As I travel around the country, I’m finding that spelling has been rearing its head again lately. Is any teacher truly happy with his/her spelling program? Certainly we’ve all figured out that requiring students to memorize a list of random (or theme-based) words for a test rarely transfers to better overall spelling in everyday writing. That’s because knowing how to spell isn’t just a matter of memorizing; it’s also a matter of problem-solving.
But here’s what else we know: spelling is less about intelligence and more about good visual memory. Some people can just see a word in their minds and spell it correctly. Yet some very smart people struggle to spell even simple words correctly. But the good news is everyone can learn to spell most words. It’s like any skill or talent; we can’t all be Wayne Gretzky, but we can all learn to skate and shoot a puck without falling on our faces.
So if we scrap spelling lessons, what can we replace them with? How about integrating reading, grammar, vocabulary and spelling into “word study”? When we teach new words, let’s focus on the visual features as well as the meanings. Instead of theme-based word lists, let’s explore Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes and root words. Instead of teaching “rules,” let’s guide students to look for patterns in order to understand how our language goes together.
Word sorts are a powerful activity that invite students to discern patterns of language and construct their own generalizations. Click here for more information from High Interest Publishing.