Let’s say your 6th grade 12-year-old child, of average to above average  intelligence spelled the following words:

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

Then he wrote 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 let’s say you have a 7 year old in the second grade who writes:

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

(Translated as best I can- “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  the response  from the school was the following:

“Spelling doesn’t matter.  He can always 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 who are given typical exposure to words through a variety of reading and spelling activities  progress smoothly These kids read, spell and write pretty well and then they do more of it.    Effectively, the rich getting richer.

The rest of the population are not in the same position.  They are not in tune to the sounds within words and spelling does not come to them naturally.  They are at a decided disadvantage.  They need to have these sounds taught much more explicitly with much greater practice following.

It’s a long, slow process.

Why bother when there’s spell check, as the school told these parents?

I will answer by way of an example.

Josh, is a 19 year old college student with an IQ in the superior range (i.e., above 130).  He’s extremely savvy with technology and all things modern.  There’s one problem. As high as his IQ is, that’s how low his skill and confidence are regarding spelling and writing.

How did Josh fare as a first year college student?  Even though he had a 504 Plan in place that gave him some basic accommodations, he spent 90% of his time in college doing one thing – avoiding.

When Josh came home and met with me to discuss what was going on, he shared some of his writing.  It was painfully obvious at first glance that Josh had severe writing (and spelling) deficits that made him acutely embarrassed.  There was barely a complete sentence and most of the words beyond the most basic were severely misspelled.

Over the years Josh really never received the ongoing, explicit instruction needed.

Spelling is tough  there are words that don’t easily “play by the rules” (think of a word like “because”) and there are others that require a certain level of sound/symbol awareness that just don’t come easily to the Josh types.

A study conducted of practices in the classroom where teacher practices  were observed, revealed that less than 4% of the language arts instructional block time is devoted to spelling or spelling related activities.

For the 70% mentioned above, that’s fine.  They get these skills  intuitively and by third grade they are spelling just fine, thank you.

For the Josh types, this is a formula for disaster.

Takeaway Point

Spell check is a helpful tool.  It is not a substitute for the challenging work needed for the Josh’s among us.

Copyright, 2019 www.shutdownlearner.com
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