James teaches spelling with word lists and memorization
James’ spelling instruction for his children consists of giving them lists of words according to arbitrary criteria, for example, words that start with wh. To teach the words, James has the children spell the words aloud. For example, a child learns the word whale as w-h-a-l-e. Children also learn the spelling words by writing each word five times, writing each word in a sentence, looking the words up in the dictionary and copying their definitions, making flashcards with the words, writing the entire list of spelling words in alphabetical order, and even spelling each word aloud while doing jumping jacks.
The Alternative Lesson Plan
Many children have learned well with this lesson. But for those continuing to struggle, the alternative lesson plan is as follows:
- Teach spelling by having children use their letter-sound knowledge, instead of memorization methods.
Learning to spell through drilling, repetition, spelling aloud, and copying entails memorization rather than a true understanding of letter-sound relationships. Although a child may write a word “correctly” through these methods, the child has not acquired the proper letter-sound knowledge that can be transferred to reading and writing other words. Substantial learning has yet to take place.
- Make sure information does not appear random to the children.
Teaching spelling through pre-determined, arbitrarily selected lists of words is not recommended as the information can appear random to the children. It is more effective to teach spelling through words the children actually use in real-life reading and writing contexts.