[Simplified Spelling Society Pamphlet No. 7. Part 2.]
On other pages part 1, part 3, part 4.

The best method of teaching children to read and write.
Reports of experiments conducted in sixteen schools, part 2.


Report of the Head Master, Mr. Wm. Bennett, M.A., dated September 17th, 1924, on the use of Simplified Spelling as a Time-Saver in the Teaching of Reading:-

"In response to an advertisement which appeared in the Scottish Education Journal, in the early summer of 1919, I obtained permission from H. M. I. (Mr. W. G. Fraser) to try an experiment on the lines indicated by the title above. The experiment was begun in August, 1919, with three sets of books supplied gratis by the Simplified Spelling Society. All the entrants were put into the class, and a start was made with the Ferst Reeder. Preparatory training was given in the symbols. As there were no exceptions, progress was confident and much quicker than with the ordinary type of reader on the phonic method. Some difficulty was experienced at first, because the poems in the Reeder were too familiar. But that was got over by printing various lines on the blackboard, so as to take them out of their context. Now, we begin with the 'Jinglz' because the poems there are not so familiar. The newer edition of the 'Jinglz' builds up gradually on more conventional lines, but leads rapidly to literature which the children read for its own sake.

"In six weeks' time the pupils were reading 'Little Boy Blue, come blow up your horn,' whereas, at the same date in the previous year, they had been reading (from Chambers' Effective Readers, First Primer):-
My fat cat has a kit.
Sam hit the kit on its leg.
Can the mit fit on the rag?
and other equally 'classical' literature."

"The children were keen and confident because they encountered no illogical obstacles, and H. M. I., at a visit in the late autumn, expressed himself as greatly pleased, asking to be informed when the transition to conventional spelling was to take place.

"This transition - dreaded as a period of difficulty - really occurred naturally, and with no special difficulty. The teacher hurried into my room to say that she found the pupils reading from one of Chambers' Effective Reading Sheets (illustrated), which hung in a corner, their idea being to get some explanation of the picture. In their minds reading was not a labour for the sake of learning to read, but for the sake of the content of the reading matter; therefore they were eager to read everything in print.

"A moment's reflection will show why there should have been no fear of the transition. For at the period of the transition their intelligence had been much developed, and the words encountered in ordinary spelling were all carefully chosen words of one syllable, spelt phonetically. The teacher merely explained that the class had hitherto spelt words in an easy way, and that now they were going to spell just like grown-ups. That alike flattered and pleased them.

"By Easter (i.e., after seven months' tuition), the experiment was over, and the children passed on to Chambers' Effective First Infant Reader (not Primer) a full term ahead. Never in any previous year had this book been attempted till the beginning of the second year of School life. H. M. I. (Mr. Fraser) again visited the School - at the end of June, 1920 - and after examining the teachers' records, and testing fully every branch of the class work, he reported as follows:-

"At one School the attempt is being made to teach the initiatory stages of Reading by means of Simplified Spelling, the text book used being that published by the Simplified Spelling Society. The plan adopted is to use this book for the first six months of School life, and then to pass on to books in the ordinary spelling. This transition is clearly the critical stage, and it may be said, as the result of experience, that it has caused no loss of time. For, though no extra time has been given to reading, the children at the end of the year are much better readers than they used to be under the old system, both of their text books and of unseen matter. The confusion that might have been apprehended had not been produced. The Head Master's view of this is interesting, viz.: that children of five or six are less easily confused by such apparently illogical proceedings than would be children of eight or nine.

"'At first sight it would seem that the facts constitute strong evidence of the superiority of the new method. But when it is noted that the improvement in reading has been accompanied by improvement in spelling, writing, and arithmetic it becomes evident that we must use caution in forming a judgment. It is hard to see how a method of teaching reading can of itself help arithmetic. Is it not possible that the interest of a new experiment has had a stimulating effect on the teachers, which is reflected in the results in all subjects? And if this be so, how much of the improvement in reading is due to this stimulus, and how much to the method itself?

"'But, though we cannot as yet definitely decide as to the value of the method, one welcomes the experience of this School as confirmation of what one has always felt, viz.: that experiment is good for a School provided the head of the School is at once sympathic and judicious.' - (General Report for the year 1920, by F. R. Jamieson, Esq., M.A., one of H.M. Chief Inspectors on the Schools in the Southern Division of Scotland, dated Edinburgh, December 31st, 1920.)

