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illegal spellings and nonsense words

 
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debbie



Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2398
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:28 am    Post subject: illegal spellings and nonsense words Reply with quote

I would like to advise great caution with the use of what is called 'illegal' spellings and the use of 'nonsense words' (which can consist of legal or illegal spellings).

An example of illegal spellings would be:

parck maidge sertch

An example of nonsense words which are legal spellings would be:

tatch medge zark


There is a case to use legal nonsense words to quickly assess the blending and spelling skills on words that the students cannot 'know' already. That is all.

I am very concerned by the type of activity where students are presented with sentences with incorrectly spelt words to 'edit' - or where students are presented with a selection of different spellings to 'choose' the correct spelling from.

Weak spellers in particular may be further confused by actually seeing wrong spellings and illegal spellings.

Young learners, immature learners, slower learners, weak learners and students for whom English is an additional language may be confused by the use of nonsense words and illegal spellings.

There is so much to learn for the English writing/reading system (the alphabetic code) that it is really important to focus on real words and correct spellings.

Confused
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Susan



Joined: 28 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Debbie,
Please would you comment on 'independent writing', where little ones who have been taught a basic code are then encouraged to write stories, diaries etc. using phonic spellings -i.e. their writing is readable but the spellings aren't necessarily correct as they only have only learnt one way to spell a sound.

Do you think that this may weaken correct spelling as they will be writing and also reading many words which are incorrectly spelled? Or do you think that encouraging independent writing is more important than producing, mostly, correct spelling at this stage?
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debbie



Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2398
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Susan, for your excellent question.

I think that it is wonderful for learners to feel they can write down anything they like to express themselves which is a feasible activity to do once they have learnt a spelling alternative for the 44+ sounds of speech.

We cannot possibly say to learners that they are not allowed to write independently or creatively until such time as they can spell every word correctly. With such an extensive complex alphabetic code, it takes a long time to teach spelling thoroughly and then students need to know specific word banks to spell with the correct graphemes. This can take years!

What teachers can do, however, is be extremely mindful of the balance of their lesson provision and their marking systems.

I suggest that in England, for example, too much emphasis for too long has been placed on the 'wonder' of little children being able to write independently and creatively. As a consequence of this - and also the notion of 'emergent writing' based largely on individual ability to pick up on spelling and writing - teachers have provided too many lessons where children are not only given the opportunity to write - but actually REQUIRED to write their news, their stories or about their topics before the children have actually been taught to write well enough.

In teacher-training I ask teachers to think hard about how often they might ask children to do things which they can't actually 'do' or they can't do well enough to feel confident and to be independent. I suspect this is the case for many teachers including me. I suppose we might refer to this as the 'have a go' approach.

What I then go on to suggest that this is about 'degree'. It's about the balance and manner of opportunities we provide for children to be able to practise writing within their own ability and confidence level compared to the number of lessons we provide which are very structured and which involve direct teaching at correct levels to involve new learning and to practise the next steps.

I am fighting hard for teachers to identify sufficient time on their time-tables to provide very regular basic skills instruction and ample pupil rehearsal time.

Currently, in England, the government's synthetic phonics programme 'Letters and Sounds' suggests 20 minutes a day for phonics teaching. This is really not enough. I suggest 30 to 40 minutes a day for four days a week as a basic minimum. The need for time will vary according to the stage of learning and also the capacity for learning. This means that there are times when pupils need longer and times when they need a shorter time - and also some pupils will need longer as they are not able to learn as quickly as others.

But I also suggest that this is not just for infant teaching but as a continuum throughout primary school. There is often such a fight for space on the time-table but basic literacy teaching is so fundamentally important.

There is a danger that synthetic phonics teaching soon liberates pupils enabling them to be free-writers simply because the basic code of more or less one spelling for the 44+ sounds of speech is soon taught. Then, some pupils will suddenly write at great length with lots of not-quite-right spellings but with an amazing capacity to express themselves!

Too much of this type of writing can seem almost impossible for teachers to address as the pupils race ahead with their invented spellings which are completely 'readable'. It is important that the culture in the classroom is about appreciation of this writing on the one hand - along with an understanding by the pupils that they are being taught how to understand and spell correctly and that they need to try hard to take on board new learning and to incorporate this into their free writing.

So, teachers need to be very mindful of this amazing and quick liberation for writing - and to ensure a really rigorous and regular teaching and learning regime which makes it clear to pupils that the aim is for a desire to spell correctly as far as is possible and practicable as time goes by.

This is one way in which the Alphabetic Code Overview Charts make very good regular reference charts. When pupils are able to orally segment all-through-the-spoken-word, their question should then be, "...and which spelling alternative do I need for this sound?" and the teacher can then refer to the chart and say, "...this one as in the word......" and point to the correct spelling alternative.

If the word to be spelt is really unusual, the teacher says so and can write it on the board or spell it aloud commenting how it is unusual and just needs to be learnt as a one-off spelling. If the spelling is rare but there are a couple of words of the same kind of spelling, the teacher can list the small handful on the board as further examples.

If there is too much opportunity for learners to write freely in their lessons, there is a danger of reinforcement of incorrect spelling. There can be too much reliance on learners' natural spelling ability and their 'development' in picking up spelling rather than being taught spelling and how to apply good spelling.

Finally, I need to mention teacher-training for marking. There is much emphasis for teachers on marking 'formatively' according to the main 'learning intention' of the lesson. Sadly, this is rarely 'spelling' per se and so many teachers are uncomfortable to mark spelling and may neglect the marking of spelling.

I suggest that all teachers have a constant regime of marking for spelling. This does not mean marking every single spelling which is incorrect but it does mean marking the ones that should be spelt correctly or which are new technical and topic-specific words which need to be learnt. However, it is not enough to write 'sp' next to incorrect spelling (sp for 'spelling'). Instead, teachers need to write out neatly the correct spelling and then create a regime where pupils know they must look at those spellings, perhaps write them out themselves nearby or in spelling books for reference.

There needs to be a culture of 'teaching and learning' spelling and not neglect.

Without a rigorous spelling programme in schools, many teachers would understandably not know how best to tackle the teaching of spelling as it is not straightforward in our English language. However, TEACH it, they must! Wink
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/Let_me_help_you_to_spell_that.pdf

Poster from the 'Free Resources' page to support spelling.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/FR_PI_Posters_for_phonics_routines.pdf

Posters from the 'Free Resources' page to support the phonics routines for reading, spelling and handwriting.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/FR_PI_Guidance_for_phonics_routines.pdf

Further suggestions for perfecting the phonics routines - on the 'Free Resources' page!
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debbie



Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2398
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm flagging up this Reading Reform Foundation post because it raises questions about marking-for-spelling policies:

http://rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6245
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