Commonsense Methods for Children with Special Educational Needs: Strategies for the Regular Classroom

By Peter Westwood | Go to book overview

Chapter 11

Developing spelling skills

Poor spellers are not very adept at picking up the spelling of uninstructed words or acquiring new spellings through reading. Transfer effects from reading instruction to spelling are also quite limited for poor readers, and the spelling progress of students with special needs in whole language or process writing classes (programs compatible with the natural learning approach) is relatively limited.

(Graham 2000:244)

For many low-achieving students, spelling continues to present a problem long after reading skills have improved. This is sometimes due to the fact that too little attention is given to the explicit teaching of spelling skills and strategies. Instruction in spelling no longer features as prominently now in the primary school curriculum as it did some years ago, due mainly to the influence of whole-language philosophy.


Whole-language perspectives on spelling

The advent of whole-language philosophy saw the teaching of spelling become fully integrated into children's daily writing activities, rather than being treated as a subject in its own right. It was argued that spelling instruction must be kept within a meaningful context at all times, and students can be helped individually and incidentally to learn to spell the words they need to use as they write. This integrated approach is deemed to be the 'natural' way of acquiring spelling skill (Graham 2000) and is therefore regarded by whole-language exponents as preferable to any form of direct teaching based on the content of a predetermined word list (Worthy, Broaddus and Ivey 2001). Instead, children are taught the precise information they need at the exact moment they need it. For example, a student may want to write the word 'please' but is unsure of the /ea/ sound within it. The teacher spells the word, and takes a moment to explain that often the letters 'ea' together make the long /e/ sound, as in sea, feast, deal, leap, seat, read.

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