Dr Kerry Hempenstall: 'Feel like a spell? Effective spelling instruction (Updated 2018)'

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Dr Kerry Hempenstall: 'Feel like a spell? Effective spelling instruction (Updated 2018)'

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed May 08, 2019 11:12 pm

Dr Kerry Hempenstall collects information regarding teaching and learning spelling and generously shares this information with us via his blog:

[b]Feel like a spell? Effective spelling instruction (Updated 2018)[/b]

https://www.nifdi.org/resources/hempens ... spell.html

Underlying principles from research:

Fluency in lower order processes is necessary for success in higher order processes (e.g., decoding for comprehension, spelling for writing, tables for problem solving).

Practice is the key to fluency. e.g., knitting, topspin backhand, reading, spelling, writing. Initially, corrective feedback is vital, followed by spaced independent practice.

Using skill is fun; acquiring skill (learning) may not be fun!

Old belief shown to be wrong: Naturally unfolding development.

"Children learn spelling without direct instruction if they read and write" (Goodman, 1989).


Old belief shown to be wrong: If you don’t get it easily, you can’t get it ever!

“If your daughter struggles with spelling, she should simply make sure she marries a good speller” (Donald Graves, 1983).


Old belief shown to be wrong: Spelling's not really that important anyway, as long as communication takes place?

Yes, it’s important because spelling is a lower order skill that drives writing quality. Misspelling can also disrupt meaning:

When spelling is effortful, writing quality becomes limited by the need to concentrate on intra-word structure rather than meaning. Similarly, dysfluent handwriting slows the creative process, and interferes with real time planning. Additionally, a lack of facility with grammar hinders sentence construction, and hence expressive writing. The quality of handwriting and spelling have been found to be the best predictors of the amount and quality of written composition.

Unfortunately, current educational practice minimizes explicit instruction and practice of such skills (British Primary Framework for Literacy, 2006; McNeill & Kirk, 2014).

What does the research say about invented spelling?

Invented spellings should never replace the organized instruction that should begin about the middle of first grade (Moats, 1994). The message to students should be clear from the beginning that accurate conventional spelling is the goal.

There is a belief that spelling simply evolves from reading and/or writing. That spellings are often self-taught via reading is true for skilled readers (Pacton, Borchard, Treiman, Lété, & Fayol, 2013); however, self-teaching alone is ineffective for young students whose literacy skills are still developing. In fact, research has demonstrated “ … that children are less likely to learn words’ spellings from the reading of meaningful, connected text than from the study of isolated words” (Treiman, in press, p.16).

A belief that uncorrected invented spelling will lead to progressively close approximations to conventional spelling has also been rejected (Read & Treiman, 2013). That doesn’t mean that invented spelling has no functional purpose. Invented spelling is best viewed as a means for students to explore the links between phonemes and orthographic representations. However, it is best achieved when feedback allows the comparison of their efforts with conventional spelling is provided (Sénéchal, Ouellette, Pagan, & Lever, 2012).

[I have added the red colour and emboldened the last sentence of the paragraph above as I have worries about 'invented spelling' or 'phonically plausible spelling' as many teachers seem unsure of how to address children's invented spelling.]

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