[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1994-2 p2 later designated J17]
[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, SPB articles, and book Written Dialects by Kenneth Ives.]


Kenneth Ives.

Getting Reformed Spellings Into Schools: What Will It Take?

This past year I have attended the International Reading Asso. convention in Toronto, and a workshop and state convention of the Orton Dyslexia Society. That organization and its members have developed detailed, step by step methods for teaching phonics to students who don't "catch on" to reading easily.

A major concern of teachers attending such conferences is "What can I do with the kids next Monday morning?", and thereafter. Hence if we want to get simplified spellings used in early grades, we will have to develop materials that those teachers find useful with their students - and likely a whole curriculum for grades K-3. An example of what this involves - but without the simplified spellings - is "The Phonics Handbook", published by our Chairman Chris Jolly. (See Links page.]

Simplified or regularized spellings can form an important bridge between "invented spellings" that many schools now permit in Kindergarten and first grade, and traditional, "received" spellings. A few schools permit "invented spellings" as high as grade 5.

Advantages of regularized spellings include:

1. Permit fluent writing. If accepted in second and third grade, they avoid the inhibiton of writing noticed in second grade if standard irregular spellings are enforced there. Teach the spellings that are regular for writers.

2. Reinforce phonics instruction by using consistent, standard spellings for each sound, rather than guessed "invented" ones that may vary from student to student.

3. Delays most "sight words" to third or fourth grade. This fits better with developmental factors.

4. The use of a standard regularized spelling can result in students spelling over half (56%) of words as in received spellings.

However, any existing phonics program would need a thoro revision to include an intermediate stage of regularized spellings. And it would need to be accompanied by a series of readers in a (44%?) regularized spelling.

These two aspects would initially need to be subsidized, by government education departments, foundations, and/or SSS. They would need testing and revision, and the development of manuals for teachers and materials for parents.

Whole Language and Phonics.

A report from the IRA Convention in Toronto (see page 36) notes the emergence of a "Whole Language Plus Phonics" movement. This approach is supported in a letter in the October/November 1994 issue of Reading TODAY.

"Phonics alone is boring, and highly creative children 'tune out' what is repetitive and unrelated. Phonics does, however, form a solid foundation for the English language.

"Whole language adds spice, vocabulary, and relationships between reading, writing, and oral language. It stimulates creative minds and exposes students to different authors' voices. It allows freedom of expression not found in straight phonics.

"... parents were amazed at the quick results when we threw phonics and whole language together. Reading suddenly became fun instead of work, became appropriate for the young child, and resulted in many kindergarten readers and writers emerging with strong word attack and comprehension skills.

"Phonics has a place in reading. Whole language also has a place. One without the other creates unnecessary voids."

Two books on "Spelling for whole language classrooms" (Gentry 1993, Wilde 1992) seem to imply that the teaching of irregular spellings may dominate the curriculum. Thus Gentry and Gillet's final chapter is on "The effective schoolwide spelling curriculum". Wilde has a chapter on "Spelling across the curriculum".

This is not necessary in Italian, which is spelt phonetically, hence has no need for spelling books or spelling classes. Thus if regularized spellings were used in grades 1 thru 3, including in their story and text books, a great amount of time and temper could be freed for comprehension and content learning.

Then teaching students to edit their writing for the intended audience can more easily move their finished products into received spellings.


While some educators have a phobia about phonics, as Joyce Morris describes in the lead article, some also have a phobia about spelling reform. Several BETSS members recently encountered an example of this.

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