Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Topic: Spelling--The Dreadful Ordeal (1)

10-second review: The effects of spelling on people’s writing.

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

Concern for Spelling Is a Constraint on Writing.

“I’ll never use a word [in writing ] I don’t know how to spell,” the Syracuse University junior stated candidly.

“Bad idea,” I responded. “Your vocabulary will be slim to none. You won’t be able to deliver your ideas with flair. You won’t use that rich vocabulary you’ve developed over the years. Your sentences could sound like those in the Dick and Jane Readers.”

Spelling Is a Significant Problem.

Economics may be the “dismal science,” but spelling is, for many students, a dreadful ordeal. Criticism of spelling hurts. Misspellings on résumés can cause people to be passed over for interviews. The typical spelling lesson in school is a bore. Most spelling texts emphasize sounding out words when poor spellers really need to learn how to visualize the spelling of troublesome words.

One solution to the problem of spelling is to use “invented” spelling, guessing at the spelling of words while writing, without interrupting your train of thought, and then checking and correcting them as the last step in the editing stage of the writing process.

Another solution is to learn how to spell frequently used words that are likely to be misspelled.

Finally, part of the solution to spelling problems is already solved by computerized spelling checkers. In this chapter, I present methods for making spelling instruction not only painless, but interesting, and suggest a complete spelling program—for those who live in the era of the computerized spelling checker.

Computerized Spelling Checkers

Today, spelling checkers, especially the ones that instantly signal via a wavy red line that a word is misspelled [technically, that the word as it is spelled is not recognized by the word processing program’s dictionary of words], even making the correction without the writer’s conscious awareness, have made the problem of spelling less important to people of common sense. Especially to people who know that spelling is a “mop-up” function in the writing process, that which they correct after they have organized their ideas, chosen their words, and arranged their paragraphs to deliver the message.

Criticism of Spelling Hurts.

But who has not had the experience of working hard to produce a piece of writing, only to have a reader say, ignoring ideas, reasoning, logic, and choice of words, “You’ve got a misspelled word here,” and that is the only comment made about the entire paper?

And who has not been penalized by teachers for misspelling words in essay tests when it’s a struggle just to write all of the ideas down in the limited time available?

And who hasn’t suffered the mortification of defeat in spelling bees?

Misspellings seem to suggest that the writer does not care about details, is lazy and even uneducated.

Economics may be the dismal science, but spelling is a dreadful ordeal for those who have difficulty with it.

Spelling in the School Curriculum: Booooring!

The study of spelling in school is boring. Typical lesson plan: Memorize a list of words. Use each word in a sentence. Write each word ten times. Take the test on Friday. Ugh! Sometimes the words in the spelling book are arranged according to spelling problems. That method of organizing words for study makes some sense.

Next blog: Taking the Pain Out of Spelling.

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