Why do we spend so much time teaching spelling?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Tyler B., Apr 2, 2012.

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  1. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Last year I did not use our district's spelling program. At year-end I gave the program's final assessment and found no difference in scores over the years I did use the program.

    What I did do:
    Every week I would have a "ticket out the door" whereby my third grade students needed to write a 30 word essay with no spelling errors. We also had major writing projects every two weeks that were "published" (Put up on the wall.) which had to be error free.

    Stopping the spelling program gave me an extra 20 minutes a day for Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) and writing projects. I'm never going back.

    Here are some research finding by Stephen D. Krashen:

    • Students who read more become better spellers
    • SSR just as effective or more effective than teaching spelling by direct instruction
    • Uninstructed students learn to spell just as well as instructed students when given time for SSR
    • Children can spell a substantial number of words they haven’t been directly taught
    • Each word taught through direct instruction requires 20 minutes of time.
     
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  3. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I totally agree with this.
     
  4. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    We stopped teaching spelling a few years ago and focus on more vocabulary instead.
    Kids don't really learn their spelling words. They memorize them, pass the test, and the forget them. The don't apply them to their writing. Therefore, it is a waste of instructional time (in my opinion).
     
  5. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Tyler,

    You bring up some excellent points. I think what it shows is how great silent reading can be. I agree SSR is more important than a spelling program. I do think a spelling program with SSR can be even more beneficial. I don't think spelling instruction is "bad", I just think the benefit is limited enough that items such as SSR should not be interfered with. I use spelling instruction, but not near the amount that those silly publishers recommend. I find a little bit of direct spelling instruction is needed and helpful though.
     
  6. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    How right you are! Remember that "ticket out the door" assignment? It quickly became clear who needed help even when abundantly motivated.

    Those students received spelling strategy instruction right when they were the most curious.


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  7. CFClassroom

    CFClassroom Connoisseur

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    It depends on what you're teaching. I don't think you can really 'teach' spelling. You're teaching memorizing. I DO think you can and should teach word study.

    I agree there are countless benefits to SSR, but kids need explicit instruction as well.
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    :thumb:
     
  9. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Exactly. If you're simply giving the students a list of words, and the instruction focuses on learning those words, then they are only memorizing those words. But if you are looking at a pattern, analyzing the pattern, finding examples, exceptions, and non-examples, and applying the patterns to new words, I believe there is a benefit. My students always have "cold words" on their tests--words that have the patterns we are learning, but that they haven't studied. This allows me to see who has internalized the rules, and who needs some extra practice with them.

    I also believe spelling is an area where it is important, and fairly easy, to differentiate.
     
  10. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    We study spelling patterns, and words that go along with our spelling patterns are our spelling words for the week. I do find it very beneficial because the students become aware of the different patterns, making them more successful when they come across an unknown word with a familiar pattern. In addition, those words are in the stories we read for the week. I find that this actually helps them become better readers.
     
  11. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    I don't really see how you teach "spelling." To me "spelling" is more than just memorizing letters it's understanding vocabulary and phonics. While I agree reading makes students better spellers I don't think independent reading should completely replace direct instruction in vocabulary/phonics.
     
  12. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    We all have different teaching situations. These come with expectations from our administrators and parents.

    As for me, I find removing the spelling workbook, weekly tests and phonics, and replacing it with additional reading and writing activities, to be profoundly beneficial. Students learn the spelling anyway and get a extra dose of reading and writing.


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  13. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    I agree with what you said Tyler about spelling and weekly tests, etc. For my kids though, I love using the Sitton Spelling program because it teaches high frequency words (core words) and word patterns. It helps them in writing and reading, yet there isn't a "weekly test". Perhaps its because I'm in 2nd grade, but my kids def need something. Its been really good for my class, but I know it doesn't work for everyone.
     
  14. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Most kids earn A's and B's in Spelling. And MOST kids spell atrociously. So yes, I also believe the standard way of "teaching" Spelling is a waste of time. But TBH, what alternative is there? The learning day is already jam-packed.
     
  15. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Apr 5, 2012

    I teach grade 1, and have decided not to do a formal spelling program this year. I am still teaching spelling, though. There are no lists to memorize or weekly tests. Instead I am teaching phonices, blends, digraphs and word families. I want students to understand patterns at this point, rather then memorizing lists of words.

    They have 5 weekly sight words to learn and we use these in a variety of ways throughout the week.

    I really like the "Words Their Way" approach to spelling, because it focuses on pattern. When I taught grade 6 I used this and felt like I really 'taught' spelling for the first time.
     
