Webster’s dictionary defines it and makes it sound simple. But for some, that is simply not the case. Spelling is in fact a very complex skill. It involves:
Phonological Processing (with reading and writing skills, everything always comes back to this!)
Phonics Skills (the ability to apply symbols to sounds)
Strategic thinking regarding rules and morphology
Not only does it involve these skills, the skills also have to work together. A person can grasp three of the concepts, but if one is missing there will be a struggle. The breakdown can occur at any one of these areas. Problems with spelling in turn lead to problems with more complex writing and of course, reading.
Don't tell them - Ask them!
Of course you can't ask questions for every little thing. Parents: it would drive your child crazy! Teacher: you would never get everything done! But...they need to learn how to think, not just memorize.
1. Phonological processing:
"How many syllables are there?" (2 - /chap/, /ter/)
"What are the sounds you hear in the first syllable?" (/ch/, /a/, /p/)
"What are the sounds you hear in the second syllable?" (/t/, /er/)
2. Apply phonics:
"What is the most common way to spell the /ch/ sound?"
"What kind of syllable does a short vowel have to be in?" (closed)
"What are the best options for spelling /er/ at the end of a two syllable word?" (er, ar, or)
4. Visual Memory:
Practice. Have them write the word a few times. Come back to a difficult one a few minutes later and try again.
Practice these pieces over a period of days. Think of it like creating a path in your backyard - you have to go over the same ground day after day in order for it to become permanent.