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A Long Way to Spell Seven

He is seven years old, going on eight years old. He can spell “butterfly”, “caterpillar” and “computer”. By now, he should be able to spell the numbers from one to ten. Although children learn in different ways, but there is a “milestone” to reach for different stages. Unable to spell the numbers from one to ten at the age of seven is perceived as “slow in learning”. That is his school teacher’s perception. My task, as a home tutor, is to make sure he is able to keep up with other students of the same age.

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I gave him a list of 37 numbers and he needed to spell the numbers in words.

“I do not know how to spell.”

“It’s ok. We learn together.”

“It is a long list.”

“It’s ok. We can do up to ten today and continue the rest next time.” (My initial plan was to complete the first fifteen numbers, but I wanted to keep him interested at the same time.)

And he started writing “One” and “Two”. It was a good start. I encouraged him to continue, but the next “number” I saw was “Tree”.

I told myself to hold whatever I wanted to say. It was too early to correct him. I asked him to continue. The next one is “Four”. See? He can do it!

5, 6 and 7. Sensing that the spelling was wrong, he erased the answers for 5 and 7. He stuck at 8. He seemed discouraged. He was waiting for my help. Just three more numbers to go, I wanted him to continue.

“Ten is easy. Why not you try to spell ten, then go to nine, then e-i-g-h-t?”

I spoke e-i-g-h-t in a slow manner, hoping that he was able to get the hints I gave him. Below is the first version of his answers:


The first effort

Next, we went through the answers. I told him the difference between Tree and Three. I told him se-ven is made up of two syllables…

We proceeded to other lessons. I did not want him to think that he is bad in spelling.

If the boy were your child, what would be your reaction to the above list? Panic? The more panic he sees from your reaction, the more stress he has. For me, it is a good start, he knows he cannot spell, he knows what is the first alphabet for each number. The next step is to reinforce what he has learnt and at the same time build up his confidence.

It will be a long journey for him and me.


  1. duaimei says:

    I assume that English is not his first language. It’s important to encourage him and let him know that there’s nothing wrong with not knowing, he’s still developing his strategy for learning!

    When I was in elementary school, they would make us write each word that we spelled wrong from our vocabulary list 10 times. It wasn’t a punishment, just that every time you spell it correctly, the more chance you have to remember it later.

    I’m not sure if he has access to a lot of computers, but I’m sure there are some fun spelling games online that he could play for free!

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