"The Inspector could not then see how a method of reading could improve all the other work. The answer is complete. (1) The improvement was no mere 'flash in the pan,' for it has continued to date. (2) The children's logical facility was never upset by having to trust continually to a grown-up to tell them when words obeyed rules and when they didn't. Self-help and self-effort were encouraged by interesting matter read from the first, and never discouraged by confusing anomalies. (3) The late Sir Wm. MacEwen, the great surgeon and brain specialist, affirmed at a meeting of experts (the British Association) that 'scientific study in any branch of knowledge prepared the way for rapid advance in any other branch of knowledge'.

"In the second year of School life the First Infant Reader (Chambers'), is revised during the first fortnight. Then the Second Reader is tackled and finished in two months (i.e., by the end of October). In former sessions the two Infant Readers, with a supplementary reader or so, completed the second year's work. Now very much more is professed.

"After the two Readers are finished a supplementary reader - like 'Rumpelstiltskin' or 'Cinderella' is read. Then comes Gibson's Phonic Reader IV, one of the stiffest possible books. Another supplementary Reader follows this. Then Nelson's Introductory Reader to the Highroads of Literature. This is regarded as a holiday. After that there is a final run over Gibson's Reader IV again, to make them quite strong in the stiffest spelling an Infant class can get. All through there is a great deal of blackboard work in order to familiarise the children with the various rules and anomalies of conventional spelling. Those who know will agree that a great deal of reading has been done, and that, given mastery of the books professed, the spelling will be a 'strong' subject. That is so: our children now spell better than ever before, and they are eager readers.

"We still use this method after five years of trial. It is a METHOD and no longer an EXPERIMENT. Our teachers declare that they will not willingly go back to the old method. In proof of this last statement, I may say that when our Authority, under the impulse of the Geddes Axe, made a list of text-books to be used in their schools, I suggested to my teachers that the S.S.S. text-books were worn, that it would be useless to ask the Authority for a new set, and that perhaps it would be advisable to go over to ordinary readers. The teachers forthwith said they would prefer to buy a new set for themselves. This was avoided by replacement of worn copies from old stock held by the Society. But the incident speaks for itself.

"I appeal then, to my fellow teachers to try this method for themselves. In the first two years it saves from three to six months of school time, and calls for no special skill in teaching. It makes work easier and happier for teacher and taught. It encourages reasoning power and fosters self-help because from the first it presents interesting matter told in language natural to a child and not distorted or twisted to suit the difficulties of spelling, as must be the case with the best of 'phonic' readers. It increases keenness and creates a taste for reading. In five months' time the children will 'burst into writing' as naturally as Italian children would do. It gives confident and clear articulation and enunciation, owing to the complete absence of anomalies and exceptions, and therefore, tends to improve speech. The children read in a natural, happy, and interested tone, quite different from the conventional school shout or drawl. The experiment 'consumes its own smoke,' as it is all over in from seven to nine months. It affects the Infant Room only. It does not affect spelling adversely - rather the reverse - and can call for no criticism from anyone. Parents can be told that the method has been reported on officially, and has proved successful in other schools. If adopted throughout the school it would save from one to two years of school life, and would provide a great release of time and energy for other things.

"Against a great many reforms advocated at the present moment it is urged that they are Utopian, or that they cost money and are therefore out of court in these difficult days. This reform would cost nothing, since it could be very gradually adopted as school books were worn out. Old people could learn to read it in half-an-hour, and could continue to spell in their own way. Costly standard works could still be read though in present conventional spelling, and only gradually need new plates be stereotyped for more up-to-date editions. Teachers can help on the cause, for they are at the very source of the training of the new generations and could influence many parents. Multitudes yet unborn would arise and call them blessed, were they to rise as a body and demand this long overdue reform."

Name of School: Intermediate School, Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire.
Teachers concerned: First year - Miss Mary Bain; Second year - Miss Elizabeth Bain.
Head Master: Wm. Bennett, M.A.


Miss Walsh, late Head Mistress of the School, presented a Report on the working of the experiment in this School, from which the following is extracted:-

"My experience is that children delight in seeing and learning the sounds of the symbols which represent words that they themselves use.

