I have always been, what is considered to be, a poor speller. The kid who was once kept in through lunch and had to miss out on a special whole school treat after lunch (yes I struggled for 2 hours) because she just could not remember how to spell ‘next’. A kid who didn’t even have the understanding that the dictionary in her desk (or had I lost it and was too scared to ask to borrow another) would solve my problem.
For the last 18 hours while writing yet another private blog post/email/possible chapter for my book, I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to spell ‘succumb’!! Was it ‘circome’, ‘surcome’, or even ‘sercome’? Can you see where the problem was?
Did I race upstairs to grab my phone that has not only a dictionary, but a lovely app called ‘Speller’? There’s no longer anyone to scare me enough not to enjoy, what these days is such a pleasure, inquiry! It could have been a stubborn streak that does, I confess, prevent me from ‘checking the map’ from time to time; not only men are afflicted by this small road block to discovery and enlightenment! It could have been the four, possibly five glasses of wine – or did I consume those after I recognised a blockage in my underdeveloped, fragile, insecure, spelling synapses? It could also have been the late hour and having endured three days of temperatures above 40 degrees celsius with no cooling in the house.
No matter. In the cool, calm, light of day, with, I might add, no hangover, I reach for my phone, and discover, the problem lay in my pronunciation of the word! Who would of (or is that ‘have’) thought!
My point is, do we need to teach Spelling once a child has begun to read and write with enthusiasm and fervour? When should we stop using up valuable timetabled lesson time to play with word sounds and patterns in isolation to the joys of written expression?
I was always an under achiever throughout Primary and Secondary school. I hazard a guess that much of it was connected to my ignored and struggling wellbeing; but that’s another blog post or posts. I do know, that once I was given the time and encouragement to write, and the freedom to read what I like, words became my friends.
If I misspell, I have spell-check, a phone and about 6 or 8 dictionaries and thesauruses on my bookshelf. I have trusted peers that will, I hope happily, read my rough drafts.
Before you shake your head, reach for the keyboard and begin your lengthy counter argument to my pondering; which I most certainly welcome – nothing like healthy educated debate to help clear up matters of pedagogy. Let me expand upon this train of thought and dabble, ever so slightly, in the role of devil’s advocate for a moment.
Recently I was given a small spelling group of Year Five students, dare I add, a huge waste of a teacher librarian’s skills, for a Term. There was a program to follow and a more than resistant, disinterested group of low achieving spellers to drag kicking and screaming through 11 weeks of sounds, blends, word sorts and spelling tests. Needless to say, I soon learnt that it was up to me to squeeze some fun out of the program; like blood from a stone. Thank goodness for iPads and my love of thinking creatively outside the box; anything to avoid the dull and tedious.
Once the fun had begun, my litmus test was the boy, who for the first lesson hid under his desk and tried to avoid walking into the room for the second, I loosened my hold on the ‘program’, gathered samples of their creative and non-fiction writing and did what I have always done, helped the children explore words in their natural environment, the place where words have meaning and relevance.
Yes it’s a full, hands on kind of spelling lesson. Students reading their own writing, discovering misspelt words through collaborative editing with their peers and teacher. Smiling at the anomaly uncovered and then inquiring into why this little devil of a word has such a need to be spelt so differently to how we originally thought it should be spelt! Out come the dictionaries, on goes the iPad and here comes the discussion. Oh, what’s that I see? Another word that seems to insist upon being spelt with the same pattern! I wonder how many more there are? Actually no, I think this word would be a better one to use for this sentence in my story…
You get the idea.
Now, pull out that keyboard. Let’s discuss spelling!