Learning to spell verbs is difficult for children. Despite spending a lot of time and attention on it in school, students make mistakes in writing assignments. They seem to have forgotten all the rules in practice.

In this blog, I first discuss what are the main obstacles to learning and applying the spelling rules properly. Then I tell how the spelling of verbs can best be taught. Finally, I explain the importance of good spelling.

Explaining the spelling of verbs: why does it prove difficult?

Learning to spell verbs is difficult because spelling is based on different principles and strategies for applying it. These principles are not always logical or consistent. The strategies that children then use are often not the right strategies. This creates the following problems:

  • The principle of “write what you hear,” often fails. This they call the phonological principle.
  • The morphological principle produces the problem that verbs that sound the same are not written the same way. While this principle assumes that different forms of a (work) word are spelled the same as much as possible. This is where children make the most mistakes. For example, we spell ‘I send’ with a d, because send also has a d.
  • The form ‘zent’ should sometimes be written as zend and sometimes as zendt. This principle also assumes that words are sometimes written as other words, which are formed in the same way, although this does not seem logical. For example, station street and station road.
  • Children are more likely and more likely to choose the strategy of spelling based on frequency, rather than the strategy of spelling based on grammatical analysis. For example, “repeats” is often spelled “repeated. For this word, the spelling with a d is more common than the spelling with a t. This causes children to choose ‘repeats’ more often, even when it should be ‘repeated’.
  • Verbs with prefixes such as ge-, be-, ver-, etc. also often go wrong. Especially verbs with the prefix ge- cause confusion, because the ge- is normally an indication that it is a past participle. For example, with the word happens/ happened. Is it a verb in the present tense or a past participle?

What is the best way to teach children this: the solution to practice the spelling of verbs.

One solution is to perform a grammatical analysis before spelling: Students must first look at the whole sentence in order to spell verbs correctly. The grammatical function of the verb determines how to spell. In addition, children must be able to determine the person, tense, and number of the verb form.

A large proportion of students perform correct grammatical analysis. They spell better when they recognize the grammatical function. Chamalaun, Ernestus, and Bosman (2018).

Nevertheless, this strategy does not work sufficiently on its own. This is because even then children still spell based on frequency. Also, sometimes errors are still made with the verbs with prefixes. So it is also important for children to practice extra with stumbling blocks. Practice with the inconsistencies in the spelling rules and with verbs with the prefixes ge-, be-, ver-, etc. The visual strategy also helps some students: remember and recall word pictures.

Learning good spelling requires clear instruction and corrective feedback (Knowledge Roundabout (2018)). So not just grammatical analysis and applying the rules. While practicing verb spelling, it is effective to constantly make the connection between spelling and grammar.

What is further effective is to integrate spelling into writing instruction. This ensures that the usefulness and importance of spelling are immediately apparent in practice. In addition, spelling is further practiced in this way by checking, correcting, and improving texts. This requires extra attention to spelling and punctuation from the students.

The importance of good spelling: Why do children ‘need’ to learn it?

Why is learning to spell well so important now? The main reason is: to be able to write a text without errors.

First of all at school, but of course also outside school. Spelling and grammatical errors are heavily counted in formal writing situations. These types of errors also affect people’s credibility.

People who make more linguistic errors are considered less intelligent. For example, people generally associate typos with carelessness and grammatical and spelling errors with lower intelligence. Van der Zanden (2021).

You are considered full in our society when you spell correctly. Regardless of your origin. This was written by two philosophers, to indicate that unitary spelling is and remains important. (Sebastien Valkenberg and Ger Groot in an article in the newspaper Trouw).

Do you want your child to learn to spell well?

Your child can learn the spelling of verbs well. There are several ways to do this. By paying extra attention to grammatical analysis, by practicing more with spelling rules, exceptions, and the known stumbling blocks. But also by reading and writing more Dutch.

This can be done with targeted online lessons at Dutch for Children. We look at what your child needs more of. Maybe he lacks the basics, maybe just some extra practice: together we will make a plan. Please feel free to contact us to explore the possibilities together.

E-book: the basis for learning verb spelling.

Your child can also independently learn the spelling rules and strategies (again). Going through the basics is always a good start when you want to work on verb spelling. Dutch for Children is working on an e-book about verb spelling. A guide for children to learn or repeat the basics themselves. Of course with links to online practice opportunities. This can be a good start or a handy reference book next to online Dutch lessons or school.

Are you interested in this e-book, then you can already subscribe to the interest list. When the e-book comes out, you will receive all information about the content, price, and how to receive the e-book.