Spelling involves awareness and knowledge of the many interrelated concepts that surround our linguistic structure - phonemic and visual awareness, grapho-phonemic knowledge, morphemic and etymological awareness and knowledge. The purpose of learning to spell is to improve our chances of being understood through our written communication. Spelling is such an integral part of our education, that a close examination of the way in which it is taught and understood, is warranted.
Encountered in schools are three main approaches to spelling: Traditional, Transitional and Student Oriented. The traditional approach uses a whole-class method, involving rote memorisation of lists of words, that have little or no link to the students' general reading or writing contexts, and do not take the needs of individual children into account (Green and Campbell 2003, 143). Clearly this would not an approach highly thought of by current theorists.
The Transitional Approach to spelling uses the weekly tests and direct instruction of the traditional approach, while adding other features, such as directing students' attention to the awareness of the meanings of words, knowledge of letter names and their sound-symbol relationships, how to separate the sounds from the syllables in words, the use of origins of words, and using familiarity with the way words look, to predict their meaning and spelling.
In this approach, spelling words are taken directly from the students' reading program and interactive strategies such as word sorts and word games are employed. The key difference between the Transitional and the Traditional approaches, according to Green and Campbell (2003, 144) are "context, purpose and effectiveness."
The Student-Oriented Approach blends all the elements of the Transitional approach and adds a further two components: seeing spelling as a developmental process and as an integral part of writing. Thus teachers are aware that children go through stages in...