Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Important News!

Have you been wishing for access to the ultimate Orthographic resource?

The RealSpellers™ Toolbox is moving online!
Check it out.

TBox 2 News

The TBox2 Project : Latest Developments

The TBox2 version of Tool Kit One is now shipping

The Real Spelling site has already announced that the re-written Tool Kit 1 on interactive disk is published and is now shipping as standard in TBox2.

Existing TBox2 owners can update their resource from the link on the web site.


About heritage Themes from Tool Box One

Until now, the texts of the original Tool Box of 1997 have been provided alongside the completely new TBox2 resources. 

Except for the original text of Kits 5 and 6 that are currently being re-written, original first Tool Box Theme texts are no longer supplied with TBox 2.


Kit K is discontinued and will be replaced with a completely new ‘Foundation Tool Kit’

Dating from a decade and a half ago, the first Tool Box was a painful compromise with the pedagoguery of the schooling industry. Kit K was the most blatant caving-in to the reigning ideology and for some time it has been increasingly difficult and embarrassing to live with. It is with long-delayed relief that we set it completely aside.

In due course we plan to replace it with a Foundation Tool Kit each of whose 12 Themes will explain and resource a fundamental orthographic concept.

With no concessions to pedagoguery.


A new TBox2 resource in the offing : Real Script

As well as the current work of re-writing and converting Kits 5 and 6 to multimedia interactivity, we are in the early stages of preparing exciting (to us) new resource: Real Script.

Incoherent ergonomics, the usual superficiality of edubabble disturbed by the intrusion of ignorant and chauvinistic Style Wars, render what schools call ‘handwriting’ an incompetent, inefficient and painful mess for learners, and has produced a cacographic adult population that can’t tell the essential difference between script and the art form called calligraphy.

As soon as we can (but it won’t be immediately) we’ll let you have a sneak preview of some of the Real Script resources that are in the pipeline. Time rolls on, though. We simply hope that there will be enough of it left to us to allow our plans to become a concrete reality.

Know that you can rely on us to continue to work for the admirable company of real spellers for as long as we are able.


iPaddery Ahoy! (Well, perhaps)

Earlier today , we received this message from the Real Spelling site.

Are you by any chance making iPad apps for your resources? Thanks!

Here’s an extract from our response.


You are not the first to ask us about iPad apps.

If you have a copy of Tool Box 2 with its interactive mutimedia contact on disk you will know that we are not technological Luddites - far from it!

On the other hand, we do not leap on to everything and anything that is new just because it is new - and fashionable.  A new medium must be capable of and apt for generating a new clarificatory dimension to cognition (which we have found and celebrate in the multimedia presentation of the TBox 2 Themes and resources).

Too often, though, educommerce has simply used hi-tech to add whistles, buzzes, vulgar primary colours and dancing cartoons as a sugar coating on the pill of the cognitive vacuum of the phonics fallacy.

Such bandwaggonry is not for us 

BUT ...

We are certainly appreciating the possibility of a real contribution to conceptual enagement and representation that the iPad technology appears to be able to offer, and that in spite of the fact that the near totality of iPadding edubabble on orthography that we have seen so far is just a recycling of that same old conceptual befuddlement.

So, you will no doubt be interested, and perhaps pleased, to know that Real Spelling is registered as an Apple Developer. We are not rushing into anything, though: "Nothing that is excellent was ever wrought suddenly," as Francis Bacon so aptly put it.


And in the mean time we still are struggling to find the time and serenity to complete the transfer of the Tool Box resource into its interactive multimedia content and format! No time for thumb-twiddling chez nous!

TBox2 Origins 3 : The millenary advent of Tool Box One

We were at the point where, after some reluctance, I was setting about constructing a tool box for teachers - but a tool box for what?

Notorious victim of compulsive paronomasia as I am, I first thought of a “Tool Box for Sound Spelling”. That idea soon bit the dust as I reminded myself that not only would the intended pun be lost on most of the witless hoi polloi of edubabbledom, but also - and worse - they were likely to take my inclusion of the term ‘sound’ to be validating rather than implicitly mocking the pusillanimous sounditoutery of The Great Phonics Hoax.

In one fleeting moment of grey cell febrillity I toyed with “morphophonemic orthography” but quickly regained my sanity and settled for “real spelling” - simply spelling as it really is. And that, I felt, was compatible with what I was trying to produce : a coherent body of resources for enriching and informing the armoury of working teachers so that their own very professional qualities could select what, in their judgement, best suited the current needs of their students.

TBox2 Origins 4 : Metamorphosis

The first Tool Box was conceived and born in an age where the photocopier was king and we marvelled at the wonders of the overhead projector. The idea of the eBook was still in its fetal stage. The publishing technology of the time was hard copy bound books and booklets, usually stored on racks or in cabinets.

So, inevitably, the first Tool Box with its nearly ninety bound booklets, the 400-page Manual and the wheeled cabinet weighed something over twenty kilograms all together! The cost of the Tool Box itself was consequently pretty high, and international shipping made it half as expensive again.

But in spite of all this, the hefty first Tool Box made its way across continents and oceans and into various latitudes where small but vigorous hearths of real spelling activity began to glow in the surrounding inspissated gloom of edubabbledom.


The dollar disaster

Then the enfeebled US dollar began to totter into a  downward glide. And that was bad news for anything who base price was in euros.

