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  1. Hi – interesting point of view for sure but I do disagree with most of it. I’m just a parent of two dyslexic children and if my oldest would have had spelling tests in elementary school there is no doubt he would have been diagnosed sooner than he did. So many words can not be spelled based on the sounds they hear. Also, how else do they learn “here, hear, to, too and two” and so many more? Spelling and vocab tests are so important. Along with a list of words on the spelling tests there should be nonsense words for them to spell – that’s how a teacher will truly know if the students have learned the concept/rule. A student will memorize how to spell “miss”, fluff” or “pill” but if also test them on a nonsense words such as “liff” or “sass”, they can’t memorize those words from flashcards. Along this same spelling rule, if you test them on the words “gas” and “bus” they should know to only use one “s” at the end and the reason why. Good spellers make good readers and writers.

    1. Hi Kim,

      Thank you for your comments. I think you and I agree more than we disagree. I am absolutely in favor of spelling instruction, and in favor of spelling assessment, including spelling novel words with the same pattern. I include spelling in all of my OG lessons, and I included it in my classroom instruction, as well.

      As I explained in this post, what I take issue with is the idea of the weekly spelling test because often, it involves giving a list of words with more than one spelling pattern and giving kids practice strategies like “write a sentence” and “write your words 5 times each” that promote rote memorization. My experience (and research) says that memorization of spelling is not the best strategy for lasting learning. As far as to, two and too, and hear and here, students need to learn the rules and history behind those spellings and they need to learn to map the irregular spellings in words to the sounds in the word. And that’s something a lot of spelling curricula (including Words Their Way, which I mentioned in this post but no longer recommend except as a supplemental resource used by a skilled teacher) don’t offer.

      Children (especially learners with dyslexia) need multiple exposures to a pattern and they need to grow their familiarity with different words that follow the pattern, exceptions to the rule, and other patterns that spell the same sound over time, and none of that is accomplished when they spell 10 words on a Friday spelling test and never see them again.

      I don’t teach spelling with nonsense words, though. It works at the early stages, but once a child knows the sound /ks/ for x and the suffix s, how would they know if a nonsense word is nax or nacks? So instead, I use continuous review over time. Sometimes I say, “This word is probably one you’ve never seen before. It’s not common. What are your options for spelling the __ sound?” and we practice reasoning through the options based on how common they are.


  2. Hi,

    I think you make a lot of great points. Rote memorization alone is not going to cut it. Richard Gentry has authored several books in support of what you say. I am a 4th grade teacher that uses “Spelling Connections” which is a word study approach co-authored by Gentry. I started using it after I read a book he co-authored called “Brain Words.” Gentry does endorse memorization but he clearly does not support this is a the sole approach to learning anything. But remembering is important. His point about poetry in the article above is a great one. The same thing occurs in math. Kids should really understand multiplication and division as concepts AND practice them enough to become “automatic” (which in my view is the evolved version of the old school memorization). Automaticity is achieved through conceptual understanding, quality instruction and sufficient practice.

    Like most things in school right now I think the problem is partially a “quantity over quality” issue. Many teachers end up using the activities you don’t like because they often are not afforded the time to implement a quality spelling curriculum. They assign these as homework and that is about it, so I agree with your concerns. I just thought you might like to see what Gentry has to say on the topic. A good point the article you cited above makes is that spelling simply isn’t taught in many schools and districts because it is viewed as old fashioned. That seemed to be what he took most issue with in his article.

    This is years late but I appreciate your post and the conversation. Spelling is important even with all of our AI advancements. Be well.

    1. Hi Dexter, thanks for your comment! Your comment came just as I was updating this post. I have learned more about spelling since I wrote the original and I will have to check out Gentry’s books to read more about what he says.

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