Spelling

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chew8
Posts: 4182
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Spelling

Post by chew8 » Tue Jun 09, 2020 12:33 pm

I’ve recently watched this presentation on spelling by Tarjinder Gill:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chmKA8VzGCY

She talks very fast, and I had to listen to some sections several times in order to get a clearer idea of what she was saying. I liked some of it, but also felt there were some inaccuracies.

For example, at about 44.19, when she is talking about England’s National Curriculum (NC) statutory word-lists for Years 3-4 and 5-6, I understand her to be saying that the lists are ‘massive’, and that children are being made to ‘practise these hundreds of words each year’. The fact is that although there are 200 words altogether, the two lists cover four years, so children need to learn only about 50 of the words per year (fewer than two words per school week, on average), leaving plenty of time for teachers to teach other words as they see fit. When I was helping voluntarily with Year 3 reading at a junior school until July 2017, I used to see the children’s weekly spelling lists as they were pasted into their reading record books. Each list consisted of 15 words: 10 involved a particular GPC pattern or spelling rule outlined in the NC spelling appendix, and the other five were words from the statutory list and words related to class topics. That seemed to preserve the spirit of the NC in a sensible way.

The NC lists are alphabetical, but teachers can group the words in any way that they want to for teaching or explanation purposes – e.g. in the Year 3-4 list, they could group ‘early’, ‘earth’, ‘heard’ and ‘learn’ together because of the fairly rare spelling of the vowel sound, or they could include ‘certain’, ‘circle’ and ‘purpose’ to cover more common spellings of that sound. They could select just a few of the listed soft ‘c’ words for one teaching session (e.g. ‘bicycle’, ‘centre’, ‘century’, ‘certain’, ‘decide’) and could add other soft ‘c’ words of their own choosing. With many polysyllabic words, however, there can be more than one way of grouping: if one wanted to focus on different spellings of the schwa sound, one might want instead to group some of the other soft ‘c’ words on the Year 3-4 list (‘centre’, ‘exercise’, ‘experience’ and ‘recent’) with ‘calendar’, ‘famous’, ‘important’, ‘grammar’, ‘possible‘, ‘pressure’ and ‘purpose’.

However words are grouped for the purpose of teaching or explaining spelling, there comes a point where those words have to be memorised well enough to be spelt correctly in any context. Many of the words in the statutory lists are commonly misspelt, often in a phonically plausible way (e.g. ‘bycicle’, ‘dissappear’, ‘suprise’). Morphology can sometimes help, but a lot of word-specific learning is also necessary, and virtually all children should be ready for this by Year 3. Those lists are perfectly reasonable.

chew8
Posts: 4182
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Re: Spelling

Post by chew8 » Sat Jun 13, 2020 4:38 pm

Something is puzzling me about a document I've seen:

https://linguisticphonics.wordpress.com ... m-eyfs-y6/

You need to scroll down to scroll down to the link to ‘Spelling – Year 3 and 4 National Curriculum Word List’ and the equivalent for Years 5-6. What puzzles me is that in some cases, the graphemes in bold don’t represent the same sounds in all the words which the writer groups together: for example, the spoken words ‘strange’ and ‘eight’ contain the sound she calls ‘ae’, but ‘certain’ doesn’t, as the ‘ai’ in that represents a schwa. ‘Breath’ and ‘experiment’ contain the sound she calls ‘e’ but ‘decide’ and ‘often’ don’t. I’ve checked these pronunciations in the Everyman English Pronouncing Dictionary.

Perhaps what she means is that children should be encouraged to have not just a normal pronunciation but also an exaggerated pronunciation for some words – e.g. a mental pronunciation where the second syllable of ‘certain’ rhymes with ‘rain’. I’m firmly in favour of that, and have been advocating it for at least 30 years, but I don’t think the document in question makes it clear that this is what is meant. Am I missing something?

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