To spell or not to spell: “wiat” or “white”?

Posted: March 4, 2011 in thoughts
Tags: , , ,

Following my exciting World Book Day visit to Sea View Primary yesterday, I first of all zonked out and then I found myself reflecting. Not on Lothian Dragons books or on dragon hums or plots and problems, but on spelling.

I won’t pretend it wasn’t about my spelling too. I’m good, I admit. I’m an editor, I have to be. But occasionally when you’re jotting things on a flip chart, even good spellers can wonder about bony and spiky. Up large and in your face, anything looks weird and challenges your certainty!

But the children’s spelling is a different issue. They were drafting a dragon non-rhyming poem using words they’d brainstormed. And the thing is, they wrote fantastic groups of words, with interesting rhythms and graphic descriptions – but when they wanted to read them out to the class, they stumbled over their poor spelling. This detracted from what should have been a rewarding experience, though their peers listened and clapped.

Which begs the question: if you think “wiat” spells “white”, how come when you go to read it back you can’t say “white” when you see “wiat”?

This is what convinces me that spelling will have to start mattering to them. All those children could recognise and read “white” – they already had. But their own versions defeated them. With what I know about how to learn spellings – using visual, kinesthetic and auditory means – I was sorely tempted to offer a return visit to show them how to do it.

But I didn’t. I was only a visiting author. I don’t want to conflate creative writing (is there any other sort?) with spelling, but it just doesn’t work so well separately.

If you’re a teacher reading this, and you think you can trust me not to go on about spelling (I won’t!), my Contact An Author page is here. We always have a fabulous dragony time and the children are inspired to write and read and buy books. It never fails to touch me.

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