Thursday, September 10, 2009

Topic: Spelling.

10-second review: Spelling bees have become a national sport on ESPN. But they, with their exotic words, don’t help the average speller. Direct instruction in spelling is needed in the classroom.

Title: “Spelling Makes a Comeback.” Stacy A. Teicher. The Christian Science Monitor. May 17, 2005. Internet.

Summary: One approach to teaching spelling is to analyze the types of spelling errors in students’ writing and to develop lessons directed at the reasons for the errors. Another approach is to have a list of “no-excuse” words in which papers are returned for correction if one of those words appears misspelled.

Comment; I still like Harry Shefter’s [Six Minutes a Day to Perfect Spelling] approach to visualizing predictable misspellings (arGUMent. “Never chew GUM in an arGUMent”); (beLIEve. “Never beLIEve a LIE”). Shefter, formerly a professor at New York University, believes that most parts of most words can be sounded out and accurately spelled. However, words containing what is known as the indefinite vowel, the “schwa,” contain vowels that are not clearly pronounced. One needs to visualize those kinds of words, and Shefter suggests that you “blow up” the trouble spot and provide a “silly sentence” to help visualize the indefinite part of the word. Example: cEmEtEry. “ ‘EEE!’ she screamed as she passed the cEmEtEry.”

I suggest that, in addition to this entertaining gimmick, known as a mnemonic device, teachers, especially from fifth through 12th grades, need to work consistently with predictable spelling problems: multi-syllable words (accidentally); -sede, -ceed, -cede words (supersede, proceed, exceed, succeed; intercede, etc.); words ending in –ful (spoonful); indefinite vowel (gramMAR); i before e (believe, receive, weigh); plurals of nouns ending in o (potatoes, pianos); doubling the final consonant (prefer’red; pref’erence; chop/chopped); words ending in –ly (absolutely; doubtfully); silent e (desire/desirable); prefixes (dissatisfied); c/s confusion (consensus); words often mispronounced (mischievous); words frequently confused (cereal, serial); silent letters (benign); plurals (mothers-in-law; story/stories; monkey/monkeys); students’ personal spelling demons.

See Teaching English, How To….Raymond Stopper, Xlibris, 2009, pp. 279-294. RayS.

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