[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J20, 1996/1 pp28]
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Jean Hutchins.]

Jean Hutchins revews

two booklets from the United Kingdom Reading Association

These revews ar publishd in Cut Spelng.

1 - Robin Campbell Miscue Analysis in the Classroom

UKRA Minibook 3, 31pp, July 1993, ISBN 1 897638 02 7, £4.50.

As a principl, it is good to look at typs of oral readng err (= miscues) - but only if it is an expedient way of helpng lernrs to improve ther readng skils (unless of corse th analysis is intendd to provide data on spelngs that trip readrs up, for th purpos of spelng reform desyn). It takes a long time to anlyz errs; it is a dificlt task; ther ar varying lists of criteria; ther is no standrdized comparisn with othr children of th same aje or intelijnce; and th authr of this booklet aknolejs that a child may sho difrnt results on difrnt texts ("Asking a child to read a different story can change the nature of the miscues they produce", p12).

Ther is no emfasis in th booklet on being aware of and prasing wat is corect. It is mor positiv to notice th 90 out of 100 words red corectly than to concentrate on th 10 errs. One can tel a gret deal about wat a child can read from th corectly red words!

This booklet dos not mention standrdized tests. It is a good idea to combine miscu analysis with obtainng a standrdized scor for acuracy, comprehension and speed of readng. Tests such as th Neale Analysis of Reading Ability and th MacMillan Reading Analysis ofr al these facilitis and include six criteria for miscu analysis as wel. We can compare th scors with th cronlojicl aje of th child, but mor importntly, with th verbl intelijnce levl or with receptiv or expressiv vocablry scors wich giv an indication of th litracy achevemnt that one can reasnbly expect. In both th Neale and MacMillan tests (wich each hav alternativ, paralel sets of texts), ther ar six storis in asendng ordr of dificlty. It is very helpful to se how children takl esy and hardr texts. With repeatd experience of th same texts, th anlyst gets to no th typicl errs that many children make. Th comprehension scor can only relate to th storis th child can read, but givs a very valubl perspectiv - is it much hyr than th acuracy scor (a situation wich usuly confirms abov avraj intelijnce, and vice versa)? dos th child use th words of th text or parafrase? can th child deduce and infer as wel as ansr 'strait' questions? Th speed of readng is importnt - dos it take this child longr to read than his peers? Myt acuracy improve if th child red mor sloly? Is it frustrating for th child to hav to work out or self-corect a gret many words? Persistntly slo readng may qualify a pupil for extra time in examnations. Standrdized tests of singl words may tel us mor about word atak skils, as th child may make very good use of context cues and read words in a story, but be unable to read words in isolation.

Th chaptr on 'Planning Literacy Programmes' is disapointng. Apart from jenrl sujestions for one particulr child, wich evry child shud surely receve anyway in its Reception year, th only specific recmendation is "greater emphasis on the use of nursery rhymes ... to encourage phonemic awareness." We ar not told how nursry ryms shud be used for this purpos.

In sevrl places, th authr sujests that 'meanngful miscues', ie, rong words that make sense, shud not always be corectd. I think it is very danjerus to alow inacuracis. How wil readrs no wen they hav got th jist corectly? One letr can make a gret difrnce to a word (eg, infection/injection) and therby to th sense. One mistake may lead to anothr - to make sense of th first mistake. We do want undrstandng and readng for meanng, but not at th expense of acuracy.

Th authr dos not explain how a teachr, with maybe 35 children in th class, can find time to repeatdly record and anlyz readng miscues (as wel as riting miscues, and scor story retelng as wel).

It is useful for teachrs to no about miscu analysis, to be aware of th difrnt typs of errs, and to keep them in mind to be cald upon wen necesry, rathr than making miscu analysis a way of life, as th authr seems to advocate.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J20, 1996/1 pp29,30]

2 - Brigid Smith Teaching Spelling

UKRA Minibook 5, 32pp, July 1994, ISBN: 1 897638 05 1, £4.50.

No dout th editr of this series asumed that, as Brigid Smith "as nevr been far from th clasroom", ther wud be no need to proof-read for gramr, punctuation and spelng. Dr Smith clearly folod her own advice of seprating th authrship from th secretryship, and did not complete th latr task in producing this booklet.

It wud hav been betr to hav indicated in th title that th subject was "Teachng Spelng to pupils with Special Educationl Needs". A coleag was very surprised at th examnation stratejis sujestd - rite dificlt words in pencil and chek them later with somone or in a dictionry. It is not made clear that only a smal minority of pupils need such a stratejy and that they cud not use it in examnations.

Th first part of th booklet deals mainly with suport activitis rathr than "how to lern spelngs". Dr Smith then describes sevrl visul methods of taklng unown spelngs, but dismisses th multisensry aspect of sayng th letr-names and th word. This is a pity, as ther ar many lernrs ho remembr mor esily wat they hav herd than wat they hav seen. Using visul and auditry senses togethr is even betr. Fortunatly th kinesthetic mode using tracing and riting is included. Charles Cripps, an advocat of th 'Look, Covr, Rite and Chek' rutine, aknolejd that dyslexic pupils, with poor visul memris, may need multisensry input.

Stranjely, in vew of much reserch evidnce about th valu of fonemic awareness in litracy aquisition, ther is only a brief mention of th aplication of sound-symbl relationships (it ocurs in th 'Scool Policis for Spelng and Handriting' section). Dr Smith refers to reserchrs in conection with nolej of rymng patrns, but says that it is a 'visul analojy'. Rymng is a lisnng skil, not a visul skil, particulrly in words like stone, thrown.