To give an idea of how catastrophic this was, imagine an item that is priced at 100 €: in 2004 that worked out at about US $85; by 2008 that same article at the same euro price worked out at about US $160.


2006 - a turning point

The accelerating enfeeblement of the dollar was a killer. Already, before the dollar collapsed, we were barely covering the cost of producing and delivering the Tool Box; now we were subsidizing it heavily with our other activities.

I was all for letting the Tool Box rest in peace after the existing stock was sold and limiting our work for orthography to the Study Weeks. 

Pascal had other ideas. 

“Merde,” said he, “on ne peut pas s’arrêter là!” Agreeing that the production costs were now prohibitive, he said that we should take that rather as a challenge to find ways of making the resource more compact. He suggested putting it all on disk - after all, and in contrast to 1997 when the project began, everyone now had computers.

He also reminded me that for a year or two already I had been muttering about completely revising the Tool Box, and this could be the ideal time to do just that. He added that we could see what new technology there might be around to make a re-written Tool Box more of a multimedia experience than the previous black print on white pages.


The new Tool Box emerges

It took a frustrating year or so to find what we wanted before we finally settled for the least nerdish of the geekery-infested publishing products on the market: Adobe InDesign. Then it took us several further months of wading through the vapidly imprecise gobbledegookery that Adobe passes off as operating instructions and ‘help’ to construct a prototype of the sort of interactive multimedia that we wanted.






By the beginning of 2008, a full decade after the start of the Tool Box project, we started the construction of re-written and re-presented Tool Kit 4 on disk.

And we decreed that henceforth, the day contains thirty-six hours and I started to rise at five in the morning to get back to work on the project that we expected would probably take four or five years to achieve. 

In the autumn of 2008, the TBox 2 Interactive multimedia Kit 4 made its appearance, the harbinger of more to come.

TBox2 Origins 2 : From conception to genesis

There  never was a ‘golden age’ of spelling in English schools. Complaints in the press about reading and spelling incompetence of the ‘beneficiaries’ of state education are continuous from the beginning of the twentieth century.

birth_announceHere’s a representative example of the ‘product’ from 1943, the year in which my Franco-Egyptian mother gave birth to me on the banks of the Suez Canal.

Behold and wonder at the note sent to my father from the Royal Air Force secretariat announcing, with a classic spelling mistake, that he had a son. You will note, too, the painfully cacographic apology for script that is the inevitable result of schools’ teaching of what they call ‘handwriting’.

Even more interesting is the fact that this phonics-addled secretary misspelled <no> as *<now> before inking out the intrusive <w>. Actually, in the pronunciation of the phrase <no information> - [nǝʊwɪnfǝˈmeɪʃǝn] - the [w] really IS present. It will come as no surprise to real spellers that it was in the preceding thirties, during which the secretary had been schooled, that ‘phonics’ (a term that in this form has absolutely no linguistic validity) first saw the light of day and contaminated schooling. “Sound it out” this clerk will have been told to do while still at school, and sound it out he did. He wrote <w> because there is what The Great Phonics Hoax calls “wuh” in that position.

The fact is that orthography (spelling, reading and script) has never been safe in the hands of compulsory state education and, taken as a whole, nothing much has changed to this day.


So where was I?

Ah, yes; cornered in Brussels being commanded to produce teaching materials.

I had, of course, to agree that their point was well-made. They were busy class teachers and needed resources and tools ready and at hand to put into practice what they saw to be powerful and conceptually sound. But how could I reconcile this with the fact that I absolutely refuse to produce the sort of teaching kit that is made up of ‘work cards’ and the like that can just be dished out to students for ‘marking’ later.

So, what these professionals are really asking for, said I to myself, is the tools for what they want to do. ‘Tools’ - aha!

And the idea of a ‘Tool Box’ for spelling was conceived.

TBox2 Origins 1 : To begin at the beginning ...

RS-coverTwenty years ago a publishing house in England invited me to write a book about spelling for them. ‘Rescuing Spelling’ was the title, and rescuing spelling has been my principal occupation ever since.

Certainly, spelling needed rescuing from the slander of its supposed ‘exceptions’ and ‘irregularity’. It also needed rescuing from being fought over by the Scylla and Charybdis of the Whole Language Camp on the one hand, and The Great Phonics Hoax on the other hand that was rising more like a Zombie than the shining Phoenix from the ashes of its inevitable failure two or three decades before.

But at that time a far greater pestilence was already menacing the horizon: the gathering black clouds of politically distorted pseudoscience were the harbinger of the imminent descent of the edubabbling “research” wolf in threadbare linguistic clothing coming down on the orthographic fold like the Assyrian of old.

In those days, when personal computers were still glorified word processing engines and internet was still a bright idea in the offing, a contract from an editing house was the only real way to publish a book.

I signed the contract - and thereby sold a small corner of my soul.

  1.   5 Comment
  Peter Bowers — Sorry guys, didn't see this post till just now. Right now the Real Spelling Tool Box is not available for sale. There is work going on to make the Tool Box 2 available on-line, but that will take some......
  Cynthia Kiefer — I would like to purchase the Tbox also. Is it possible?...
  Kathy Hoben — Is it possible to purchase any of the DVD's? Or are you making them available via download?...
  Brenda S. Mackaness — Is it possible to purchase TBox 2?...