Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

During a visit to the Jakarta Intercultural School (formerly Jakarta International School) I had the pleasure of conducting a tutoring session with a student identified for spelling difficulty.

CLICK HERE to read a 3-page pdf with an account of this session.

While my focus was on the learning of the student, my actual purpose was to model for the teachers observing the joy students experience as they come to understand how the English spelling system works just by investigating the structure, history, and phonology of spellings of words in which the learner is interested. There were about 10 teachers obseving this session at the time. My hope is that sharing the account here will help many more teachers get a sense of the joy of understanding the spelling-meaning connection between related words as compared to trying to help students memorize letter-sound correspondences for individual words.

As you will see in this story the starting point is the spelling of the student. His misspelling *<indanjerd>  for <endangered> shows us that his problem was not learning the letter-sound correspondences that he has been taught, but in drawing on meaning and structure cues to related words to help him understand wich grapheme choices are needed for a given word. 

You will see in the story that once the student is prompted to think about the oral word "danger" he shows that he knows how to spell this word. After writing this document, it occured to me athat a likely source of his misspelling was the practice of syllabifying. This is just supposition, but if he syllabified the word as he wrote it, he would have thought "in dan jerd". Breaking the word into syllables lke this would explain how he could have failed to think of the word <danger> that obviously builds this word. Read the account to see how I was able to ilicit this students understanding of structure -- and thus allow hime to reveal his knowledge of hte spelling of <danger> and the suffix <-ed>. 

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