Gifted and Struggling

I mentioned recently that Mira was evaluated for gifted identification. She’s a bright kid, and her abilities in class – when she’s focused – made her teacher think it was worth the time to check.

We received the results this weekend. In the letter, it explained the testing methods used and provided her scores. Based on her scores, she’s not identified as gifted in math, which I thought would be her strongest skill. However, she did score high in reading, and has been identified as gifted in reading. Surprise, surprise! The girl who refused to read for SO long, saying that she wasn’t good in reading and Cordy was the “reader” among them is actually a very good reader.

She was also given a cognitive abilities test, and while she didn’t score high enough to meet the cutoff for “superior cognitive,” she was only a few points away. It’s possible she’ll be re-tested in a couple of years.

Overall, I’m proud of Mira, even if I am somewhat pleasantly surprised by the results of her evaluation.

Here’s what confuses me, though: how can a child who reads so well have so much trouble with spelling?

She reads out loud to me, and while she stumbles on some of the harder words, she still makes a good attempt at reading them the way it looks like they should sound. But have her read a word several times, then ask her to spell that word without looking at it? She can’t.

I know she’s reading at too fast of a speed to still be sounding out each word. She automatically recognizes the order of the letters and knows the word. So why is she unable to rely on that recognition for spelling?

This was her most recent spelling test. While this one was particularly bad, because she told us she liked to study on the bus and not with us (and wasn’t studying), even the spelling tests she studies for have several missed words.

Spelling testOuch.

She has fantastic ideas she wants to get down on paper, but is often held back by writing unintelligible sentences. Can you decode this one?

What does this say?This was from the start of 1st grade. “I will take care of my bunny, like feed it.”

Or this one?

What team?From Friday – the team name is “Zeus’ Thunder”

It’s like some kind of spelling-only dyslexia. Or possibly a remnant left over from when she had speech apraxia as a toddler and preschooler. Her speech is still a little hard to understand at times, so maybe when she sounds out a word, she’s writing it using the sounds she still substitutes for the correct sounds?

I was never the world’s best speller, either, but I don’t remember struggling this much. I’m not sure how to help her, other than drilling her spelling words over and over again, which she finds utterly boring. (And I understand – it is boring!) Mira seems frustrated with it, but she also prefers to act like it’s no big deal and hide her frustration. I’m planning to ask her teacher for advice on how to better handle spelling when we meet for parent-teacher conferences later this week.

Does anyone else have experience with a good reader who has a difficult time with spelling? Is it just something that will eventually “click” for her, or will it at least get better?

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  1. If she’s like me, sounding it out isn’t helping because it doesn’t stick. Sometimes I feel like my eyes understand words better than my ears.

    I was always an ID reader. I know the letters in the word and the shape the word made, but it wasn’t until I started learning spelling tricks and just writing them again and again (basically creating muscle memory I suppose) that I had any spelling skills at all.

    I’m still terrible.

    I wish you guys luck! What about singing the words?
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  2. My best friend in high school was gifted and couldn’t spell worth a darn. I am not gifted and I am really good at spelling. I think some of it is how visual you are?

    Have you all tried spelling city? I will message you a link later when I am home from school pickup – Sydney likes it.

  3. rebecca c says:

    It will improve with time and exposure. My son is 7 and an avid reader and mostly good speller. In K and 1st he was NOT a good speller but his reading has taken off like a rocket this year. He is auditory, likes to hear and then repeat. The previous commenter about how visual one is made me think of it. You could try SuperWhy and Wordworld to make the words tangible, visible, concrete. It will come- it WILL come!

  4. MN RN Mom says:

    I like the ideas of SuperWhy and Word world too. Instead of doing dry, boring drills, maybe try putting the words into a chant, song or game to help her learn them.

  5. Oh, wow, does this sound familiar! This is the same problem I had as a kid – my problem was that the letters weren’t very interesting to me – I liked stories. And when I read, I read whole sentences in one look, so I wasn’t looking at the letters that formed the individual words. I’m still not the greatest speller, but games and things helped me figure it out, as well as more reading. It sounds weird, but she has to get used to how the whole word looks, and that works best by more and more reading. Also, try letting her type her spelling words instead of writing them – with spell check on, it will tell her if they’re right or wrong without you having to breathe down her neck.
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  6. Guusje Moore says:

    I was / am a superb reader – always read way, way above grade level and I am a atrocious speller . I constantly foil the spell checker on my computer. Back when I had to endure spelling tests I was always the one still taking the test on Friday along with a couple of SPED kids.

    Since I could read so well I was always being accused of not studying. I can study spelling words till the cows come home – it just doesn't "stick". I also can't sound out a word to save my soul.

    I always say one reason I took to computers like a duck to water was because Word takes care of the mechanics (I also have terrible hand writing) leaving me to focus on the creativity of writing. Frankly, with everyone using computers and tablets these days I don't understand why schools put so much time and emphasis on spelling. These days I can go for days without putting pencil to paper. I'm 62 so I'm not a digital native like the kids are – I bet they can go even longer!

  7. Melinda Blom says:

    I am one also, love reading can't spell for shet. Spelling bees were especially traumatic. Even harder to spell correcting when I can't see the word.

  8. Carolyn Rau says:

    So, ignore this if you wish, but here are a few things you may have tried, or not. Based on her reading ability, she seems to be a visual learner. If she is strongly visual perhaps you could somehow get her to “see ” the shapes in the letters or in the words. Like “little” starts tall, goes small, goes tall for three then small e. That sort of thing. You’d have to be creative but she can help. The same thing can work in the making of the letters. Also, there is a serious body of work based on handwriting (printing first and doing it the correct way) which helps make connections in the brain. Google it.

    Anyway, try seeing if you can get her to see letters and words as art.

    And this is just a thought; an idea, maybe something you haven’t considered.

    Good luck.

    And by the way, you are a great Mom. Really.

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