Spelling: The Make-Believe Eraser

In an article authored in the Journal of Behavioral Optometry a few years ago, I wrote about the fusion of Dr. Jerome Rosner’s core principles on auditory and visual-spatial analysis together with Dr. Ken Gibson’s work on cognitive processing.  Gibson adapted elements of Rosner’s SASP program to probe Sound Analysis into blending, segmenting, and visualizing words – and this represents a very strong foundation for spelling.


The Phonetic Focus Charts from OEPF do a great job of helping a child encode or blend words.  We’re fond of using a child’s weekly vocabulary sight word list to customize or individualize the concept, using an index card for the beginnings of the word and an 8″ x 10”sheet for the end of the word.  Although the charts were designed as near/far combinations, some children have trouble switching planes to match the horizontal at near with the vertical at far, so at times we’ll simply begin with two charts at near side by side or one above the other before doing the near/far switch.

Phonetic Focus

A technique we’ve drifted away from, but which is still very useful, taps into the same principles as Rosner or Gibsons’s Auditory/Visual Analysis related to visualization, by asking the child to take a word — let’s say “stream”, remove the “r” (saying the “r” sound) and tell us what’s left.  Remember, this is presented verbally, and the answers we sometimes get from the phonics-heavy kids are “seem” or “team” or even “scream” – which is what they’d like to do because they can’t picture what to do in their minds’ eye and are over-reliant on playing back the tape which doesn’t work very well here.

Enter the make-believe eraser strategy.


Make-Believe Eraser Strategy

Ultimately you want the child to do this in their mind’s eye, but at first they may need to do this on an eraser board or smart board or even with good old-fashioned paper and pencil.  Have the child write the word on a piece of paper.  If necessary, help them spell it letter by letter.  So in the example above the child writes “s-t-r-e-a-m”.  Then have them erase the “r”.  Go ahead and smudge it up as much as you want!  But the key is, what’s left on paper is “s-t-e-a-m”.  What does that spell?


The key is, the child may need to perform this operation a number of times on paper, before being able to make-believe erase and zip the remaining letters back into one word in their mind’s eye.  That’s okay – keep at it!  And if they omit or mis-insert or transpose a key letter that trips them up, use a separate color pencil (or ink color if you’re working with a word processing program) to imprint the look of that key pattern in their mind’s eye.  As with phonetic focus, you can drill-drill-drill, but make sure it “sticks” by using similar word families and patterns.  If I’ve mastered the concept, it should be no problem to give me “brook” and get back “book” if I leave our the “rrrr sound”; and then “crook” and get back  “cook” if the leave out the “rrrr sound” and so forth.

The Lindamood-Bell program makes heavy use of this concept, integrating visualizing and verbalizing with visual and phonemic sequencing, but it’s good to keep in mind that it all began with a special optometric educator, Dr. Jerome Rosner, in the 1960s!



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