Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Topic: Spelling, the Dreadful Ordeal (6)

10-second review: Personal spelling demons, proofreading and Summary

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

Personal Spelling Demons

Students should keep a list of words they frequently misspell when they write. Of course, they can put these words into the “auto-correct” feature of their word processors and, when using the computer, if they misspell the word, it will be corrected automatically without their conscious awareness. But it also helps to organize the personal list of misspelled words according to the spelling problem they represent and to use the techniques introduced in the spelling program to help them master the correct spelling for times when they are not using computers.

Proofreading: A Different Type of Reading.

Students need to be taught to proofread. Proofreading is different from normal reading. If students proofread the way they normally read, from beginning to end, they are likely to read too quickly, passing over the details of words—which they should do when reading normally. However, proofreading requires careful examination of the details of every word.

One technique I have used to slow students down so that they do notice the details of every word is to have them read backwards, from the end of the composition, starting with the last word, to the beginning of the composition, finishing with the first word. I did not invent this technique, which has been around a long time, but it works. Students are thereby able to see the misspelled words they might have passed over if reading normally from beginning to end. Proofreading would, of course, be taught and reinforced in every grade as part of the writing program.

Summary of RayS’s Complete Spelling Program

Misspellings are an embarrassment. Misspellings seem to suggest that the writer is lazy, careless, pays no attention to details, has no desire for excellence and is uneducated. I have heard some employers say that a misspelled word on a resume means that it is relegated to the trash can. The use of selling checkers on computers should make the problem of spelling much less of a problem.

However, even with computerized spelling checkers, I think spelling instruction is still important. Knowing how to spell frequently misspelled words enables writers to write fluently and confidently, and “inventing” spelling, guessing at the spelling of words, as they write, enables writers to use a broad vocabulary, unconstrained by concerns for spelling, which will be checked as the last step in the writing process.

In a society in which a single misspelled word invites criticism that hurts, confidence in spelling helps to eliminate one significant fear of expressing ideas in writing. Taught the way I suggest, after words are introduced, spelling takes the first five minutes or so of class, helps to settle the class down, and focuses only on words likely to be used and misspelled. Teaching students how to proofread for spelling is also essential. In my experience, spelling instruction is much more efficient—and even enjoyable—this way. RayS.

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