Friday, November 29, 2013

Why some children can't spell and spelling tests won't help?

There was an interesting discussion on spelling in 'The Conversation' recently. This should be of interest to all especially for those of us who have children who struggle with spelling. It was written by Dr Misty Adoniou, Senior lecturer at the University of Canberra. It explains why many children have difficulties with spelling and why some methods do not work for children who have ongoing problems in this area of learning.

She asks, "Are all children learning to love words from their very first years at school? Are they being fascinated by stories about where words come from and what those stories tell us about the spelling of those words?" This statement highlights the central role of meaning and context. However, the common practice of weekly drilling meaningless lists of words and then testing them at the end of the week merely widens the gap between those that normally do well and reinforces the perception of constant failure for those that normally do not spell well. This process lowers their self-esteem and inhibits their desire to do better.  Thus, the habit of drilling and testing are inefficient learning methods, particularly for those who struggle.

There was an interesting comment by Giles Pickford, which I have included below:
"It is worth remembering that neither Keats nor Shakespeare were very good at spelling, but they could write. Good spelling is definitely desirable, but a bad speller is not necessarily a failure. There has to be some tolerance and balance in the judgement."Giles was on to something here because he demonstrates that people can be very successful even though they are not good spellers. 

Spelling is very important but it should not cloud our judgement. For a struggling speller there is nothing more degrading to the human spirit than to find that your best efforts earn you the opportunity to stay in the classroom and write every mistake 50 times each while your friends are playing in the playground. Likewise, red lines drawn through every fourth or fifth word in a creative writing activity reinforce the notion that it is better not to try than to try and fail. 

There are many ways to teach spelling that focus on meaning and the joy of using written language to communicate, express creative ideas and encourage a desire to improve.    

No comments:

Post a Comment