I'm frequently asked for suggestions as to what to do for children who just can't spell, no matter how many different programs they try. My first caution is not to be overly concerned with young children. Sometimes, spelling "kicks in" a little later after children have been reading quite a bit.
But sometimes it doesn't. This book addresses those situations. I would suggest waiting until at least fifth grade before trying this approach—giving more traditional approaches and the maturation process a chance first.
If you've waited long enough and given up on other approaches, it's time to try Sound Spelling. Rather than a workbook, this is a technique where students learn to use a particular process for working with troublesome words. With the help of a parent or other assistant, the student identifies troublesome words and their correct spelling. Then, using the dictionary, he looks up the word to determine its phonetic spelling. Next, he turns to the lists in this book, which are arranged by phonetic elements. For example, words with "ea" pronounced as lone "e", but with no silent "e" endings, are grouped together. Example words are grouped following "ea" combined with different consonants: "eac, eaf, eak," etc. Sample words follow each: "eak - beak, leak, peak, streak, weak." Students add their own additional words to these lists, but the major work is done either on notebook paper following the prescribed pattern or on reproducible forms provided in the book. By the time students have analyzed the words and worked out their examples and sample sentences, they will have a much stronger familiarity with each word when they encounter them later on.
An assistant to help identify misspelled words is absolutely necessary; remember that poor spellers typically can't tell if a word is correct or not by looking at it. A dictionary, this book (for the word lists), and the student's notebook are also essential elements.
This unusual approach might not work for every poor speller, but it certainly looks promising since it targets exactly what they need to know.
There are additional directions for trickier or unusual words.