Imagine if archaeologists two thousand years from now began examining examples of our writing in this century. It would seem the twenty-first-century human developed a bizarre and cryptic method of speaking. RUOK. BTDT. TTFN, RB@Y, TAW, TLITBC. What could this mean? Did the man lose his ability to speak as he progressed into higher and higher realms of thought?
If you’ve chanced upon any text that has been written in current text-message–speak, this is exactly what you would find. I’m from the same century as these message writers, and yet I’m hopelessly unable to make any sense of it. RUOK? Well, alright, I can manage that. BTDT. Buttered toast, diet tea? Nope, turns out it’s been there done that. Groan. The list is quite extensive. In fact, these are but a few of literally hundreds of acronyms permeating the writing amongst texters.
It is because of this that I have reconsidered my former opinion on spelling. I once thought we had now reached a place where spelling could be less of a concern. Why? Spell-checker of course. These little wizards of wonder notice instantly if you’ve spelled something wrong and instantly flag it down with a heavy red line. It’s almost impossible to misspell. And let’s be honest, some of the greatest minds were (and are) notoriously poor spellers. So I was comfortable with a lessened emphasis on spelling. But at that point, it hadn’t occurred to me that people might one day dispense with words altogether, leaving instead codes to be memorized.
So I have begun a revolt. I am now firmly on the all-children-must-learn-to-write-and-spell soapbox. I at least believe they must use actual words (call me old-fashioned). Furthermore, I will proceed here assuming that you, too, are old-fashioned enough to believe not only that little Johnny should know that LMSO should be replaced with actual words (laughing my socks off), but also that he should even know how to spell those same words. —laffing my soks off will no longer be tolerated. Get in touch with your inner ogre.
So we pulled out those once cast-aside spelling books and began to learn in earnest. For one of my children, all was well. Turns out she’s a visual learner. Ahhhh…the blessed visual learner…the learner that makes teaching so easy and gives us the false sense of security that we are really amazing teachers. See, the thing about visual learners is that once they’ve seen a word spelled correctly, they take a mental snapshot of it. Any other spelling “just doesn’t look right.” If it looks good, they leave it. If it looks wonky, they fix it. They learn easily, almost effortlessly. And if you have only visual learners in your class, you are at risk of coming away believing you are God’s gift in teaching, or worse…that your friends (whose children utilize other learning styles) are really suffering under the inferior teaching skills of their parent…at least by comparison. Careful. Truth is, when it comes to a visual learner, we could probably shoot information to them from 300 paces using a slingshot and as long as they see it coming, they’ll still absorb it just fine.
The problem comes when you have a child who processes information via another learning style. The child who couldn’t sit still and stare intently at anything for more than three seconds. Or the child whose brain won’t process new information unless he repeats and has it come out of his own mouth. Or the child whose brain simply cannot process anything unless his arms or legs or hands are moving in some way that is attached to the concept being taught. These types of learners may really struggle with many spelling programs that utilize the copy-it-10-times-and-take-a-test method of teaching.
What do you do then? You step outside the box. You add activities to the lesson that connect with this child’s primary learning style. And if you’re not sure, just try several different things till one of them works. Things like:
- Toss It Spelling. You toss a bean bag back and forth. With each throw you add the next letter of the chosen spelling word. Once correct, do it again with the alternate person starting.
- Use Scrabble Game tiles to practice spelling words. For some kids, simply getting the pencil OUT of their hand frees up their brain.
- If your child regularly misses a letter combination in words (such as the “gh” in fight, might, right) have them copy them as usual, but make the GH large, over emphasized. Then box in these letters with colored markers.
- Spell the word over and over out loud till a rhythm or pattern of sorts develops. (Quick…think about how you learned to spell Mississippi).
- Practice spelling words on a large ziplock bag filled with a small amount of shaving cream.
- Use the sign language alphabet to practice spelling.
- Look for a mnemonic device to aid in learning. Can’t remember the spelling differences between here and hear? Remember that you hear with your ear. How about remembering the spelling of accommodation? Is that one “C” or two? One “M” or two? Teach that there is a lovely hotel which provides accommodations of two cots (cc) and two mattresses (mm).
- Say the word overemphasizing a letter that is often forgotten, such as the last “e” in extremely. Your child says “ex-treem-E-lee” several times until that wiley, slippery “e” is firmly in their memory.
So, go ahead. Jump with me onto the kids-must-use-actual-words wagon. Then, two thousand years from now when archaeologists are deciphering what we wrote today, they won’t have to guess. Hallelujah. Uh oh. I forgot to mention not only must the words be spelled correctly, but the handwriting must be legible. Those scientists might be doomed.
***And just in case you’re wondering, RB@Y means right back at ya, TAW means teachers are watching, and TLITBC means that’s life in the big city.