Just a spell?

How important is it really to instruct students in spelling?

I was wondering around my Year 7 English class, admiring their posters that provided all the necessary details of their lives and what they entailed (accompanied by a token sheepish family picture taken on a holiday that past year gone).

I was startled to see one boy herald Drake as his “favourite raper”.

Another time, one of my Year 10 students submitted a written history lambasting Australia as a “penile colony“.


So, you see, spelling most certainly has its merits, pioneering against the cursory glance provided by a spell-check.

I can also remember my uni days (first undergraduate: BA) where I took an amazing creative writing course (formerly taught by none other than Helen Garner over at good ole Newcastle University!) where we workshopped a piece of work by another student and give feedback the following tutorial.

A girl had written about this executive woman in her foe channel suits. After muddling over this unforeseen inclusion of an enemy network, it dawned on me that she was of course referring glibly to a faux Chanel suit.

Words and their etymology have always been of great intrigue and joy to me. As a child, reading words like “giggle” made me see each “g” curled up in laughter. I spent a lot of time attempting to disprove the “i before e, except after c” rule (their, weird, skein, etc..).

I now enjoy learning of words and their histories, and teach a great lesson unit in slang that looks at how language has evolved.

This is all fundamental to spelling, really. As a teacher, I am deeply intrigued by the idea of teaching spelling based on formulaic data essentially that assesses the areas to focus on based on the nature of the errors made.

Still, I am hard pressed to do much active “spelling” teaching, it is definitely true that kids who read are much better spellers due to their exposure to the complex English language.


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