I read a really interesting blog article about spelling and how we’ve been doing it wrong all these years. It looked at traditional methods of teaching kids to spell by making them memorise huge lists of words rather than teaching them the foundations of words. It also looked at the confusing complexities of the phonetic method which just fails to make sense when trying to apply it to a language such as English with so many conflicting rules and exceptions to the rule.

Being terrible at spelling I found the article interesting, I was never one to learn by memorising lists, I needed context. I wonder if that’s why it’s always been a struggle for me. I’m not that bad but I’m not as good as my standard of literacy implies I should be either. I thought about it and realise that I do exactly what the author says, when I’m trying to spell a word I think back through a long list of permutations that I’ve mixed up, confused and failed with for many years instead of going to the root of the word and working my way from there applying trusted grammatical rules.

I’ve always struggled with the word different, I really have to think about it, because it was probably one of those I got wrong from a list when I was like 5 and it’s haunted me ever since. Now I get it, the route is differ (which I know has two f’s) and I apply ‘ent’ not ‘ant’ as ‘ant’ as a suffix means someone or something that does something. Never again will I even attempt to spell if diferant or diferent or differant, applying the simple principles has cured me that fast.

Yesterday in placement I got an opportunity to put this to the test. One of the students asked how to spell ‘undecisive’. After we’d explained that the word was indecisive he asked how to spell it again.

“How do you think?” I asked. “I…N… then what?” he said.

“What word does decisive come from?” I asked.

“Decide” he said

“So how do you think you spell it now?” I asked

“Oh, I…N…D…E…C…I and do I add S..I…V…E on now?” he asked

Yay! I might have done it this way anyway but reading that blog article definitely made me more conscious of doing it this way in future.

Thinking about it some more I realise that I taught my kids to read and write using that method of extension from a root word and so it’s maybe no wonder that they are both really good spellers.


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