Perhaps Dr Smith has a fotografic memry for words and dos not undrstand th stratejis needd by lesr mortls. Wen we want to spel a dificlt word, or a non-word, we may rite it down to se if it looks ryt. We reherse it to ourselvs silently or aloud, perhaps workng thru th sylabls. We perceve th sounds in ordr and think how to convey those sounds in letrs. Thus, if we perceve a /f/ sound, we hav to think wethr to spel it with F, FF, PH or GH. If we perceve /er/ we can try ER, IR, UR, EAR, (W)OR, RE, OUR, etc. We do this without realizing it. Many pupils with litracy dificltis, ho do not hav good visul memris, hav to lern these spelng choices and go thru them delibratly.

Dr Smith has no sujestions for a teachng structur for spelngs, in spite of th many sceme books on th market. [1] A child with lernng dificltis canot just lern evry word they get rong, or evry word they myt want to use. At th very least it wud hav been helpful to mention th Murray McNally 100 kewords. As these constitute 50% of al readng, they ar a priority for lernng, a few at a time, reinforced in many difrnt ways. It wud be even betr if they wer sortd into groups of simlr words, eg, putng could, would togethr insted of leving them in an alfabeticl list.

One wud hav expectd th Scool Policy section to include a recmendation for a clear sylabus of spelng work for each year, so that al teachrs (and parents) no wat has been taut previusly, wat wil be taut during th curent year, and wat is to com later. Othrwise, som importnt words wil be misd, and othrs may be taut sevrl times. Ther can be difrentiated spelng groups within a class, each group moving forwrd at its own suitabl pace.

I feel that inexperienced teachrs wil be very mistaken if they think that th content of this booklet is a balanced overvew of teachng spelng.

[1] Titles on litracy teachng methodolojy wich I particulrly recmend ar:

Eds, Augur J & Briggs S (secnd edition 1991) The Hickey Multisensory Language Course, Londn: Whurr

Brand V (1984) Spelling Made Easy. Multisensory structured spelling, Baldock: Egon (Introductory Level, and Levels 1, 2, 3), with related computer software: Spelling Made Easy, Egon.

Hornsby B & Shear F (4th edition 1993) Alpha to Omega. The A-Z of Teaching Reading, Writing and Spelling, Oxford: Heinemann.

[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J20, 1996/1 pp29,30]
Journal, Newsletter, Anthology, Bulletin articles, and Written Dialects by Kenneth Ives.]

Kenneth Ives reviews

Spelling Research & Information:
an overview of current research and practices

eds. Scott Foresman Co., Glenview, IL, 128pp, 1995, ISBN 0-673-28840-4

The research aspect of this book has many good points: the study of student spelling errors by Ronald L Cramer and James F Cipielewski is excellent, with lists of most commonly misspelt words in each grade from 1 thru 8 (pp31, 95-102); the top five types of errors in elementary/intermediate/upper grades are listed on p44; developmental stages in spelling are described by James Beers on pp55-66; spellings of related words are indicated in lists on pp72, 73, 75; 5) the material is well organized; attention is given to the problems of schwa; there is a good bibliography of 97 references.

Perhaps reflecting current views and practices, there are several assumptions and biases which make many of the conclusions open to serious question.

There is much overt bias against spelling reform. This is most glaring on p67, where the 1965 (sic) study by Hanna, Hanna, Hodges and Rudolph which "found surprising regularity in spelling patterns" is cited. No figures are given. However, that study included a report on a computer effort at spelling from sounds, using 203 spelling rules. It was able to spell correctly only 49% of 17,000 words. This does not fit any definition I know of for "surprising regularity"!

Regularizing spellings would improve the basis for at least 10 of the 55 "error categories for grades 1 thru 8": homophones (No.2), consonant doubling (Nos. 14, 23, 29, 41), silent e (Nos. 22, 24, 28), and silent consonants (No.37). Regularizing irregular words (No.48) would no longer be an error.

On p16 an author refers to "the myth of an irrational English spelling system". That author then lists four features which "make English spelling reasonably predictable":

1) word structure and proximity principles;
2) derivational principles associated with meaning;
3) spelling patterns within words;
4) regular consonant letter-sound matches.

Again, no figures are given on how predictable this makes English words, nor on how one determines which feature to use when, nor what to do when different features point to differing spellings.

These four rules must involve many more rules, and many exceptions. The authors provide no estimate of teaching time required for these features, nor a comparison with teaching times using regular or reformed spellings. The experiments with reformed spellings from the 1850s and from the Initial Teaching Alphabet (i.t.a.) in the 1960s and 1970s are not referred to, nor their effects on student performance.

There seems to be a bias towards remediation, rather than clear early teaching as prevention. Remediation can be very expensive and very complex. This in turn likely rests on the present emphasis on 'invented spelling' and the claim that each student should 'discover' phonic regularities - a case of reinventing the wheel. It encourages teachers to abdicate the teaching role when introducing reading and writing. This can be deduced from the substantial number of regularly spelt words on the lists of common misspellings - 33 in grade 1, 19 in grade 8, and from 1/3 to 1/5 of the lists of 100. If adequate teaching of the phonic regularities began early in first grade, these regularly spelt words might well become less than 10% in the 100 most commonly misspelt words.

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