Spelling vs. Writing

By Lorie Lech, January 11, 2010 9:37 PM

Hello!  I have a question to pose to see if I can get some ideas.  It is currently report card time (my faaaaavorite time and, lucky for teachers, it comes 4 times a year!!!).  It seems as though some of my parents tend to  identify spelling as identical to writing.  Even worse, some uphold spelling as much more important than writing content and other writing related strategies.  Why is this?!? As an elementary teacher, I find spelling instruction (by this I mean giving a list of words in which kids write each word 5 times, put the words in alphabetical order, etc.) a complete waste of time and really find it pointless.  Unless the focus is on word patterns or some type of word study, I find memorizing word spellings tedious and small in the grand scheme of learning.I do think it is important to know letter sounds, blends, patterns, etc.  It all comes together as the child grows as a reader and a writer.  But what is the hang up?!!  Is it just that spelling is very clearly assessed by noting that a set of words is spelled correctly or not?  Why is spelling homework something parents feel is SO necessary? Why is it that some of my students’ parents are so critical of their child’s spelling that they miss out on the amazing writing presented by their child?!

Of course, this is definitely my own personal opinion, and maybe not all see it the same.  What do you all think?

By the way, ironically, I tried to hit spell check after writing this, and it kept causing the screen to freeze!! Ha! Go figure!

(PS—I teach 2nd grade, so I apologize to anyone who is thinking that I am off my rocker for this conversation!! :)

11 Responses to “Spelling vs. Writing”

  1. Tom Johnson says:

    Spelling is important for a lot of reasons, one of which is it keeps the writer from looking like someone who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. The ideas expressed may be worthwhile, but if the reader has to wade through bad spelling to get to the gist of the writing, the chances that the reader will give up before the ideas are assimilated skyrocket.

    Teaching spelling may be tedious, but good spelling is one of the greatest gifts an elementary ed teacher can give.

  2. Lorie Lech says:

    I agree that spelling can get in the way of content if it is really awful. I shall now play a bit af a devil’s advocate and ask what you think an effective way to teach spelling is, Tom? I would love an “outsider’s” (if you will…) opinion!

  3. bklosinski says:

    I teach 7th grade and at this grade level, I believe it is important for students to spell correctly. If their writing is filled with errors it detracts from the content. However, I am with Lorie in wondering what is the best way to teach it. I agree that spelling lists memorized for a brief moment seem to be a waste of time. Therefore, I would also know like to know what is an effective way to teach spelling–especially in upper grade levels. It has been my experience that by 7th grade they have already acquired this skill or haven’t.

  4. asullinger says:

    The lack of correct spelling, at the high school level, is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves!! I can’t stand it!! It definitely makes grading essays, ORQ’s, stories and other types of writng difficult and sometimes impossible to decipher. I’m not quite sure how this should be handled, but I know that spelling should be incorporated at ALL grade levels. It should start in elementary school and continue at the high school level. I’m not sure how to “teach” spelling without using some sort of repetition and memorization. As “pointless” as it may seem, I think it is necessary…just my opinion Lorie. :o )

  5. jbolling says:

    While spelling is important, I do not spend a lot of time on it in class because it is something parents feel comfortable helping with at home. I don’t assign writing words 5 times each or anything of that nature. I wonder how much worse spelling will become with text messaging. What effect will that have on spelling? At the same time, I don’t want spelling to impede a students ability to get his or her thoughts down on paper, but it is important that students go back and edit work when applicable.

  6. Lorie Lech says:

    I think you will all be interested to know that I am one to constantly look at text messages and want to correct the spelling mistakes. I am all about correct spelling. I think it is very important to publish a piece with spelling all in check. I also know that editing is a key piece to correcting spelling and grammatical errors….published writers surely have plenty of people look at their work before publishing, so should our students when publishing their own work.

    What I am not sure of is that spelling is a skill that can actually be taught in a sense. In grade school I always got 100% on my spelling tests. I barely studied the tests. The words just came naturally. I just seemed to know them after one or two times of looking at them. Other kids would study every night for long periods of time and still fail each test. This never made sense to me.

    I think that having words spelled correctly is important, but I think the thing that needs to be taught is references to use in order to help with spelling. For instance, I use a word wall in my class. My students know that since they have the word wall as a resource for many sight words or irregularly spelled words, they MUST have these words spelled correctly in their writing. Dictionary skills and spell check skills are needed for other children, and honestly, spell check is a hard one for some of the kids. They have to know how to evaluate the options given for misspellings and what not.

    My students learn many word patterns and phonics skills to help them spell many of the words they write as well. These kids write…and they write….and they write! The students who have had teachers who are SO worried about every word being spelled correctly often have a fear of writing because they feel that correct spelling is valued over what they have to say. Those students who learn that content is very important and that spelling is not the equivalent to the meaning of what writing take more risks in their writing and express more freely.

    So…….more comments? Ideas? Feedback?

  7. Tom Johnson says:

    I think the only way to teach spelling is repetition and correction. Although I think someone ought to incorporate game elements into spelling check software. You know: score spelling from document to document, tie it into a graphic display and maybe to other spellers on the web. It could identify areas for improvement (I, personally, can never spell “Cincinnati” right) and make spelling something of a competition.

  8. Sara Runge says:

    Lorie, to answer your question from the original post – the reason parents want spelling in schools is because THEY had spelling in school. That’s it. Plain and simple. Now there are many ways to teach spelling, from rote learning and tedious tasks, to using student’s own writing pieces to teach spelling. In this regard, teaching spelling based on words that are spelled incorrectly can be time-consuming especially in this day and age of large class sizes. Managing 30 individualized lists is possible but it also allows you to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of each student in your classroom. Incorporating spelling into writing and reading by having students keep journals or logs documenting which words were interesting and/or difficult also addresses vocabulary instruction.

    I agree with Tom that spelling should be repetitive but not in the way that we learned – writing them 10 times each, placing in ABC order, use in a sentence, etc. Repetitive can mean seeing, hearing, and using on a regular basis, constantly revising words that caused difficulty and teaching students strategies for figuring out how to spell words such as look for patterns (word families), understanding the meaning of affixes, syllabication, and Greek/Latin roots.

    One great resource for teaching spelling through the high school level is the book “Words Their Way.” This is a book that we use in our Phonics course at have found that it addresses spelling and vocabulary in ways that are manageable and easy to implement in your classroom. And most importantly, it teaches all of it within the context of READING and WRITING!

  9. Sara Runge says:

    One other comment – we have the book “Words Their Way” for checkout in the NKWP library, so feel free to check it out on Saturday!

  10. Lorie Lech says:

    This one is for you, Julie! I am going to play devil’s advocate and ask, what about teachers who can’t rely on parents to help and support the kids in spelling? What does the teacher do then? And trust me, I am not just speaking for my own kids, but for MANY out there!

  11. jbolling says:

    I guess those are the parents that you won’t have to worry about during conferences. They won’t be complaining about spelling and they probably won’t be at conferences.

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