Spelling and Classroom Practices

A series of recommendations to investigate
for progressive classroom policies and practices

The prime call at present is for research and development that really investigates how spelling could be improved to better meet the needs of all - especially all those who in this day and age, and at tremendous cost in money, materials and effort, still cannot become adequate sharers in English literacy.

Investigation is desirable, that could meet ethical considerations.

• It would be possible to help disabled lerners by assuming that some improvement in English spelling was imminent, and could be initially eased in by adding to the existing thousands of words which already have optional alternative spellings in dictionaries - eg jail/gaol, judgment/judgement

• Providing lerners from the start with a table of the basic English spelling patterns, which can then be extended to include the exceptions. The table of the basic English spelling patterns for vowels should be constantly available for beginning readers and writers and lerners

• Providing reading matter with phonic cribs on the same page or below words, or, in computer text, apparent at the touch of a button. This is more able to help learners to understand the structure of words than merely voice aids. They are also more able to remember the 'correct' spellings of words, from observing how this varies from its basic phonic structure The SoundSpell program of the American Literacy Council is one such aid to writing and reading.

• Accept publicly that English spelling is only 80% 'regular' - which means that 20% is not - which means that for learners nothing is predictable, because you cannot tell where the mines are buried in the garden, even if only 20% of the garden is mined.

All learners can cheer up when they know that it is
'not ME that is stupid, it's the spelling'
and that one day it will all be cleared up.

• Children's spelling. Experience today proves that most learners do NOT grow out of misspellings unless there is intervention before their most common errors become habits. From Grade I on, the most time-saving way to learn to spell adequately is when teachers 'help you to get the spelling better' (NOT mark it for being WRONG) by marking spelling mistakes that have NO phonic justification and writing in the present correct spelling. The children then write out their own phrase or sentence with the correct spelling in it, in their 'spelling books' so they have their most common spelling problems always available to refer to. They are learning the correct spelling with multiple 'hooks' to keep it in place, from graphomotor practice to visual appearance.

Sometimes children will also be learning the correct form of the word for speaking too - when they may not be sure whether it is SUNDARIN or SUBBAREEN or SUBMARIN.

In children's drafts, creativity may run free with 'Don't worry about the spelling now - if you dont know a word, say it slowly to yourself, and then spell it like it sounds'.

• Learning to look at spelling - A game to help to learn the present spelling, as well as how it could be improved. A page, or a story on the board - 'put a slash thru all the letters that aren't needed - like this - apple a p p l e so you have - a p l

• Lost causes may show future trends. For example, these 'spelling demons' could follow the present trends and be rationalised.

i. Apostrofes
a. for very common shortenings that do not imediatly seem logical or needed. Learners can know what these are shortenings for, but insertion of the apostrofe is optional eg dont wont cant isnt shouldnt etc

b. Possessives. Allow it's. Omitting the apostrofe is a lost cause - and helps to perpetuate confusion about apostrofes for plurals as in vegetable's.

ii. Dubld consonants. Allow them to be omitted by writers when they are not clearly essential. Even comitee or umbrela are not realy problems.

iii. Silent letters. Allow them to be omitted except when they are 'magic e' to show a long vowel sounded like letter names A E I O U. eg det, sisors, heven (all similar to Old English spellings anyway).

iv. Homofones - words that sound the same. Unless they are likely to be confused in context, (like LETTER/LETTER or a very few other word-sets like TWO/TO/TOO or FOUR/FOR/FORE or KNOW/NO) allow the most sensible spelling of a homofone - eg FAIR or TAUT.

The terrible threesome THEYRE/ THERE/THEIR can be remembered by THEY ARE, HERE and THERE and allow THEYRE for THEIR (or remember by It's theIr) but all of them could be better as THAIR.

