Sunday, January 27, 2013

How Do You Spell...?

The year was 1996 when I was forced to sit at home and study for my first grade spelling test the next day.  My parents had forced me to write each spelling word 20 times before I was sent to bed.  The method usually worked for me and my scores were for the most part perfect.  On the few occasions in which I did misspell a word or two, I was required to re-write those words 50 times at home as a punishment.  As the year progressed, I grew weary of the study method that I was forced to endure and I found a way to cheat and get it done faster by writing the words one letter at a time in an assembly line fashion.  As a result, the study method did not help since I didn't complete them the way they were meant to be done and I began to struggle on the spelling tests since I could no longer rely on motor memory or determine whether my spelling "looked" right.  However, this also opened up a whole new world of writing for me.  Since I was no longer memorizing the accepted correct spelling of a word, I was paying more attention to letters and their sounds.  My mind began to do what it was naturally designed to do - look for patterns.  I began to notice similar patterns of spelling within different words and eventually led to my ability to use "chunks" to figure out longer and more difficult unknown words.  After a short amount of time, my scores were comparable to when I memorized the spelling of individual words and I had developed a far more efficient way to spell out words.

Oftentimes, parents have such high hopes for their children's academic success and attempt to accelerate their children's academic development by implementing practices such as the one described above.  However, these practices may actually stunt  the child's development in the long run because it may take the fun out of writing and learning.  Thus, as educators, it would be beneficial to proactively inform parents and guide them in seeing their child's struggles in a positive manner rather than with a deficit attitude.

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