Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday Morning Reflection

Good morning world, I have been doing my usual meander through my Bloglines Reader this morning and came across an interesting discussion which is going on regarding ' Spelling and What is the best way to learn '. Over at Education Investigation JLeitze pondered the issue refering to Wes Fryer's recent post "The outboard brain, memory, transfer and learning"
In his article Wes ranged over issues relating to questioning using higher level thinking skills allowing pupils to use technology in a meaningful way ( his example was kids being asked meaningless lower order, unrelated questions as a means of demoralising kids rather than encouraging their higher order skills ), a thought provoking read for all web 2.0 protagonists.
Wes followed by challenging the traditional way of almost old fashioned rote learning of spellings - unrelated word lists as Wes goes on to relate'
"There is virtually NO academic research I read or was exposed to in my masters and doctoral graduate coursework in education which suggests giving students spelling tests of decontextualized words on a weekly basis improves their abilities to spell, read or write. The real skill related to spelling is WRITING, and the best way to improve writing skills (according to the body of literacy research reviewed by Dr. Stephen Krashen of USC in his excellent book, “The Power of Reading, Second Edition: Insights from the Research” is to encourage students to READ prolifically. My son, like his mother, is simply not a speller. His brain is apparently not wired to visually remember the spelling of words, and he’s regularly done poorly on spelling tests. I am absolutely, positively not worried about this. Since this summer when he started reading the Harry Potter books, he has been voraciously consuming literature."
Wes's point regarding reading being the key to spelling reminded me of a podcast from Judy O'Connell in Australia, called Reading at Delany, in which Mr Geoffrey Lee relates his story of a failing kid who wanted had a goal and reached it by becoming a reader, a great listen if you have a few minutes.
As I prepare to leave the classroom in December, I can look over 19 years of development in education, many things have changed, Mathematics has become more investigative as other foundation areas of the curriculum here in the UK, but ( there is always a but!) spelling is still in over 90% of classes in UK schools a list based system, whether this is topic related or word family/ sound related, almost always an unrelated list of words taken out of context - surely in a Web 2.0 world there must be a better way to teach our pupils to spell - is Wes right 'reading is the key to a full lifelong enjoyment and understanding of the written.
It also relates to another article in Education Investigation regarding the use of 21st Century Learning tools - I guess for us all how can we use them to enhance and improve the quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms - I know that Jane Nicholls of ICTUCAN has spent a year carrying out action reasearch in New Zealand as an E-Fellow into how oral language is improved by the use of powerful web 2.0 technologies such as podcasting ( which has a spin off to writing and spelling) - can blogging have a similar effect on the written word ? - discuss :-)


Allanah said...

Eye am knot shore that just reading a lot will create good spellers. Eye have tort sum grate readers who can't spell two save themselves.

Eye think that learning the hi frequency most used words has a place.

Like hour poetry lesson last week...

We carnt leve it up two the spelling chequer. We hv two ewes hour brains as well......

Eye Have a Spelling Chequer

Eye have a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its really ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it's weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Jane Nicholls said...

LOL Allanah !!!
Blogging most definitely has an effect on spelling, in the same way that podcasting has an effect on pronunciation and clarity. When we produce for an authentic audience we put in the extra effort to make sure it is correct. Without any looking for any research to back me up, this is my opinion.

It is strange to think that we are making all these great changes in our classrooms to create self directed learners yet spelling has continued in the same way since the dark ages.

Mr Harrington said...

Thanks for the comment Allanah cool - great for the spellchecker :-)

Very true Jane, spelling has been left somewhat behind in the developments in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

I hope that this debate will at least get it talked about :-)

Lisa Stevens said...

Perhaps it's a coincidence but my 8 year old son is a voracious reader and a great speller - somehow he knows which words follow which rules,and which ignore them. He's always loved books and taught himself to read. He'll learn a list of words but at the mo he is never given words that trouble him so his spelling list is a waste of time (especially when his 5 year old brother can spell them 75% of them.) So perhaps Wes has hit the nail on the head.
Very thought provoking as you say!

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