Here’s one of my favourites: necessary.
My approach was once to come up with a cute memory trick like the ones you see on YouTube, but back then, I wasn’t in the habit of lifting up the bonnet on words like I am now. This made my teaching a bit hit and miss.
I want more hit than miss, obviously, and what consistently leads me there is knowing as much as I can about the structure of words, and finding ways of explaining that to people so that they can remember them.
This year, I have been working with a dyslexic adult via Zoom. He contacted me in February 2023 and said this:
How smart is he? I got back to him and said I’d happily tutor him on an irregular basis at no cost, irregular because of my extensive travel, no cost because of the irregularity. He took me up on it and this charming, deeply intelligent, lovely human and I had a series of word-study sessions throughout the year. These were his attempts at ‘necessary’ (and other words) in his first spelling test:
I haven’t given him a follow-up test yet, as I’ve spent the latter quarter of this year on the road and haven’t had time, but he wrote to me last week:
I know, I know…it’s self-reporting and it’s an anecdote and it doesn’t equal data, but I’m glad I did it and I’m glad I explained word structure to him and I’m glad he’s not stuck at ‘say the sounds in each word’ or ‘this is a spelling for the sound blah’. I really am. He and countless others like him deserve much, much better than that.