Teaching Spelling the CM Way

Informal Dictation
I keep ongoing lists of my children’s (8 yrs old and up) spelling errors found in their everyday writing. I used to give a ‘pre-test’ on Mondays and a ‘posttest’ on Fridays. NOT anymore. I found that my children would often make the same errors again in their writing even if they wrote it correctly for the test. Plus, it was so boring. Would I have to do this every week for each child for the next twelve years? Yikes! I decided to read what Charlotte Mason had to say about spelling and try her method. We had much better success this way and it is far more interesting.

Her method is based on the principle of visualization. She felt that ‘the whole secret of spelling lies in the habit of visualizing words from memory… The gift of spelling depends upon the power the eye possesses to 'take' (in a photographic sense) a detailed picture of a word; and this is a power and habit, which must be cultivated in children from the first.’
Basically, I write on the dry erase board a word that I notice my daughter misspelled during the week OR a new word from a passage that she is going to read and I think she will have troubles with it.

I instruct my daughter to look carefully at the word and pretend she has a camera. She is to ‘click’ her camera and take a photograph of the word in her mind’s eye.

Next, she closes her eyes and spells the word aloud from memory. I remind her to visualize the word and say out loud what she sees. I don’t want her to rely on her audio capabilities, recalling the letters she heard, but rather what she saw.

I then let her open her eyes and check to see if she was correct. If so, then I erase the word completely and let her do it again.

If she makes a mistake, we repeat the entire process until she is successful. There is no pressure to have a perfect score and only a few words are done at a time as the need arises using words that are relevant to the child, not contrived from some generic list. She doesn’t write the words down so that if she makes a spelling error, her mind does not see it and potentially become confused in the future.

‘An error once made and corrected leads to fearful doubt for the rest of one's life, as to which was the wrong way and which is the right. Most of us are haunted by some doubt as to whether 'balance,' for instance, should have one 'l' or two; and the doubt is born of a correction. Once the eye sees a misspelt word, that image remains; and if there is also the image of the word rightly spelt, we are perplexed as to which is which.
It becomes, therefore, the teacher's business to prevent false spelling, and, if an error has been made, to hide it away, as it were, so that the impression may not become fixed.’ - C. Mason

I might also add that once my children learn to type, I allow them to type some of their narrations. (They also write their friends, stories and such.) I require them to make use of the automatic spell check. This doesn’t give them a chance to see the word misspelled, aiding the mind in learning the correct spelling.