this are spelled helps students quickly increase their spelling vocabularies.
Unfortunately, there are certain words that defy logic in English. While native speakers unconsciously accept that the words "good" and "food" can be spelled the same way yet pronounced differently, ESL students are understandably troubled by these illogical facets of their target language.
Students should make a list of troublesome words and isolate exactly where the problem parts are within the words. These areas need to be studied diligently and committed to memory.
Focusing on the specific letters words that cause problems brings student's awareness to the source of the mistake and helps them to commit the proper spelling to memory.
Spelling is another of the many of ESL instruction areas where instructors run into the reality that there is no homogenized ESL student. Teaching spelling strategies to ESL students is complicated by the diversity of the demographic. Different students bring different native languages into the classroom. The interlanguages they create while they are in between their native language and their target language vary greatly depending on the phonetic, syntactic, semantic, and morphologic qualities of their native language.
As an instructor, it is important to constantly be aware that the ESL experience varies greatly for every student, particularly when they speak different native languages.