Why we should teach spelling

The recent introduction of the spelling, punctuation and grammar test into schools in England has perhaps sharpened our focus on spelling somewhat.

We have always taught spellings, but it became abundantly clear from the results last year that we need to be doing a better job at it, especially in Key Stage Two. In Early Years and Key Stage One, the letters and sounds programme had been reaping big dividends – now to translate that success into the junior part of the school.

And yes, national tests are important – we do need to do well in those to make the school look good… But on the wider debate, we had had some discussion about whether children really need spellings. With spell checkers, these days, surely a child just needs to get close, they don’t need to be 100%? At least, this was one musing that had been debated in what is euphemistically called ongoing professional dialogue.

Then earlier this week I saw a brief anecdote that told my why children need spellings. A few children had been invited with myself to the new Library of Birmingham to take over their twitter account for a few hours. They lent us two of their iPads and we wondered around the building photographing and tweeting about what we saw.

One child had taken a photograph from the 3rd floor terrace and wanted to tweet it out to the four and half thousand followers of the new Library along with the caption “view from the 3rd floor terrace.” However, being unsure how to spell terrace, he started the second syllable of the word with an “i”: “terri…” Immediately the iPad’s predictive text spelt out “terrorist” for the child. How helpful. Fortunately he could see something was wrong and asked me to help. Woe betide us should we tweet out a photo saying “view from the 3rd floor terrorist” from the second city’s new show-piece library…

So. Spelling is important. Let’s teach it really, really well.

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