"Plenty of Blackboard Exercises on familiar words always spelt as pronounced will prepare the children for the use of the Preliminary Reader: 'Jinglz and Storiz in Simplifyd Speling,' supplied by the Simplified Spelling Society, in which 'one symbol, one sound' is fully worked out.

"Children using these books make remarkably rapid progress very happily - and happiness is certainly essential, especially in the early stages of learning to read - because they are never confused by various sounds being used for the same letter nor by the use of various letters to represent the same sound, and having perfect confidence in the symbols, the chidren soon discover their own power of building new words without the help of their teacher, and they delight in exercising this power, because they are never disappointed by being wrong, and they are never afraid to attempt to pronounce an unfamiliar word for the same reason.

"Two classes of little people in my own school - average age five years eight months - began learning to read on the Simplified Spelling Plan, and at the end of the ninth month they had mastered the Ferst and Sekond Reeders in Simplified Spelling.

"In all my experience of school work, I have never seen little children so keen on any lesson, not, as far as I could judge, because they were different from other children, nor because they wished to excel, but simply because they thoroughly enjoyed discovering new words for themselves.

"The Transition Stage, i.e., the passing over from Simplified Spelling to the orthodox spelling. At this stage my teachers and I expected to meet with difficulties, but we considered that the children being nine months older and having learnt to concentrate their thoughts to a certain extent, to handle their books properly, and to read regular words - common to both methods - would be much better fitted to grapple with the inconsistencies of our language, than they were, when they began school life, and we were agreeably surprised at the way in which the children grasped the changes. The majority took no notice of slight alterations, hesitated at others, but, of course, were completely non-plussed by some of the anomalies.

"At the end of two years the classes referred to above were tested by an impartial and experienced judge, and the results obtained in spelling and the mechanical art of reading proved that these children (average seven years eight months) wore considerably in advance of their age in those two subjects, and that they could read and spell better than classes of children of the same age and in the same school, instructed by the same teachers under similar conditions - but taught entirely on the usual methods.

"The teachers of the classes and I had convincing evidence that learning to read on the Simplified Spelling plan was far the happier experience for the little child beginning its school career, and that the children taught on the Simplified Spelling Method, being able to read intelligently nine months earlier than those trained on orthodox lines, had extra time for silent reading, and their use of the Classroom Library showed that the power to read created a love of reading even in young minds."

At the Meeting of the Simplified Spelling Society at University College, London, on January 2nd, 1919, at which Demonstration lessons were given to classes of children taught to read and write on phonetic principles, Miss Walsh said:-

"I have been asked to give you a brief outline of the way in which we are dealing with simplified spelling at Honeywell Road Infants' School. After reading, with great interest, the experience and opinions of several teachers in Scotland, and much literature on the subject, I strongly desired to introduce simplified spelling into my own school, in order to see if it really were a simpler and happier method of teaching little people to read. Two members of my staff - Miss Parker and Miss Renwick, both experienced teachers - at once fell in with my suggestions to try simplified spelling for a certain period, and they undertook the work. Both Miss Parker and Miss Renwick have given two word-building lessons and two reading lessons each morning - to one class on the orthodox method, and to the other class on the simplified spelling plan. In this way we hoped to arrive at as fair and true a comparison as could possibly be obtained - the classes being composed of children of the same type, taught by the same teachers, under similar circumstances, and in the same surroundings. Circumstances over which we have no control - such as weather, health, and attendance - must, of course, be taken into consideration when the final balance is adjusted. The children who will come before you this evening have received, on an average, one hundred word-building lessons of fifteen minutes and one hundred reading lessons of twenty minutes' duration. The younger group - average age, six years - in charge of Miss Renwick - are still working entirely with simplified spelling, but the older group - average age, six and a half years - under Miss Parker's care - have just arrived at the transition stage; therefore, neither my teachers nor I can yet speak definitely about the time saved by this method. But we are fully convinced that learning to read on the Simplified Spelling Plan is much the happier experience for a little child at the beginning of its school career; because, as each symbol always represents the same sound, the child is not disappointed or confused by continual failure to pronounce the printed word correctly; neither is he afraid to attempt unfamiliar words."

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On other pages part 1, part 3, part 4.