Let us admit it. English spelling can be crazy and a pain in the neck. Some of the words you find in the Spelling Bee competitions are just mind boggling. In English Many words are not written the way they are pronounced, and the same sound can be produced by multiple spellings. However, fret not. Here are some tried and tested methods of teaching spelling.
This time-honored device for teaching spelling is based on the principle of strengthening the kinesthetic memory through repeated transcription of a word. Pupils may engage in this without any conscious attention to the task. This is one of the oldest methods, nowadays not widely practiced, though some teachers may find a use for it in some situations.
In this technique, words on flashcards are shown to the pupils for a very short time. Pupils look at the spelling and write out the word as soon as the card is withdrawn.
Another tried and tested device for teaching spelling is the dictation. Typically, the teacher gives a set of words beforehand to the students for them to learn, and tests them by dictation on an assigned day. One advantage of this is that students get used to the pronunciation of the word, as they have to listen carefully to the teacher, thus linking sound with spelling.
Mnemonics are devices that help us to remember something. For example, pupils can remember difficult spellings by memorizing short and interesting formulas that highlight the troublesome part of the word. Pupils can themselves construct their own formulas to meet their individual requirements. The following examples illustrate this well:
a) permanent – the MANE is a perMANEnt part of the lion.
b) obedient – He would rather DIE than be obedient.
c) existence: the school has been in exisTENce for TEN years.
Though English spelling cannot be easily reduced to simple rules, there are a few which are fairly consistent and useful. A few of the spelling rules are given below.
a) A mono-syllabic word (words with only one syllable) ending in a consonant will double the consonant when ‘ing’, ‘er’, ‘est’ or ‘ed’ is added to it. For example, hit + ing = hitting.
b) Words ending in a single ‘e’ will drop the ‘e’ when an ‘ing’ is added. For example, move+ing = moving.
c) Nouns ending in ss, sh, ch, x, or o preceded by a consonant take es to form their plurals; e.g. kisses, bushes, foxes etc.
d) Words ending in l after a single vowel double the l before a suffix beginning with a vowel. For example, travel + ing = travelling.
Analysis of words by breaking them down into their components (base, prefix, suffix) etc. is also found useful. For example, in the word ‘uncomfortable’ un is the prefix, comfort is the base and able is the suffix.
Spelling games like the following can easily be played in the class:
a) The few problem words are written on a card which is shown to the pupils for a short time. The card is then withdrawn and pupils write from memory as many of the words as they can. The card is again shown and they check the spellings of the words they have written and correct them, if necessary. The pupil who has written the highest number of words correctly wins.
b) The class is divided into two or three teams. The teacher writes on the blackboard two or three (corresponding to the number of teams) identical columns of words, the number of words in each column being equal to the number of pupils in each team. Each word in the columns has one or more letters missing, usually at the trouble spot. When the teacher gives the word ‘Go’, pupils from the teams come to the board one by one and each pupil completes one word in the column assigned to his team. The first team to complete all the words in the column is the winner.
Phonics is the modern way to teach reading, and writing. In phonics, students learn the sounds of letters first, before they learn their names. Therefore, for a student who has learnt the sound of s and the letter name, the next logical step is to write the letter when she hears the sound. For example, when the teachers breaks up the sounds of dog, into d, o, and g, students should be able to formulate the word, just by means of knowing the sounds.