← Blog home

Why Doing Dictation Right Matters So Much

If you're not having the best experience with Spelling You See, you may be overlooking a simple, but critical, detail in the process of dictation.

When I talk to parents about their Spelling You See experiences, sometimes I find they are not having the best one. Careful questioning usually reveals it is often because they have overlooked a simple, but absolutely critical, detail in the process of dictation.

In Spelling You See, the dictation is the opportunity to see how the student has committed to memory the patterns they have spent the week seeking out and copying.

As parents, we often think the goal should be to finish the dictation, but that is actually not true. With Spelling You See, the goal is to copy words out with their correct patterns (e.g. correct spellings). In fact, Dr. Karen Holinga, the author of Spelling You See, says she would rather have a student write one sentence correctly than to go through the entire dictation and have errors.

Why, you ask? Because memory is strange and it may be that the time your student misspells a word is the very time their memory chooses to commit that errant pattern to memory.

How Dictation Should Happen

Briefly, I’d like to review how dictation is supposed to occur in a Spelling You See experience. First of all, a 10-minute time limit is imperative. Attention span is important in a successful spelling experience, which is why we set that 10-minute limit. Secondly (and this is the most critical detail) you should be dictating one word at a time. You should watch your student write a word and then you should offer them the next word. Why is this so important? If a student makes an error in the writing of the word, this may be the moment his or her brain chooses to remember THAT wrong pattern. The value is to correct that error as it occurs so that it does not accidentally become part of their long-term memory. In fact, it is so important for them to copy out the word correctly, if you see your student becoming anxious, you can show them how the word is spelled and then let them try to reproduce that by copying it down. Remember, in the presence of anxiety, learning ceases.

The Goal of Dictation

The overall goal of the Spelling You See dictation is to spell words correctly. It is not to finish the dictation paragraph. If you have a student who is continually struggling with dictation, we recommend that you take the first sentence of the dictation and work your way through that successfully. Then have your student work their way through that same sentence again. There is far more merit in creating success than in achieving the end of the dictation.

Speaking of success, this is why we ask you to count the words they have spelled correctly – even if you had to assist them. You are building a skill set. It takes time. Encourage them by giving them credit for the words they persevered through.

We at Demme Learning are always ready, willing, and able to answer questions about Spelling You See. If something is not going the way it should, we encourage you to be in touch with us. We want you to have a successful experience. Happy dictating!

Do You Have Any Questions?

If you're not having the best experience with Spelling You See, you may be overlooking a simple, but critical, detail in the process of dictation.

About Gretchen Roe

Gretchen Roe educated her children at home for 21 years. With a degree in child development, she laughingly says it was not necessarily helpful for raising her own six children. She owned her own business for 15 years, as well as being involved in several nonprofit boards. She has spent the last 10 years in positions of homeschool advocacy and comes to Demme Learning as a Placement Specialist. She loves the outdoors, all things furry, and is in the process of learning farming and beekeeping skills.

6 thoughts on “Why Doing Dictation Right Matters So Much

  1. Kristine

    Do you have any sample pages from any of your Spelling You See books? I’d be interested in 1st to 2nd grade spelling and maybe a higher elementary level for a high-school student who never had spelling taught to him.

    1. Gretchen Roe

      Kristine, you can indeed find sample lessons at this link: https://spellingyousee.com/levels/ Bear in mind that Spelling You See is not a grade-level curriculum. Spelling proficiency is usually 2 years behind reading skill. The reading passages in Spelling You See are intentionally
      easy. Students can’t focus on the letter patterns IN words if they are struggling to understand reading content. Use the placement guidelines (https://spellingyousee.com/getting-started/) to determine placement for your elementary to high school student – bearing in mind we never place a struggling speller above Level E. And of course, you are welcome to call me if you want further guidance. 717.524.5692.

  2. Laura Lloyd

    Thanks Gretchen. I value your own ideas on encouraging children with success no matter how slow or small it seems to the teacher.
    Setting a time limit of 10 minutes for dictation is also very helpful for teacher and student to not be overwhelmed with an unending task.
    I have been homeschooling for 25 years now and seen half of my children graduate as happy adults and I agree with your ideas.

    1. Gretchen Roe

      Thanks for your kind comments, Laura. The truth is I wish I HAD applied all these principals when my children were young. I just did not know then what I know now — would that we ALL had that hindsight, right? Dr. Holinga’s wisdom has served Spelling You See families well for six years now. I have 5 college grads now and am delighted to know them! The caboose in our train is a high school freshman and it is a joy to watch him grow into adulthood.

  3. Paula Arold

    My son is finishing 5th grade. He has been seeing a tutor who uses the Barton Reading system (Orton Gillingham methods). Does Spelling You See work for kids with dyslexia?

  4. Gretchen Roe

    My middle son was a diagnosed dyslexic who was quite resistant to the program the year it debuted. (I obtained my first level of OG certification to teach him to read.) I asked him to give me 6 weeks with the process ~ at the end of those 6 weeks HE chose to continue because he could see a difference in his spelling capacity. He will never win a spelling bee, but Spelling You See gave him the confidence to recognize when a word was misspelled and the ability to use reference tools to correct it. Most importantly, it gave him the ability to recognize words used in context for the correct form (e.g. there, their and they’re) and know if he had the correct one. Since then I have worked with literally dozens of parents who have either dyslexia suspicions or diagnoses for their students and enjoy hearing the stories of their students’ successes. Dr. Holinga is a PhD Reading Recovery Specialist, and she works with hundreds more students with similar learning glitches. My long answer to your question is YES, Spelling You See DOES work with kids with dyslexia.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Live Chat

9 AM to 6 PM Eastern time,
Monday through Friday

Phone Support

Call (888) 854-6284
International callers —
call +1 717 283 1448

8:30 AM to 6 PM Eastern time,
Monday through Friday


Send us your questions or comments.