Spelling You See


Teaching spelling can be difficult and frustrating. No matter how hard we work, and regardless of how many rules we learn, we always encounter exceptions. They are inevitable because the English language has evolved from so many different languages. We cannot consistently predict which pattern or rule will apply.

Most spelling programs are based on the premise that if children memorize a certain sequence of letters or words, they will become good spellers. The procedure is often to present a word list to the children on Monday, have them study it in various ways all week, take the test on Friday, and expect them to spell each word correctly the next time they write. This approach does not work well because the brain perceives these word lists as item knowledge. Without something meaningful to connect the words to — without linkage — the brain simply reverts to rote memory, storing the words for a few days and then discarding them. The words never make it into long-term memory.

The developmental process of spelling is similar to what children go through when learning to walk. They need to develop the prerequisite skill of crawling before they can move on to walking and then running. In the same way, this program guides your student naturally through the stages in the process of learning to spell.

Decades ago a linguist named Charles Read (1971) noticed that preschoolers made consistent and similar assumptions about words when they were trying to figure out how to spell. From that landmark observation, numerous other researchers from the University of Virginia, headed by Edmund Henderson, confirmed and extended Read’s work.

Their various studies suggested that spellers advance through a common progression, starting with sound-to-letter correspondence and moving toward more advanced and complicated spelling structures. Eventually, after years of observations and study, this group of university professors presented a model of developmental spelling based on the consistent, sequential stages through which all students move.

To see just a few of the sources Dr. Holinga used in the development of Spelling You See, download the Bibliography.