Recently, I came across this article which discusses why spelling tests, and the “spelling test” model of teaching kids how to spell, isn’t as effective as we may think. It reiterated everything I learned when taking one of my favorite courses, “Teaching Writing,” in graduate school. Spelling tests teach memorization; there are over two hundred and fifty thousand words in the English language, and between 10 and 20 words on a typical spelling test…so we’d need a lot of spelling tests to churn out great spellers through rote memorization!
Furthermore, many spelling tests operate on weekly word lists. The students who learn the weekly words move on to the next week’s list, as do the students who only learned half. It would seem that some kids are simply naturally good at spelling, or at least memorization, while others struggle endlessly. Why? Because the English language is basically a complex system of codes and patterns, many borrowed from other languages. Teaching kids these codes and patterns, which are far less numerous than teaching all the individual words themselves, allows kids to learn to spell whole groups of words effectively.