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Does spelling really matter?

Does Spelling Really Matter?

What Do Researchers Say?

Researchers are in agreeance; spelling instruction matters and poor spelling should not be ignored.

Noah Webster published his first dictionary in 1806.  In 1773, Noah Webster was quoted saying, "Spelling is the foundation of reading and the greatest ornament of writing."✍️

Catherine Snow (expert on language and literacy development) summarizes the importance of spelling in one of her scholarly articles as follows: “Spelling and reading build and rely on the same mental representation of a word. Knowing the spelling of a word makes the representation of it sturdy and accessible for fluent reading.”

"Spelling also has a strong relationship with reading comprehension. The correlation between spelling and reading comprehension is high because both depend on a common denominator: proficiency with language." Quote taken from American Educator, "How Words Cast Their Spell"

What are the Benefits to Good Spelling Instruction?

Good Spelling Instruction Has Been Proven To...

  • Improve reading fluency
  • Improve reading comprehension
  • Make writing easier
  • Be critical for Literacy Instruction

Isn't the English Language Super Irregular?

You might be surprised to learn that English Language spelling is highly predictable.  If students have knowledge of letter/sound correspondences, word parts, and spelling rules they are on their way to being great spellers!  Our language is 84% rule based.  Let's break this down.  50% of English words are predictable based on letter sound correspondences that are teachable.  Another 34% of English Language words are predictable except for one sound.  Improved spelling is realistic because spelling can be learned and understood.  Good spelling does not rely on having a strong visual memory.  Instead, good spellers develop something called orthographic memory.  This type of memory allows us to remember letters in words and it is created from a combination of knowing letter-sound correspondences and word parts (such as prefixes, suffixes, base and root words).  Notice visual memory is not in the equation.

Can't I just use Spell Check?

Some view spelling instruction as old fashioned and not necessary.  We have computers, right?  Did you know that spell check in your word processing programs was created for those who are more or less good spellers already?  Spell check is intended to catch typos - the occasional small mistake.   It is very common for young children to spell words incorrectly and expect spell check to fix their mistakes.  This is what happens, though.  If a word is not spelled entirely phonetically, spell check will only be able to identify the correct word option 25% of the time.  Other times spell checkers will miss mistakes because of incorrect word choice.  Even if spell checkers were improved to the point of being much more accurate, students would still benefit from explicit instruction in spelling rules and strategies.

Written by: Kelly Steinke, Founder READ Learning Ed. Services, LLC





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