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She showed her students how all the letters of the alphabet consisted of
just these three simple concrete forms. With that "code" and fast-paced stories,
even the most retarded students were soon learning and thriving.
Catching up at spelling
Other children are catching up at spelling using
methods outlined in three excellent books, Catchwords, by Charles Cripps and
Margaret L. Peters; Alpha to Omega, by Beve Hornsby and Frula Shear; and The
Writing Road to Reading, by Romalda Bishop Spalding.
Alpha to Omega provides a particularly good
introduction to the ways in which words are grouped both phonetically and in similar
patterns - as pattern-recognition is particularly important to improve spelling.
Catchwords takes the core words in the
Australian, New Zealand and British primary school curriculum and shows both teachers and
parents how to introduce them in a natural, logical and active way.
Spelling, in fact, is one of the big casualties of the
nonsensical phonics-versus-nonphonics debate. Obviously phonics can help any child learn
words and syllables based on the "short" vowels: get, set, bet; sit, hit,
fit. And simple games and blackboard lists can help children identify the most common
word and syllable patterns: fate, mate and plate (the magic 'e'); light, might
and sight; bridge, ridge, sledge and dredge.
But problem words are, by their very definition, not
simple ones: spatial and facial; session and faction; cough,
through and bough. And even such often quoted "principles" as "i
before e except after c" don't, in fact, work: as with ancient, conscience,
deficient, glacier, science, society, financier, sufficient and many more.
Most good teachers now feel that spelling is best
taught through writing. As Cripps and Peters put it: "Spelling is best remembered in
the fingertips, and it is the memory of the moving pencil writing words that makes for
accurate spelling." That's because "muscle memory", pro-cessed by the
cerebellum, is one of the most effective forms of memory.
Non-phonic spelling is also a visual skill, rather than
a listening skill. Most children find it hard to learn non-phonic words from spoken
examples alone. So encourage them to learn by both the look and feel of words. Encourage
them, too, to write words from memory, rather than copying them. By doing this, they are
calling on their visual and muscle-memory ability, rather than spelling out the sounds.
Robert Dilts and Todd A. Epstein, in their excellent
Contents Page Preface