  16. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    As some of you know, my 9 year old has auditory processing issues.

    She's a bright little girl, but phonics is simply lost on her. She can't sound out a word. She'll say "ccccccc-aaaaaaa-tttttt- TAP!!"

    For her, as much as it's agonizing to do, memorizing spelling is the only thing that works. Her teacher is wonderful, and gives her a modified spelling list-- and Kira still does miserably. But until we come up with something that works better, formal spelling lists are the only way she seems to be able to learn to spell.
     
  17. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Kira deserves a teacher who will meet her academic needs. It looks like that means a memorization program.

    65% of students will learn all the grade level words with no instruction whatsoever. Their needs need to be met as well. They shouldn't have to sit through a spelling program they don't need.


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  18. appleaday180

    appleaday180 Rookie

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    I recently purchased a program, Samson's Classroom, that focuses solely on language arts to work on my student's spelling. Once this software comes in I will do away with "teaching spelling words" and essentially have this program tighten up their spelling skills! By having them read, they will fine tune the words the are uncomfortable with.
     
  19. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I don't have a problem with software giving students practice. It should be used for students who need the extra practice with phonics.


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    favorite blogs: http://ed-is-life.blogspot.com/ and http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/
     
  20. applecore

    applecore Devotee

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    :thumb:
     
  21. Mrs Teacher

    Mrs Teacher Rookie

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    Apr 11, 2012

    Shocking.... but yet not shocking at all! haha. If I did the same study... I may find the same results, very insightful!

    I want to tweak my spelling too. I LOVE your 30 word exit essay... just the thought that they MUST spell all the words... makes you wonder how well they can spell if they actually try.

    I'm thinking of incorporating more instruction on HOW to find the correct spelling if you don't know as well as ways to generalize spelling patterns (and be aware of exceptions).

    There's just so much to do in a day!
     
  22. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    Mrs. Teacher, can you give examples what you mean by that? Except for learning some common roots, are there other ways?

    This is a very interesting and eye-opening discussion. I'm trying to work at home on my son's spelling. He is a 4th grader and a horrible speller. For the past 2 years I've been working hard to help him before spelling tests, do extra practices with his words, etc. And even if he writes his test well, in a month, 2, 3, he is back to misspelling the same words.

    I wish our teachers would think about alternatives to spelling tests!
     
  23. bison

    bison Habitué

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    Apr 11, 2012

    I agree that this is very interesting! Tyler, what grade do you teach?
     
  24. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I'm at third grade now, but I'm hoping to loop with this wonderful class.

    I find this interesting as well. It turns out that motivation has the most powerful effect on student spelling performance. I'm a terrible speller, but when I'm filling out an application or writing a love note to my wife, everything is spelled correctly.


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  25. Redhead1

    Redhead1 Rookie

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    Yes, my daughter is eleven and a terrible speller as well. It's always phonetic, but so often wrong: things like "auful" or "bubbul."

    What -- if anything -- helps a kid who struggles with spelling? Will more time reading really help? If spelling tests and spelling practice don't help, then what does??
     
  26. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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  27. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Reading, spelling, and vocabulary work should all feed on each other, Redhead1 - so, yes, more reading is helpful. Coaching in spelling patterns would also be a good idea; for about fourth grade on up, a good resource is Barron's cheap and kid-friendly Painless Spelling.
     
  28. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    When looking at spelling patterns, I think it's also important to look at examples and non-examples. My students love finding the "rule-breakers" (;)) and being on the lookout for them helps them notice and remember those words.
     
  29. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Some children are unable to process the patterns and rules that seem so clear others. Sometimes it's hard for left-brained teachers to understand why a right-brained student can't just remember the i-before-e rule.

    The most important element in instructing these students is to give them confidence in themselves and their abilities. Some great writers were terrible spellers; so although spelling may be a big deal for an 11 year old, it's really not that important in the long run.

    What I try to do with these students is to help them memorize high-frequency words and teach them spell-check strategies using hand-held devices or computers.


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    favorite blogs: http://ed-is-life.blogspot.com/ and http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/
     
  30. woobie5

    woobie5 Comrade

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    Interesting discussion. A couple of questions:

    1) How on EARTH do they spell 30 w/o errors in an essay? My kids would FREAK!! Just exposure to SSR has helped?

    2) Anyone suggest a good resource that teaches the rules for spelling patterns. We have the Treasures reading program and I do like how the words are organized into a pattern but they don't give the dang rule and I'm not an expert so I'm horrible at even teaching them rule for the spelling pattern.
     
