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Finding Misspelled Words in a Given Passage – Not a Charlotte Mason-Inspired Skill

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More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment – Misspelled Words

Finding Misspelled Words in a Given Sentence or Passage – Not a Charlotte Mason-Inspired Skill

Many spelling programs have a section that requires a child to find the misspelled word within a provided sentence or passage. In light of Charlotte Mason’s method of studied dictation, this type of exercise is definitely not a good idea! It actually gives the mind yet another opportunity to take a mental picture of an incorrectly spelled word! The theory for including this within a spelling program is that it is good practice for standardized tests, where students must find the incorrectly spelled word. But in truth, the child is training to focus on the misspelled word rather than on the correctly spelled words! Children who have been trained in the studied dictation method often have no trouble finding incorrectly spelled words on tests. Why? Well, they are too used to seeing the words spelled correctly! Incorrect words truly jump off the page… no practice needed!

Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation emphasizes the study of correctly written words, sentences, and passages.

Charlotte Mason’s emphasis within dictation is actually on the studying of the passage in order to fix it within one’s mind. In studied dictation, students are practicing the habit of making a mental or a photographic image of the text. Students must pay special attention to how the words are spelled, where the capital letters are found, and which punctuation marks are used. Charlotte Mason had a continual focus on children NOT seeing words written incorrectly. She believed the incorrect image of the word became imprinted on the mind. Unfortunately, this causes the “wrong” spelling to then “look” right! This is why poor spellers often have no idea whether a word is spelled correctly or not. It is because they have seen the word written incorrectly so many times that their mind can’t recognize the correct spelling – even when they try!

The study of misspelled words, sentences, and passages reinforces incorrect spelling.

In public school, we found poor spellers often had no idea whether a word looked right or not, which is often the technique used by natural spellers to tell whether a word is spelled correctly. The poor spellers had seen the word spelled incorrectly so many times in their own writing that the wrong spelling actually looked right. It is amazing to us how many spelling programs have a section where kiddos are asked to find the incorrectly spelled word within the spelling exercises (in essence taking a mental picture of the incorrect spelling). Charlotte Mason would find this to be a poor activity, as it reinforces incorrect spelling. She was adamant that any word spelled incorrectly be covered up and fixed immediately. She did not want a child to fix the wrong image in his/her mind.

Training the mind to capture correct images of words, sentences, and passages is a powerful spelling tool.

Training the mind to capture a correct image of a word, sentence, and eventually passage is a powerful tool. It often does more for kiddos who have struggled with spelling than any amount of memorizing rules does. This was an amazing idea to us, and one that we had never heard during our years of training as teachers. When we were researching Charlotte Mason’s methods, we were both so surprised to find that studied dictation was the method used for spelling here in America in the early 1900’s. Yet, it makes so much sense! And, what’s more – it really works!

The study of properly spelled words, sentences, and passages helps students become better spellers. 

As students study properly spelled words, sentences, and passages, they improve their spelling and editing skills. With consistent studied dictation, students begin to spell better within their own writing. Carrie and I have seven (combined) sons between the two of us. Some are more natural spellers, and some are not. However, with studied dictation, all have improved. All have also eventually brought up their standardized test scores to above average. Heart of Dakota’s Charlotte Mason-inspired studied dictation passages help children gradually improve their spelling. Students can even recognize what is misspelled on standardized tests – probably because they only have to do it rarely. So, we encourage you to give Charlotte Mason’s studied dictation a try! It is simple, yet truly effective.

In Christ,


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