Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spelling Gee! Spelling Beeswax!

Amber had been practicing for her MaRRs Spelling Bee competition when it just dawned on me.  Why are spelling bees often said out loud when correct spelling should be part of good writing?  I mean, you don’t go around telling people, “Hey have you ever been to M-m-a-b-a-t-h-o?”  No, we say them, not spell them.  Or like greet people with H. E. L. L. O.!  You simply say, hello!    

It seems like we are testing children using the wrong methods.  They should get a keyboard to key in their answers, or if still not so techie, at least a slate with a marker to write the correct spelling.  And these spelling bees have been going on for many, many years! 

No wonder children are atrocious at spelling.  The generations of drilling them to shout out the words when all along they should be putting it down in writing must have had some negative effect on the spelling development of school children.

It’s like when our kids are young and we don’t want them to understand what we are talking about, we spell it out.  Let’s go have s-e-x later when the b-a-b-y is a-s-l-e-e-p.  Yes, great!  But I digress. Back to spelling competitions.

There is a correlation of being able to capture the word in your mind and then be able to spell it.  But this kind of competitions have a bias favoring visual learners.  What about audio-sensory or tactile learners who use listening or actual experiences to spell?  Do we just leave out their abilities because we are used to the standards of spelling?  And these standards are set by whom? Perhaps it is time for an upgrade to go with the times. 

With the arrival of techie stuff, we should re-examine our spelling competitions and the traditional ways we teach spelling. 

I mean why can’t kids – the younger pre-school children – be able to hold a plastic hammer and bang the letters away to spell the words like cat, dog, and hammer!  Think how fun that could be, heck I’d try it myself.

Foundations years 1 – 4 can do games on their PCs, IPods or IPads using examples of games like Angry Birds or Plants versus Zombies.  Something like shoot the pigs by spelling the mystery word correctly, or plant the flowers in correct spelling and you defeat all the zombies.  That’s why I love games like Word Search, Boggle and Scrabble.  If it aint spelled right, you aint got no points!

Today’s texting had added its toll on proper spelling as well with words abbreviated to ‘c u l8er’ and ‘ur my bff’ I cringe at the grim future writing and correct spelling has in the young. 

There is the standard and there is the reality.  While we old people insist on correct spelling, the young will use language that expresses them and sets them apart from their predecessors.  As much as I want to uphold the goodness of a written work that showcases correct spelling and proper punctuation as well, I fear the days of the spelling bees could be facing their dusk in the long history of competitions.  Not only does it fail to test the proper skills (spelling out loud when it should be written) but the students themselves are becoming less and less adept at correct spelling.

And with a language that continues to develop, merge, evolve and get used by the people at a certain time, who knows where this will lead. 

But for now, Amber has to learn how to spell for her spelling competition and despite my objections to the methods; at least I know my child can spell.

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