Friday, May 15, 2009

Topic: Spelling, the Dreadful Ordeal (3)

10-second review: Taking the pain out of spelling tests.

Title: “In the Age of Computers, Is Spelling Still a Worthwhile Subject in the English Curriculum?” Raymond Stopper. Teaching English, How To…. Xlibris. 2004.

Taking the Pain Out of Spelling Tests: Daily Success

I used another technique to take the pain out of learning to spell: Instead of just on Fridays, I gave the spelling test every day. Same words, or, at least, the same problem. After introducing the words on Monday, with emphasis on the particular spelling problem that they represented, I used the spelling test as the first thing the students did at the beginning of class each day. It always helps to have some activity right at the beginning of class to settle the students down, to put them right to work. Every day, the students came into class, received their spelling tests from the day before, noted their grades, which were almost always 100%, and waited expectantly to hear me dictate that day’s words.

The spelling problem was the same for the entire week. Sometimes the words were different but the problem was the same. Sometimes I gave the same words with the same problem every day with the intention that the students would achieve 100% every day. My goal was both mastery of those words and understanding the spelling problem. Since I emphasized the method for dealing with the spelling problem, the students almost always achieved 100% every day and that 100%, or whatever high average they achieved, was one part of their final grade. Even with review tests of words we had already covered, I gave the same ten words every day of the week. I guaranteed success.

A Complete Spelling Program for Secondary Schools

The trouble spot/association technique is a gimmick, of course, a gimmick that works. To be most useful, the technique needs to be part of a complete spelling program. Such a program consists of emphasis on (1) breaking down multi-syllable words; (2) studying words that are predictably misspelled; (3) learning spelling generalizations that work most of the time; (4) keeping lists of personal spelling demons; (5) providing instruction in proofreading; and (6) letting students take daily spelling tests that assure almost 100% success.

Next blog: Selecting and Introducing the Words for Spelling Instruction

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