  31. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Rules tend to be 'generalizations' as there is always an exception to the rule....I had a long discussion one day with an educator who seriously thought 'weird' was indeed spelled 'wierd' because of the 'rule'.

    I love love Words Their Way as students are working at their own levels of understanding. 'Making Words' by Patricia Cunningham is a great resource for activities and I love Di Snowball's work in spelling. 'The Spelling Teacher's Book of Lists' is a great resource as well.

    While we're discussing spelling, can we please please please eradicate the usage of the word 'loose' when meaning 'lose'...at least on these forums?:dizzy: it happens way too often to be a typo.:crosseyed just a wish...there won't be a test!
     
  32. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    I will say that I am not a fan of spending much time on spelling. I usually go over the words at the beginning of the week, assign homework that will have them practice the words (memorization tactics) and then give the test at the end of the week.
    If not for the fact that it provides an easy grade for the grade book and a motivating factor for students who do learn from the memorization, I would be perfectly okay with getting rid of the spelling grade altogether.
     
  33. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    We start with something like 10 words or more and boost it up each term.

    I would only teach the spelling rules to students who seem responsive to that type of learning. You can do this easily when checking their 10 word essays. "Say Suzie, Just like your name, it's usually i-before-e."
     
  34. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Fortunately, "weird" and "weir" involve the same vowel spelled the same way.

    (Spelling in English would be much less chaotic if English borrowed fewer words from other languages, if English were less likely to preserve the original spelling of the borrowed words, and if the Roman alphabet had come equipped with enough symbols to represent each of the sounds - especially the vowels - in Old English. But I digress.)

    I'm less inclined to teach rules (because they ARE so subject to exceptions) than to teach patterns. The Barrons book I mentioned a few posts back is the most cost-effective book I know of that lays those patterns out with reasonable clarity.

    A kid who's ready to spell "receive" is old enough to learn to spell "reception"; teaching the noun, in which the e simply makes sense phonically, makes it much easier to sell the e before i in the corresponding verb, and teaching the -ceive/-cept alternation ("deceive"/"deception", "conceive/conception") makes even more sense.
     
  35. Mrs Teacher

    Mrs Teacher Rookie

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    I meant mostly working with common roots and bases, lots of work on prefixes and suffixes, but also direct lessons on how to use a dictionary (both paper dictionaries and digital dictionaries). I've been requiring my students to type their writing when it's being published and many needed extensive practice on word processing. It's not a skill that they're tested on but word processing is so crucial to life these days that I'd like for them to be able to use it productively.
     
  36. TripleTeach

    TripleTeach Rookie

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    This whole idea intrigues me, because I have not been satisfied with our spelling program over the last few years. I just don't see a lot of improvement in students' spelling skills.

    Do you find that your students write using only only simple sentences and easy, familiar words so that they can "pass" the essay?
     
  37. scholarteacher

    scholarteacher Connoisseur

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    I think if we teach the patterns in words--that is, ear can say ear as in ear, ear as in bear, or ear as in earth--we would make spelling a lot easier. I hear that effective writing is a 21st century skill, so why would we cut back on teaching spelling? Doesn't make sense to me. I even heard that for National Boards, they only grade on content and not conventions such as spelling and punctuation. Definitely strange to me!
     
  38. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I agree. I think spelling is very important to literacy when we focus on the spelling patterns, which is what I do with my students. If a student knows the spelling patterns, he/she will be able to read other words with those similar spelling patterns. I am not sure how we can say that spelling doesn't matter. It does.
     
  39. a2z

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    Apr 17, 2012

    Syllables are also very important to teaching spelling. Syllabication drives a lot of what people view as exceptions to the 'rules'.

    Have questions about syllabication and spelling, watch some of the Barton Reading System videos.
     
  40. a2z

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    If you don't know how to teach it and there is some technology to replace it (which technology doesn't really replace spelling), it is easier to say it doesn't matter. Also, just make a comparison to a larger concept, and it justifies it as well.

    Our school system basically doesn't grade spelling in writing anymore. So, in terms of the education the students receive, it doesn't matter. They won't be marked down for poor spelling only poor spelling on spelling tests. Once they stop in 5th grade, it no longer matters - until you get Mrs. L. Then it matters. Ooops. Too late. But if you don't get Mrs. L, not a problem until you get to college. Big oops.
     
  41. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    The assumption is that technology will take care of all of that for the student.
     
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