[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Fall 1983 p18]
[Also on this page: Two Problems for English Spelling Reformers, Timmie's Reply (2nd letter.]

Learning Activities in the Spelling Curriculum,

by Marlow Ediger, Ph.D.*

*Div. of Educ, Northeast Missouri St. Univ, Kirksville, MO.

Teachers and supervisors need to utilize appropriate criteria from the psychology of learning in implementing the Curriculum. Thus, objectives, learning activities, and evaluation procedures should emphasize pupils:
1. perceiving interest in ongoing units of study,
2. attaching meaning to what is being learned,
3. sensing purpose or reasons for participating in diverse subject matter learnings,
4. achieving rational balance among understandings, skills, and attitudinal goals.
Which experiences might then reflect desired criteria from the psychology of learning? The balance of this paper will emphasize means of improving the spelling curriculum.

The Pupil and Spelling.

A variety of experiences in spelling need to be chosen to guide each pupil to achieve optimally. The teacher needs to determine present achievement levels of each pupil and then provide for continuous progress in utilizing varied methods of teaching.

The teacher might have pupils bring pictures to school that emphasizes rhyme. For example, the teacher may show to learners a picture of a man. Pupils may then bring pictures of a can, Dan (a boy or a man), a fan, Nan (a girl or a woman), a pan, tan (a color), and a van. Other words which pattern with man include ban and ran. The latter words might be difficult to show in specific illustrations. Learners can be guided to notice that if an initial consonant is changed, a new word results, e.g. change the letter "m" in "man" to a "c" resulting in the word "can." A powerful key is then introduced in learning to spell a multiple of weeds following a pattern.

Pupils may develop a crossword puzzle using words contained in a weekly list from a basal spelling textbook. Learners may then exchange crossword puzzles with others. Weak items in a crossword puzzle need diagnosing and remediating. Hopefully, each pupil completing a crossword puzzle practices the correct spelling of words as well as attaches meaningful definitions to words.

The teacher may provide a spelling word that starts with a specific consonant sound, such as the "d" sound in dog. Learners might present as many words as possible that begin with the "d" sound, e.g. daisy, doll, dye, destroy, don't and danger. But keep them to a regular spelling. Teacher-pupil planning may be utilized to determine the number of words the latter is to master within a week or other reasonable time cycle.

As a variation of the above named activity, the teacher may present a spelling word containing a medial vowel sound and letter, e.g. met. Learners might then be asked to provide other words containing the short "e" sound. Among others, pupils might give the following: pen, men, pet, let, set, sent, cent, egg, elbow, edible, and bend.

A contract system might be used to teach spelling. Each pupil with teacher guidance may then determine a certain number of words to learn to spell within an agreed time cycle. For example, pupil may wish to learn to spell the following words: Dear Sir, Sincerely, bought, item, returned, supply, souvenirs, month and letter. The agreed upon words might involve needed learnings to pursue a practical activity, such as writing a business letter to order necessary materials for an ongoing unit of study.

New uses may be made of spelling words being studied by pupils from a reputable series of basal textbooks. Thus, learners way choose selected words to write a tall tale, a poem, an adventure story, an autobiography, and/or biography. Guiding pupils to transfer learnings acquired to other experiences should assist in retaining the correct spelling of words.

Pupils may draw pictures pertaining to selected spelling words. In this way, learners can reveal understandings attached to new spelling words. For many pupils, participating in art activities is enjoyable. At the same time, art work, in this case, is correlated with the spelling curriculum. Each pupil might well come up with creative illustrations pertaining to the meaning of the following spelling words: cow, horse, cat, lion, tiger, and elephant. Even words such as democracy, cooperation, happy, confidence, justice, and freedom, can provide interesting content in which learners may reveal understandings acquired by drawing related illustrations.

Young pupils might develop visual acuity in noticing likenesses and differences among spelling words by crossing out the word which looks different from two others in a set: box, box, friend; girl, boy, girl; and dog, baby, dog. With appropriate sequence, the involved learner may well become increasingly sophisticated in detecting which words look alike and which have only slight differences, e.g. high, hello, high; below, below, belong; and house, house, horse.

Learners can also be encouraged to write a creative story using words in the order presented in the spelling textbook. For example, in a list, the following sequentially presented spelling words might be used in a story: robin, spring, worm, dirt, cat, hill, tree, grass and shrub. In proofreading the completed work, the learner must carefully evaluate it to see if each word has been spelled correctly.

In summary.

Pupils need to experience interest, motivation, meaning and purpose in the spelling curriculum. A variety of learning experiences for pupils might well fulfill these criteria, as well as assist pupils to achieve worthwhile objectives.


