Spelling and Classroom Practices
A series of recommendations to
for progressive classroom policies and
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
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
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
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
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
Lost causes may show future trends. For example, these
'spelling demons' could follow the present trends and be
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
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
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
- 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
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
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
-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
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
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
Here are some other interesting addresses.
Let us know if they drop off the web.
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