Confusion of homofones in reading is rare as context almost always automatically determines the meaning, even for THE TRUCK HAS A TENDER BEHIND. In this section alone, you will not have been confused by the following homografic homofones - CAUSES MAY SHOW PRESENT COMMON SHORTENING CAN WONT CANT EVEN LETTERS LONG SOUND LIKE LIKELY SETS RARE WILL

v. F for PH is so common internationaly that everyone recognises TELEFONE, FOTOGRAF, GRAFIC, ELEFANT - and why not.

vi. J for soft G and I for short Y are not so clearly on the way in, but might be allowed - as in DANJER IMAJ SISTEM SILABL

vii. Syllabic consonants are very common in the spelling of young children, as in ANSR LETR COLM APL HAPN. They are also becoming common in TXT MSGs and may also be part of modern streamlining.

viii. -IBL-ABL -ENT-ANT etc. The reason for some of these invidious spelling distinctions may be simply to show whether a word comes strait from Latin or via French. Do we need to realise this still - at what cost? Allow either. Personaly I prefer -ABL to -IBL because of its connotation of 'being able to'. So why not let young spellers have a reason for their choice?

None of these spelling changes would make it dificult to read present spelling.

All of them would be of especial help for those who currently call themselves 'dyslexic' or even 'dislexic'.

What would be the result
of such permissiv but also strict spelling policies
in classrooms and for disabled spellers?

Lerners would be able to think about how they spelled, using reasoning - as they are taught how to reason in maths - instead of being obliged to comply with what is unreasonable from their first days of formal schooling - an unfortunate introduction to being taught how to think.

In a transitional period,alternative spellings may be used inconsistently (as here) but they signal a trend that is coming.

For further notes on spelling:

 1. Introduction
Introduction to spelling improvement. /spockham.htm. Text of a radio broadcast
Rationale. How assumptions and barriers against improving the writing system do not hold. Answering the common objections to spelling improvement. /sration.htm

2 Needs and abilities of users and learners: -

i. Needs and abilities of readers /sreadsp.htm
ii. Needs and abilities of writers to spell - /swritsp.htm
iii. Needs and abilities of learners - /slernsp.htm
iv. Needs and abilities of users of international English - /sintrnt.htm
v. Spelling reform for the Internet (an older page) http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/spinternet.htm

3. The nature and teaching of English spelling

See the online video, http://www.ozreadandspell.com.au
The underlying English spelling system that could be made more consistent - /spelsys.htm
Spelling patterns for the English vowels - /svowchart.htm
The Book of Spells & Misspells
- a treasury of spelling for everyone
22 Lessons in reading and spelling - v01acover.htm
The 16 word spelling test for anyone who thinks they can spell - 16sp.htm
Spelling and classroom practices - sclassprac.htm

4 Improving English spelling

Spelling improvement. 2002. - /spelimp.html
Seven principles to repair English spelling, 2005 - /sp7princ.htm
Cutting out the surplus letters in words.Streamline - a first step in updating spelling. /ssurplu.htm
Quik gidelines for a next step, with sampl texts, and furthr notes /sfastrs.htm. FASTR Spelling
Cutting out surplus letters. /intspel.htm 2002
Further steps you can try yourself, with f, j, consistent word endings and vowel spellings. /intspel2.htm
Further experiments to spel sensibly - Pronunciation and gramr, and a final solusion? /intspel3.htm 2000
The future of English spelling. What can be done? /sfutspe.htm

5. Spelling as an entertainment

Spelling Games - starting with a Spelling ABC - different from a Spelling BEE
16-word Spelling Test of 16 common words that few experts can spell all correctly. /16sp.htm
International English Spelling Day, October 9 /spday.html
How people spelled when they spelled as they liked before the 18th century dictionaries /spfree17c.htm
Don Quixote spells in 'Spelling without traps'. - /spquixote.htm. To come
Twelve Short Short storys about the fùtùr. Can u imagin a mor ùser-frendly speling sistem? Look at every wurd to see if u think its speling is a trap for lerners. ^

6. References

 References. A short list of references up to 1991 that are still relevant. /srefrens.htm

Here are some other interesting addresses. Let us know if they drop off the web.