Let’s say your 12-year-old sixth grader, spells the following words:

  • bref  (brief)
  • susess  (success)
  • edcccate  (educate)
  • resolt  (result)
  • kicten  (kitchen

Then he writes the following story to a picture prompt:

          “Once a o pon a time there was a kid that was a million air and he whated to buy a house   he look at so many house and finally found a house. but it needed a lot of work So                 the kid hierd lots of people to help him but after thay were all done the house went back  to it whent back to the way  it was.”

Or, perhaps you have an 8-year- old third grader who writes:

            “I hrd a son.  It was funne. My dad was beyenfunne was he dats Wen he was in the cr  Wan we wr gown to the prck.”

(Translated as best I can after the child tried to tell it to me –  “I heard a song.  It was funny.  My dad was being funny when he danced.  When he was in the car when we were going to the park.”)

In each case, when the parents raised the issue of their concerns about their child’s spelling and writing,  the response was, “Well, spelling really doesn’t matter – they can use spell check.”

For those of you following this blog for a while, I am sure that you will predict that I respectfully disagree.

In the early grades, about 70% of the kids progress smoothly in reading, spelling and writing without any special intervention.

The more they do of these activities, the better they get, creating a positive growing snowball effect, as it picks up momentum rolling along.

Effectively, the rich get richer.

For the 20-30% on the other side, it’s not simply a matter of doing more of the activities that will lead to improvement.

For this group they are not attuned to the sounds within words or the concepts of writing a sentence and these skills do not come naturally.

They are at a decided disadvantage and need to have these sounds taught much more explicitly with much greater practice following the direct instruction.

It’s a long, slow process.

A study conducted of practices in the classroom where teacher practices were observed, revealed that less than 5% of the language arts instructional block time is devoted to spelling or direct instruction in writing.

For the 70% mentioned above that’s fine, for the rest, simply saying “They can use spell check” is not a substitute for the challenging work needed.

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