The Buzz on Spelling
Spelling bees are gaining renewed popularity, but teachers and researchers warn that they don’t necessarily help address a growing problem of poor spelling among young people. “[Spelling bees] honor the children who already know how to spell, but they do little to support those who need explicit instruction,” says first-grade teacher Sue Ann Gleason. Academic researchers blame the usual suspects for students’ lack of spelling knowledge—standardized tests for taking time away from non-core subjects and computer programs for automatically correcting misspellings. But they also say that teachers often simply don’t know how to teach spelling, substituting spelling bees and word lists for lesson plans. “Most teachers—unfortunately—think of spelling as a rote visual memory skill, and it’s much richer than that,” says University of Virginia education professor Marcia Invernizzi. First-grade teacher Gleason, for example, uses an integrated approach that dissects word phonics, patterns, and meaning. The goal is to help her students “construct knowledge,” she says.