What Happens When Spelling Words Don’t Transfer to Writing?

Have you noticed students get words correct in spelling tests but struggle applying their new knowledge in written work? Do you wonder why this happens? As a general rule students require many opportunities to rehearse their skills in contexts of increasing complexity. This means if classroom teachers instruct spelling primarily at a single word level, this transfer will never be guaranteed.

Handy tool for teachers and parents

Dictation tasks require minimal preparation, but hold the potential of producing significant gains in student performance. Dictation improves the following skills in students:

  • listening
  • auditory
  • memory
  • hand writing
  • language
  • spelling

Crowd control essential

First and foremost dictation involves attention, listening and writing. Teachers are required to impose “crowd control” discipline measures in their classes and remind students what constitutes good listening behaviours.

Dictation tips

  1. Before students commence a dictation task, i.e. transcribe what they hear, it’s recommended they are exposed to the passage beforehand. It’s helpful if students are able to process the meaning before writing out its parts.
  2. When presenting dictation tasks, consider the length of each section verbalised and the number of times the section is repeated before (or while) the students transcribe. The shorter the section, the less challenging the dictation task.
  3. Repetition of the dictated sections will reduce the memory requirement and make the task less challenging. It is recommended, over time, the length of each section gradually extends and the amount of repetition gradually reduces. This helps students apply greater levels of auditory processing and memory.

Dictation aids from PLD

The dictation range from PLD is designed to focus on a variety of spelling and phonics concepts. As students complete the dictation tasks, they are faced with the challenge of applying their recently acquired spelling concepts to the rewriting of passages. This is turn should support a student’s ability to transfer spelling concepts to their own writing.

Dictation produces significant gains

When presented on a regular basis, dictation tasks hold the potential to produce significant gains in a range of areas. Importantly, dictation assists in the translation of spelling list words to students’ self generated writing.

Have you used dictation in the classroom or home learning environment?

PLD recommends this link for more information on Writing & Spelling. Our Ages & Stages of Literacy Development Fact Sheet also provides reference if you’re unsure about a child’s development.