Does Your Child Have The Spelling Gene?

Some people’s brains are hard-wired for spelling – it just comes “naturally” to them. Others struggle endlessly with spelling drills and workbooks resulting in little progress and lots of frustration.

The emphasis on spelling in schools and homeschools as a critical language arts skill is over-rated. There are plenty of intelligent people who excel in every school subject including reading, who cannot spell well. They suffer the indignation of red marks on papers that scream, “You’re stupid! You can’t spell!” Somehow, these non-spellers graduate from school and college and go on to lead productive lives. Not spelling well doesn’t mean you’re condemned to dumpster diving for a living.

John Wells, a professor of phonetics and president of the Spelling Society in an interview with The Times Online said:

“It’s time to remove the fetish that says that correct spelling is a principle mark of being educated. …Text messaging, e-mail and Internet chat rooms are showing us the way forward for English.”

The written language is evolving into a more phonetic and simplified form.

The Times Online also reported that research conducted by Anthony Monaco of Oxford University suggests spelling ability may be embedded in your DNA. He tracked the development of 6,000 children and identified a gene that helps guide brain cells into the cortex of the developing brain that may affect the ability to read and spell. We all have it, but about 15% of the population has a slightly different version of that gene that may account for information processing differences.

Science doesn’t have all of the answers yet, but progress is being made toward understanding the difference between Spelling Bee champs and chumps.

So what can parents do to help their children in the meantime? Avoid judging your child’s ability and intelligence based on whether or not they can spell well. This truly may be an inherited genetic trait. If spelling isn’t their “thing” – give them the tools they need to edit their own work. Understand that every brain is different. Visual learners can “see” the correct spelling of a word in their mind’s eye. Auditory learners will be better at sounding out spelling words. Explore multiple methods that will help your child decode the language in a fun and engaging way. Here are some helpful resources for those with and without the spelling gene: is a terrific website that will help your children (ages 5-13 or grades K-8) improve their spelling skills for FREE. Spelling City includes:

  • Over 37,000 words, including plurals, contractions, future and past tenses.
  • 8 spelling games! Students can play games with their spelling words that are automatically generated by a program at the website.
  • A REAL human voice that pronounces the spelling words and sentences making it easier to understand and learn.
  • A “Teach Me” function that spells out the word using both visual and auditory input to improve retention.
  • The ability for teachers and parents to enter and save their own spelling lists for their students/children.

Get the 28 Rules of Spelling – Free! from the Riggs Institute that sells spelling curriculum and workbooks.

Scripps National Spelling Bee – For those who have the spelling gene, get free resources, study suggestions, spelling word lists that include parts of speech, language origins, pronunciations, definitions, and sentences for thousands of words.

2009 Spell It! – This is the official study resource of the Scripps National Spelling Bee from Merriam-Webster. You’ll find plenty of free tips and activities to improve spelling.

Free Homeschool Spelling Course – When you get to this commercial website you’ll find a FREE 30-lesson homeschool spelling course for students in grades 6- 8. It includes printable spelling rules and step-by-step lessons. The idea here is that if you like the spelling course, you may be motivated to purchase their other courses in grammar and punctuation.

Free Spelling Worksheets – Get free spelling worksheets for elementary grade and remedial students including spelling rules like “silent e”, consonant blends, plurals, suffixes, prefixes and even word search games to reinforce spelling.

Play Games To Improve Spelling! Here are some suggestions:

  • Spelling Hangman – This classic kids game helps hone spelling in a fun and engaging way.
  • Word Safari Game – Practice spelling while playing a fun online video game.
  • Alphabet Soup Spelling Game – Try this arcade style game that will challenge your spelling skills.
  • Spelling Games – Play and learn with these games based on the Dolch Sight Words list.
  • Catch the Spelling – This site was designed for ESL students, but can be used for grades Pre-K through 8 (approximately). Players use the arrows on their computer keyboard to move “the catcher” to catch falling letters in the correct order to spell out a designated word. Younger children and non-readers will need parental help.
  • Scrabble, Boggle, and UpWords – These terrific board games from Hasbro improve spelling skills. Click on the link to play the games online for free.
  • Funbrain: Spell Check – Need a little drill and practice work? This site offers an easy and hard spelling test. There are 20 sets of 4 words offered in each test. The Spell Check game is designed for 4th grade through Middle School. Younger children may find the Spellaroo version of the game on this site a little less difficult.

Copyright 2008, Diane Flynn Keith, All Rights Reserved.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG, OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Diane Flynn Keith publishes the rave-reviewed Homefires Ezine with 5,500+ subscribers. If you’re ready to save time and money, ease your anxiety, and learn how to have fun homeschooling, get your FREE subscription now at”

1 comment to Does Your Child Have The Spelling Gene?

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>