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10-year-old spelling genius writes his own book to help others

10-year-old Alex Mole Photo: BPM Media

Few adults can pronounce the name of Welsh town Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, let alone spell it, but ten-year-old genius Alex Mole can spell it both forwards and backwards.

He has come up with a unique method for breaking down complex words to spell them and has even written and published a book to share the process with others too.

Alex was getting confused with his phonics at school so we decided to try to remember spellings in a similar way to how you remember phone numbers.

When you think of a phone number, you remember it in chunks.

It would be much harder to remember it as one 11 digit number and it’s the same with spelling.

It was surprising how quickly it made a difference to Alex.

– Debbie Williams
Alex and his mum Debbie Credit: BPM Media

The process Alex and his mum developed is called 'chunking', whereby they split a word into chunks of three or four letters and write them on different coloured cards to help memorise them.

It’s inspired by Debbie’s work as a practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a tool used to help understand how the language of the mind creates patterns people run their life by.

I’ve used NLP to help people remember all sorts of things so we thought why not spelling?

You hold a card in the air, think ‘click, click’ as you take a picture of it with your mind, then imagine it before moving onto the next card.

We started with the words Alex was learning at school then moved onto bigger words.
There’s no reason you couldn’t chunk smaller words too to help younger children learn them.

You just take a photograph of them with your mind and then remember that photo.

– Debbie Williams
Teachers at Alex’s school were so impressed that they invited him to teach some of the younger students Credit: BPM Media

It took Alex two weeks to learn how to spell Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

We wrote it down, splitting it into four letter chunks on each card.

It was amazing to see him remember it both forwards and backwards.

You don’t need to learn a word backwards, that’s just showing off really!

It just shows you are not sounding the word out, you are seeing it as a picture in your mind instead.

– Debbie Williams

Teachers at Alex’s school, Hill West Primary in Sutton Coldfield, were so impressed they invited him to teach some of the younger students who were struggling with spelling.

Alex has now written and published his own book called The Secret Spell to Spelling by Alexander Mole, aged 9¾.

The 'chunking' method has gone on to help children with dyslexia Credit: BPM Media

We wrote the title to mimic Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾!.

Since the age of six, Alex had wanted to write his own book so we both enrolled on a computer course to learn how to put it together and develop a website.

He started sketching cartoons and writing down his spelling method so that he could share it with others.

There’s been a great response to the book.

– Debbie Williams

The book is available through Alex’s website secretspelltospelling.wordpress.com, which also features national curriculum spelling tests for years 3/4 and 5/6 with methods of how to break them down to make them memorable.

The 'chunking' method has gone on to help children with dyslexia.

One of Alex’s friends at school is dyslexic and was getting confused over his phonics.

He’d written a story and every word was written the wrong way round.

He tried the method and got on so well, he was challenging family members telling them he’d spell words like Mississippi, forwards and backwards, if they gave him a pound. He made a bit of money out of it!

– Debbie Williams
“I love using this method as it’s fun and helps me to remember my spellings.” Credit: BPM Media

Debbie and Alex sent a copy of the book to Dr Richard Bandler, who co-founded NLP in America in the 1970s, and were shocked and delighted when he replied and offered them this quote as a forward to the book: “I read Alex’s book and it is brilliant, and quite refreshing.

“It gives me hope that the things I have been trying to get into schools for four decades will at last find their way into the hands of kids everywhere.”

Debbie says this approach can be used for exam revision in all subjects too.

It’s a visual strategy and visual strategies can be used to learn anything.

They’re great for getting ready for exams because it’s like taking in a mind map into the exam room with you.

Seeing a picture of what you’re trying to remember is key.

It’s like legally cheating!

– Debbie Williams

Alex added: “I love using this method as it’s fun and helps me to remember my spellings.”