Who sez spelling sux?

If I had a dollar, or maybe ten, for every time I’ve heard an English teacher say, “Spelling doesn’t matter, just get the ideas down,” or “Don’t worry about spelling…” I would be wealthy enough to retire!

Actually, spelling does matter. It matters because it is a critical aspect of being literate and being literate matters. Being literate opens up your choices in life and no, you won’t die if you can’t spell but if you can it will help your reading and vocabulary.
 
When people ask me what my PhD research is about and I say, “adolescent word level literacy skills” they look blank.  When I say, “You know, decoding and spelling and vocabulary, morphology stuff…” they look sympathetic and slightly disbelieving. I want to, but often don’t, point them to the research that shows that students, who have been taught the spelling of new words, as well as the meanings, remember more words than students who have not.
 
The literate world can roughly be divided into three groups of people: those who are good at reading and spelling, those who are good at reading and bad at spelling and those who are bad at both reading and spelling.
 
The group in the middle, the unexpectedly bad spellers, are often not as good at reading as they say they are. They don’t like reading aloud, often mispronounce long unfamiliar words and don’t find it easy to read made up nonwords like ‘gowmicious’.  I suspect that this group did not get taught to focus on the all the letters that make up a word but were probably taught to look at the first letter, sound it out, look at the sentence, look at the illustration and have a guess… Actually very good readers process all the letters in words, in a flash. 
 
The biggest complaint about English spelling is how difficult it is and how many exceptions there are. But English is not as ‘irregular’ as it is made out to be by many poor spellers. Kids need to learn about patterns, about principles of spelling and about the layers of language. For example ‘ch’ can be used to write three sounds such as  the ‘ch’ sound in ‘child’ (Anglo Saxon), the ‘sh’ sound in ‘champagne’ (Romance) and the ‘k’ sound in psychology (Greek).
 
If kids start to find these patterns, which can be a fun thing to do, they might stop thinking that spelling sux. Who knows we might even foster a love of words…
 

Jessica Craig

Accent Learning