Seeing is believing and knowing for spelling

July 28, 2006|by LISA PREJEAN

As I was making a fruit pizza recently, my children discovered the sweetness of mandarin oranges.

The small, juicy segments seemed to easily make their way into my children's mouths - instead of onto the pizza. I knew that some sampling would occur during the assembling of this dessert, so I was prepared. The recipe called for one can of oranges. I had bought two.

The oranges are now a standard item for me to buy each week. My children eat them like candy, which is fine by me. Anytime they view something that's good for them as a treat, I like to encourage that.

The first time I added the oranges to my grocery list, my pen made its way through each letter: m-a-n-d-a-r-i-(Pause. Is the next letter "a" or "n," I thought. I wrote "an" but didn't think that looked right. Then I pulled out the dictionary, scribbled out the third "a" and showed the list to my children.)


If I would have thought about the pronunciation of the word, the spelling should have been simple: man-dar-in. The "man" and "in" parts are easy. The "ar" in "dar" makes the same sound as the "ar" in star.

My children thought it was humorous that I wanted everything spelled correctly on my grocery list. After all, I was the only one who would see the list. I laughed with them, but then I explained the true reason behind looking up the word - so I could spell it correctly in the future. The more times we see a word spelled correctly, the easier it is for our brains to retain that information. That's why I use a dictionary frequently. It helps reinforce previous knowledge and provides confidence for those spelling brain-freeze moments that occur from time to time.

Children need to see adults using basic resources and applying them to their daily lives.

During the summer, there's no homework, but we can encourage our children's learning. They should see their parents continuing to learn, even while we're in the kitchen. As my friend Andy put it, "You should be able to spell what you eat."

Since we're referring to food and grocery lists, here are some words you might want to review with your children as you're shopping, cooking or simply planning meals this summer:

· broccoli - Tell your children to think this before they write the word broccoli: two "c's," one "l." People often spell broccoli with one "c" and two "l's," like this: brocolli. That's wrong. Think: "broc-co-li."

· cauliflower - The second part of this word is easy to spell for children who know how to spell flower, but the first part might be a little challenging. It might help to think of the word "call" with a "u" in place of the first "l."

· watermelon - Two small words make a larger, compound word. There is only one "t" in water, so there's only one "t" in watermelon.

· potato, tomato - There is no "e" in potato or tomato. The only time these words have an "e" is when they have an "s." The plural forms are potatoes and tomatoes.

· shish kebabs - Shish kebabs are fun to make, fun to eat and fun to spell. Make shish kebabs for dinner as a family and talk about how shish is spelled like "shush" - a word they've probably heard adults use to quiet them - only with a short "i" sound. Kebabs is a little trickier. Children might want to spell the first part of the word with a "ka." Tell them to think that "kebabs are keen" to help them remember that the first vowel is an "e." They might be tempted to spell the second part of the word just like the man's name "Bob," but that's not the preferred spelling. The second vowel in the word is an "a."

· tortilla, quesadilla, - These are tough ones. Tortilla is a little easier for children to remember because the beginning sounds like the word "tore." The middle sounds like "tea" rather than the long "i" sound in "tie." The end is the hard one to get because it doesn't sound like it looks. In Spanish words, the "double l" sounds like a "y." For quesadilla, the "que" sounds like the name "Kay," the "sa" sounds like "sah."

In just a few fun-filled minutes each evening, you can provide valuable review time for your child, allowing him to feel more confident once school begins.

Break out some mandarin oranges and let the lesson begin!

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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