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The importance of spelling

I have helped to create the SpellingCity.com website which has become a mainstay of many tens or even hundreds of thousands of students. Sometimes, I’m asked to explain why I think spelling is important.  Here’s  a draft of my rationale for answering this question.   I write this aware that as I type, the computer is prompting me whenever I type in a word that is not properly spelt and where most writing is done on keyboards with built-in spelling support. 

1. Reading:  Learning phonics is dramatically helped by focusing not just on “decoding” but also spelling skills or encoding.

2. Writing: While you can tell students to  “not worry about spelling, to just focus on writing”,”  that is contrary to many human’s nature. Nobody wants to sound stupid. And bad spelling makes us sound stupid. So it’s natural to think about spelling while you are trying to compose an essay. If you are a bad speller, the cognitive overhead of thinking about spelling distracts the student from writing.

3. Vocabulary skills. Spelling lists are the natural means to focus on word roots, suffixes, and prefixxes. 

4. Grammar. Subject verb  agreement, getting the plural and possessives right, and working with the past, present, and present tense….alll done with spelling.

 SpellingCity has two articles that deal with these questions:

  • The Importance of Spelling
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    A Great Training Video for Parents

    A site that many homeschool parents, who like web-based resources, has discovered as the best way to deal with spelling time is SpellingCity.com.   It’s free (mostly, there is a premium membership), full of useful activities and games, and has some great lists. I’ve been thinking of building a lot more literature based word lists.

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    Disrupting Class

    A few times a year, I focus on getting caught up in the latest thinking in education.  Here’s what I’m finding:

    Disrupting Class is a book (and blog) by a HBS Professor, apparently the same who wrote the Disrupting Class by Clayton ChristensenDisruptive Technology Business Book. I just ordered it and am excited. But, from listening to the interview, I fear that I will both be in rampant agreement and be somewhat bored by it. What I heard in the interview is that he has woven together a number of ideas that I’m totally into and trying hard to implement. Basically, that with different intelligences, a class-centric education model fails and that our salvation will be technology that will provide individually leveled and paced education. First of all, I totally agree. Secondly, the best implementations of this are currently done in the 4% of the population who believes in education as a priority. Yes the homeschoolers. If you want to see what the future of education looks like, go visit some homeschool families and look at how they blend online curriculum, group classes, one-on-one distance learning, experiental learning, and traditional text-based education on a customized basis for each child.  Go ask in homeschooling parents forum.  Let me add that  so far, most of the technology is disappointing. Pearson & Scholastics & Voyager & Compass & Harcourt etc are all saying this same thing about customized learning but mostly aredelivering very mundane automated textbooks with somevideo and multimedia but without the advanced modular architectures that nextgen systems will need.  SpellingCity is a decent example of what the next gen building blocks will start with. So, btw, is TeachingTextbooks.com. Both have their start in the homeschool world and are taking the traditional educational markets by storm.  BTW, on a personal note, being a Bulldog & HBS grad myself, I might like to get to the now team that wrote and is promoting the book. Another thing about the Disrupting Class blog is the blogroll on the side of important blogs. I’ll try to work through all of them this week.

    I just whipped through a post on $.02 Worth about reading instructions for board games and how that illustrates the difference between the generations.  Makes me want to get on my high horse about writing better software but there was a good point there about the disconnect between todays teachers and students, a real generation gap like we haven’t seen since my youth.

    The Blackboard blog is a little promotional but it’s interesting to see how ambitious and apparently successful BlackBoard is becoming.  The local fancy private school uses Blackboard for it’s school so maybe they will dominate both post secondary and K12.

    I love the name of the next blog: Changing Higher Education. It’s really by a very distinguished guy named Lloyd.  I only scanned a few articles but he seems to be playing it safe by mostly citing interesting studies about higher ed and their funding and fulfillment of mission. For the record, I’ll point out how completely I love the name of his blog since I feel that higher ed in this country is on a disaster course in which they live only to give out credentials. So much of the system is overpriced, ineffective, and dangerous (the drinking and other atrocities) on college campuses are out of control.  Since most of the brands of colleges in this country mostly stand for sports teams….well, don’t get me started.

    Digital Education is Education Weeks Blog which makes it a central one for K12.
    Andrew Trotter maintains a blog called Digital Education Today also writes for EducationWeek reports that students say that schools don’t use state of the art technology and it impedes learning.  No duh. Have you ever seen a teacher trying to hold a mouse? They remind me of my grandfather.

    Ok, that’s enough blogs for tonight….