[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Fall 1983 p19]
[Thomas Hofmann: see Journals, Newsletter, Bulletins.]

Two Problems for English Spelling Reformers,

by Prof. Thomas R. Hofmann*

*Toyama Univ, Toyama, Toyama, Japan.

Illiterates are basically good spelling reformers; if there is a common illiterate spelling for some word, it is almost always because they have applied some sensible rules of spelling where they shouldn't have. The chance of spelling something irregularly when it is properly spelled regularly, is pretty small compared with the likelihood of not knowing an irregular spelling & spelling it regularly.

The first problem is that nobody wants to look like an illiterate, a person who hasn't gone to college, who gets odd jobs on the docks or the farm. But nearly every spelling reform, except those that change the face of English so much as to look like an exotic language, uses regular spellings in place of irregular ones. And those spellings are the ones that illiterates use on the few occasions they are called to write.

It is not surprising that the spelling reformer is at best listened to politely, & more likely not listened to at all or not politely. What he is saying is that you and I ought to act reel stupid & rite so that nowun is going to lissen or respect us. Most people are reasonable; only a masochist is going to write or speak so that no one will listen to him. So you see why people think spelling reformers are crazy.

There are at least two ways out of this dilemma: change so radically that no one will guess that it is really English - like use Russian letters, or new letters, or Chinese kanji - or make a change so small that one can still show that he is educated & intelligent (& not a radical hot-head) and to please you (the reader) uses the rest of the irregular spellings. Vic Paulsen's Torskript was an attempt at the first, Lindgren's SR-1 an attempt at the second. But there are other ways out of this dilemma. If you know some won't you tell them? The time to change is now!

The other problem comes from dialect differences, especially that great watershed of dialects, with or without r. (America's East, South, & Black, England, Australia, S. Africa, & International (businessmen's) English without, as opposed to U.S. Central & West, Canada, Ireland, Scotland & India with).

How do the illiterates spell?, or how do we spell when there is no standard spelling? A perfect example is in the word you, as we pronounce it in rapid conversation. In comic strips, we spell it to show its pronunciation, for illiterates & low class people. How is it spelled? Invariably yuh in North America & yer in England. These are NOT different pronunciations. They are phonemically identical & phonetically so similar as to be indistinguishable. Yet they get different spellings in r-less r-ful dialects. In the r-less dialects, they do what is reasonable to them: er is the most common way to spell the sound in a rapid, relaxed you. So they use it. In an r-ful dialect, er has a very different sound, & that strange combination of letters uhmust be used instead.

The problem is, given English is split into dialects, & the question of r is only one major divider, how can we reform English so as to keep it one language? Or do we want a family of related languages: Scotch, Southern English (Received Standard), Australian, American, Black, Southern American, & a few others. Personally, I don't think so, but I am sure the Soviets would be happy, & the French even happier (they keep talking about the vagaries of the English language & the incursion of it into French-Franglaise). So the question is: do we want one or many different languages? And if you answer "one," the problem is, "How can it be reformed & kept together?"

The editorial board of this journal was convinced that I am anti-spelling reform, but I am all for it, if these questions can be answered. I am indeed against blind beliefs that phonemics will solve all our problems, as I think most people would be if they knew what phonemics really is, & the present state of the dialects of the English language.

This is also a defensive reply to the continual sniping at "scholars who argue for status quo." Personally, I doubt whether any scholars would argue for a complete status quo; there are too many things wrong with English spelling for anybody to not want to change - at least a little bit. And it doesn't serve our goals to try to alienate the scholars. In fact, their criticisms might be listened to carefully & answered. They are not so likely to make stupid attacks, & if they can be convinced, they do control a lot of the writing that goes on in English, & their examples will be followed by dictionaries.

In the one case of the scholar whom I know passably well, he is all for changing - almost any change would be better than the present, & one change will lead to others. But there are these 2 fundamental questions, & perhaps the most fundamental, how to motivate people to change.

As a scholar, I can find things wrong in most proposals, as I assume most people can. Like SR-1, "Spell ea as e when it is pronounced with a short-e" (bread, ready, head...). But the most basic rule of spelling English vowels is to double a consonant after a short vowel (to show that. it is short), & if we spell ready as redy, it ought to be pronounced as reedy, & this is bound to give problems to future generations of children.

So I would prefer SR-1a, "the same, but double the consonant after the short-e if necessary to show the short vowel." (bredd, reddy, hedd, in order to keep it different. from the past tense of breed). This is not so admirably short & succinct as SR-1 is (which may be preferable for people with short memories), but the spellings that result. (except for bredd) are a lot more logical, follow the rules for English spelling, & look a lot more like English to me, & will surely be easier for children to learn than redy.

