Cheat Sheet

Teaching Kids to Spell For Dummies

You can help your child become an A+ speller. Start out by making sure your child can spell the most common words and teach her some mnemonics so she will remember some of the more confusing rules of English spelling. Peruse a list of the most common words that kids misspell. Once your child understands the basics of spelling, you can help him study a list of homonyms, which often trip up older grade schoolers.

Top 50 Most Commonly Used Words in English

Your child must spell some words by automatic reflex, because she'll use them time and time again. Here are the 50 most common words of all — the ones you need to help her get to know really well:

the he at but there
of was be not use
and for this what an
a on have all each
to are from were which
in as or we she
is with ine when do
you his had your how
that they by can their
it I word said if
.

The Handiest Mnemonics to Help Kids Learn to Spell

Mnemonics, or memory joggers, are really handy and helpful things. The mnemonics listed below can help your child figure out some of those tricky spelling rules that trip up just about everyone at one time or another:

  • Necessary: One cap, two socks.

  • -ought words: Only ugly girls hate toothpaste.

  • -ight words: Indian girls have teeth (they like toothpaste and brush often!).

  • Friend: A friend stays to the end.

  • Rhythm: Rhythm helps your two hips move.

  • Business: There's a bus in business.

  • They: There's no hay in they.

  • Because: Big elephants can always understand small elephants.

  • Here, there, where: All have here in them and are all about position.

  • Two: Two twins.

  • Government: The government governs the country.

  • Secretary: A secretary keeps secrets

Thirty-Two Words that Kids Often Misspell

Grade school teachers might see one of these words misspelled every day of the week. If you make sure that your child can spell all of them, you save his teacher's red ink for other students.

about Friend once they were
are have people too when
beautiful house play until with
because I'm pretty very would
Christmas know said want
could like should was
excited my there went

Common Homonyms in English

Homonyms are words that sound the same but spelled differently. English contains dozens of homonyms, but the ones listed below are the most common of all. Your child is bound to grapple with some or all of them at some point, so if you help him in advance, you can make his efforts more productive and less frustrating.

  • there, their, they're

  • see, sea

  • for, four

  • by, buy

  • passed, past

  • which, witch

  • son, sun

  • who's, whose

  • hole, whole

  • write, right

  • to, too, two

  • threw, through (you may want to look at thought here too)

  • cereal, serial

  • principal, principle

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