What do we really know about spelling?

Friday, September 16, 2022 by Catherine Gilliland | Spelling

What do we really know about spelling?

Photo Credit: The Classroom Key

Is spelling instruction important? Is spellcheck enough for those who struggle with spelling?  Spellcheck is undeniably a helpful resource; however, the quality of one's spelling skills impacts school success and ultimately, success in life itself. Whether fair or not, our misspelled words can make us look "bad" in front of others. More than impacting our public image, poor spelling can contribute to a poor self-image and struggles with reading proficiencies. The most recent research shows that serial sub-lexical skills [intentional and structured phonics, spelling, and handwriting] are foundational for the development of reading brain circuitry. (Gentry, Richard. "Why Spelling Instruction Should Be Hot in 2022—2023". Psychology Today blog, Jan. 5, 2021)

What causes problems with spelling? Two systems contribute to spelling acuity: the visual and the auditory systems. Weaknesses in either of these systems contribute to problems with spelling. Is that the end? Thankfully, NO! Both of these systems can be strengthened and therefore improve spelling proficiencies, making spelling difficulties a thing of the past.

Has your student peered at a word with a quizzical look on their face? They are using their visual system to see if their written word "looks right". With increasing reading exposure, a student's ability to visually determine a word's correct appearance grows. Auditory system acquity grows progressively as a student is exposed to letters or letter combinations and their related sounds. The pace of a student's visual and auditory system development is tied directly strong phonics based reading systems. There is mounting evidence that points to the importance of direct spelling instruction being provided in tandem with reading instruction. Word reading become automatic which further propels growth in reading comprehension.

Check back on the next three Mondays for more information on the following spelling topics: stages of development, methods of spelling: memorization vs. sounds to letters, and how to structure the process of spelling instruction.