Here are some photos of some spelling words that my son struggled with in the 2008-2009 academic year. These are 8.5 x 11 inches in size.
The way this works is that the child first makes an error so you know which area of the word the child does not know and needs help learning. These cards are not made up before the child ever is exposed to the word. The card is to be large in size. The correctly spelled part of the word is to be in black ink or some boring color. The correctly spelled part that the student was making an error on appears in a bright color. A visual image is placed right on top of the word and is in color. If the image is not too flashy the entire background of the rest of the card can be colored in with color. The image should tell a story or somehow link to the image. If you can't come up with a story or visual image either directly about that word or about the error part (see the deep pool for 'ee' and the big T for watchful), try for a rhyme, or try a card with crazy bright colors, but don't do that for all the cards.
I learned this technique after hearing a lecture at a homeschooling conference in April 2008 given by Dianne Craft. A note on the one with blood, Craft mentioned specifically that some students (guess which gender) often like dramatic images, gross images and even bloody images.
If a child has dyslexia, you might try to always have a colored background and then a colored border around the edge. I'd vary the colors for variety. I believe I heard this suggestion also in a lecture given by Dianne Craft, possibly the one she gives on teaching kids with a blocked learning gate, or maybe also in the lecture about teaching right-brained learners (another name for visual-spatial learners).
When I first began doing this I was making up the ideas. I then shifted to asking my son first, if he had an idea for an image to help him remember. If he is unable to come up with his own idea then I make it up. I do the writing, drawing and coloring, otherwise the writing may be too sloppy, or it would just take too much of his time when I'd rather have him doing other homeschool lesson work. I don't want his creation of these cards to take the place of other learning he should be doing. Specific to my son, he has one learning disability (visual processing disorder) so his learning energy is limited, once it is tapped out for the day he is 'done'. I don't want his learning energy going to creating flash cards, that's not my priority for his learning energy.
I use cheap markers and crayons that we already own (one of those big sets of art supplies sold on sale at big box craft stores for $3). I usually use the cheap copy paper/computer printer paper or cheap drawing paper that is a bit heavier that I already have on hand. For a while I was using card stock because it is more sturdy. However since he learns so QUICKLY with this method he often uses them just one day, or two at the most, so it is not worth using card stock. My point is, making these cards is not expensive, it requires no expensive materials and probably not even the purchase of anything new, you probably own the items necessary for this. All this takes is a little creative energy and a little time.
The spelling program we use is Spelling Power which organizes words in a phonetic manner or by spelling rule. The method focuses on making the student study only the words they do NOT know already. This program works well with this method of teaching visual-spatial learners how to spell.
With the extra effort that it takes my visual-spatial learner with a visual processing disorder to learn, the last thing I want to do is make him spend time studying words he already has mastered. I see no common sense in that, but most spelling programs on the market that homeschoolers buy and use teach in that way, probably because they were designed for classroom use, tailored for dealing with groups of kids in an environment that cannot be customized. Let's remember with homeschooling one huge benefit is the abilitiy to customize our children's learning. Let's not bore them to death teaching them things they already know, making them study what they already mastered then testing them on it and declaring that a teaching and learning success story! I don't think "teaching" an item the child already knows can be called learning new material. That's either review or teaching them below their ability level and calling it successful teaching, in my opinion!
See also blog posts with the label right-brained learners - visual spatial learners and teaching spelling by clicking those terms below this post.
Some products and servives mentioned in this post:
Spelling Power curriculum grades K-12 in one book
Dianne Craft's website and online store (free articles to read online and can purchase her audio and video lectures)
Disclosure: I received no money for mentioning any of these products, services or retail businesses. All of the products and services I mentioned I purchased for our family's personal use. See this blog's disclosure statement for more information.