Now, seeing that SR-1 (or an other reform) replaces one irregularity with another, should we support it & use it? or propose SR-1a? To propose SR-1a will divide support, for SR-1, & any reform needs all the support it can get, but perhaps SR-1 has had its chance & has not succeeded. Perhaps it failed to get support because of the reasons cited above, & SR-1a would succeed because it is better.

Besides the basic questions above, I would like to hear a good answer this sort of dilemma, & also other criticism of SR-1 & SR-1a.


[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Fall 1983 pp19,1]
[Harvie Barnard: see Journal, Anthology, Bulletins.]

Timmie's Response (2nd letter) to Grandpa,

by Harvie Barnard.*

(* For the previous correspondence between Timmie and his grandpa, see SPB Spring 1981 and Spring 1982)

Dear Gramps:

Surprize and Good News! Maybe you've alredy herd? Jorje and I ar lucky! My Dad and Jorje's Dad decided to send us to privit skool and here we ar!

You'll never gess what els is nue! Our old teacher, Doctor Rider, is owr Hed Master at this nue Pioneer Boys Skool, and man is it guud to see him agen!

Jorje and I hardly recognized him; he's so different. He teeches 5th grade now insted of 3rd, and we're in his 5th grade class. When we wer bak there in Doomsbury public skool, Dr. Rider was pritty grumpy most of the time, and the kids wern't very happy eether. But sins we came here, Dr. Rider smiles a lot and sumtimes tells us jokes about foreners trying to lern the English languij. Enyhow, skool is fun now, and insted of fyting and doing ween things to eech other, the boys ar lots mor frendly than they wer bak in Doomsbury.

At first Jorje and I had a room together, which was OK, but Dr. Rider thaut it wuud be a guud experiens for us to kno sum other boys. So now I hav a nue one, and so duz Jorje. My nue frend is a boy from Russia where his dad was a consul or sumthing like an ajent at a reporter, and he went to skool in a Soviet comrad's skoolf so he's way ahed of most of us but is just my age. I'll tell you mor about him later, but enyhow his name is Jon and he's a reely smart guy!

But Jorje's nue room mate is sumthing els! He talks like a grownup, but in sum ways he's awful dum. He can hardly reed English, and he sez that a sykologist tqld his father that if he waz sent to a skool like Nue Pioneer, they cuud teech him to reed and rite like a normal person. Hiz name is Bob Reed and he always spells it boB deeR, which we think is funny, so we caul him deer Bob and that makes him mad. But Dr. Rider sed we'd hav to kwit laffing at him becaus he had bin confused, and we'd only make him worse.

So Bob was put in a speshul class for a while, and what happened waz reely stranj. He used to reed with his buuk upside down, and now he holds it rite side up. The first thing funny about Bob waz that when we had exersisez every morning Bob wuud always go the rong way when our march director sed colum left. He wuud go rite, and sumtimes he wuud just stop and wate to see which way the other boys went. That happened only one day, and then, the director sed everybody put up thare rite hand, and sure enuf, Bob put up his left.

So for a hole week Bob was in another class, and when he came bak he was diferent, just like Dr. Rider was different. At first he wuudn't tell us what happened, but finely we figured it out. Bob didn't kno rite from left and he waz trying to reed bakwards. He told us that Dr. Rider gave him cards to reed and he did reel well with words like "dad" and "mom"; then he sed "look" waz kool", and that did it. He sez its hard to chanj bak to the rite way which is confusing to him becaus when he waz in first grade they told him thare waz only one rite way to reed rite, and that waz his problem. He always started rite, and everybody sed he waz too dum to lern. So he kwit trying and until he came to our Nue Pioneer skool, he just lissened and lerned everything just by waching and lissening to the teecher. Dr. Rider sez his dyslexia will soon go away now that he understands about rite and left.

But the funny thing about Bob waz that his mother waz partly Chinese, and she helped him to reed the way the Chinese always do - from rite to left. No wonder he waz dyslexic! But enyhow Bob is a gaud guy, and the smartest kid in our math class! He sez algebra is just kid stuff, and he doesn't need a calculator or a computer. He duz it aul in his hed!

Well gramps, I gess skool will be mor interesting from now on. We're reeding in 2 kinds of books now - the dum kind and the guud kind, and Dr. Rider sez that until we get our English spelling simplified, we'll hav to kno both ways. He sez that after Bob gets his rite and left habit corrected he'll be the best reeder in the hole skool. I hope you don't mind my crazy spelling - it just comes naturally to me that way.

Yoor luving grandsun, Timmie.

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