Poor Spellers

Some people are lousy spellers. Is it because they’re less intelligent than good spellers? No. Successful spelling may have more to do with the syntax of your thoughts that is, how you organize, store, and retrieve information in a given context. Whether you are able to produce consistent results is simply a matter of whether your present mental syntax supports the task you are asking of your brain. Whatever you have seen, or felt is stored in your brain. Countless research projects have shown that people in a hypnotic trance can remember (that is, access) things they were unable to recall consciously.

If you are not spelling effectively, the problem is the way you are representing words to yourself. So what’s the best strategy for spelling? It’s certainly not kinesthetic. It’s difficult to feel a word. It’s not really auditory, because there are too many words you can’t sound out effectively. So what does spelling entail? It entails the ability to store visual external characters in a specific syntax. The way to learn to spell is to make visual pictures that can be easily accessed at any time.

Take the word “Albuquerque.” The best way to learn to spell it isn’t to say the letters over and over again – it’s to store the word as a picture in your mind. In the next, we’re going to learn some of the ways people access the different parts of their brain. For example, Bandler and Grinder, the founders of NLP, discovered that the location we move our eyes to determines which part of our nervous system we have clearest access to. For now, just note that most people remember visual images best by looking up and to their left. The best way to learn to spell Albuquerque is to place the word up and to your left and form a clear visual image of it.

At this point we need to add another concept: chunking. Generally, people can consciously process only five to nine chunks of information at once. People who learn rapidly can master even the most complex tasks because they chunk information into small steps and then reassemble them into the original whole. The way to learn to spell Albuquerque is to break it down into three smaller chunks like this: Albu / quer / que. I want you to write the three parts on a piece of paper, hold them above and to the left of your eyes, see Albu, then close your eyes and see it in your mind. Open your eyes. See Albu. Do not say it, just see it; then close your eyes and see it in your mind. Continue to do this, four or five or six times until you can close your eyes and clearly see Albu. Next take the second chunk, quer. Flash on the letters faster and follow the same process with it, and then with the que chunk, until the entire image Albuquerque is stored in your mind. If you have a clear picture, you’ll probably have a feeling (kinesthetic) it’s spelled right. Then you’ll be able to see the word so clearly you can spell it not only forward but backward. Try it. Spell Albuquerque. Then spell it backward. Once you have that, you have got that word spelled forever. You can do that with any word and become a superb speller, even if you have had trouble your own name in the past.

The other aspect of learning is discovering other people’s preferred learning strategies. As noted above, everyone has a particular neurology, a particular mental terrain they use most often. But we seldom teach to an individual’s strength. We assume everyone learns the same way.

Let me give you an example. Not long ago a young man was sent to me. He brought along a six and a half page report saying he was dyslexic, he couldn’t learn to spell, and he had psychological problems at school. He preferred to process a great deal of his experience kinesthetically. Once realized how he processed information, one will be in a position to help him. This young man had the greatest grasp of the things he felt. However, much of the standard teaching process is visual or auditory. His problem wasn’t that he had trouble learning. It was that his teachers had trouble teaching him in a way in which he could effectively perceive, store, and retrieve information.

The first thing was to take the report and rip it up. This is a bunch of garbage. That got his attention. He was expecting the usual battery of questions. Instead talking with him about all the great ways he used his nervous system. When said “you’re good in sports”. He said, “Yeah, I’m pretty good”. It turned out he was a great surfer. We talked about surfing a little, and he immediately got excited and attentive, in a state of feeling effective. He was in a more receptive state than his teachers had ever seen. It was explained to him that he had a tendency to store information kinesthetically and that had great advantages in life. However, his learning style made spelling difficult for him. So he was showed how to do it visually and worked with his sub-modalities to give him the same feeling about spelling that he had about surfing. Within fifteen minutes, he could pick up spellings.