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Volume 10 • #10 • October 2006


Practically every state in the union has some sort of state-wide tests that they foist off on their hapless students because of something called the No Child Left Behind Act, which really means no child left behind except for Those That Are Already Behind.  The government is happy to pontificate about standards, but God forbid it should back up its demands with the money needed to revise curriculum and reteach teachers.

Combine this fact with the residue from that monster,  “Whole Language”, with its ugly stepchild, “invented spelling” and you get the mediocre to poor spellers of today’s generation, with the mediocre reading that is its concomitant. For the fact is that if you want to teach a child to read, you must teach him to spell.  The excuse that English is so irregular that you can’t do it is baloney, to put it politely.  Some ambitious soul once spent a lot of time coming up with the information that 85% of English words have either regular or consistent spellings. By consistent, he meant something like this:  the letters,  -tion don’t look as though they would be pronounced,  shun, but they ALWAYS are.

It is not enough to teach phonics, which is the reverse-  pronounciing what you see.  You also have to write what you hear, and that’s spelling.  The mistake people make is thinking that you teach spelling by teaching the kids how to spell the words that are on their lists for Monday’s test.  You don’t.  You teach spelling by teaching SPELLING RULES each of which apply to hundreds of words. But most teachers were never taught the rules, themselves.  Do you, for instance, know why there is a t in -tch, or a d in -dge?  Why reference has only one r in the middle and referral has two? Why picnic is not spelled picknick?  For that matter, do you know the four ways to spell the sound, /k/ and when you use each one? Do you know that -ti  and  -ci  are used to spell “sh” in hundreds of words, and that the rule is simple?

No, these rules are not so complicated that kids just get frustrated trying to learn them all.  I have been teaching them for 35 years to dyslectic kids who are the worst spellers in the world and they have not only lived through, but thrived, and even learned to read! 




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