Monday, 2 May 2011

Don't Worry about Spelling

A Spoonful of Words - by Marsball

Before I start any Literacy class I always try to remember that I have a room full of kids who are already proficient in their own language/s! The difference is between how we use our Indigenous and English languages.

With this in mind I started an experiment in class about 18 months ago where I tell Indigenous students not to worry about spelling at all. What, but you are an ENGLISH teacher I hear you cry! True, and the Department of Ed reminds me of it everyday in the Learning & Assessment Plan for my unit!

I like to take a step back and remember: Indigenous people view things through the grid of relationship. Everything has a connection and a meaning. In our Western thinking the importance is placed on the action - how we execute the words is of most importance; not the relationship of how they are applied.

So I tried this - after years of helping by sitting and manually spelling out every second word to kids I finally told them that spelling doesn't matter - instead, i want them to 'have a go' and show me you can use your language and communicate with someone. I received many confused looks from Teacher Aides and students but they happily decided to try.
Within weeks I was receiving longer pieces of (incorrectly spelled) writing - their confidence to use their words was growing! Even the use of plurals, tense and structure had improved!

At the end of 2010 I received a perfectly written two page report from a student who had previously struggled to write a whole paragraph - spelled perfectly! The difference? By encouraging the networking of words for the purpose the students began to communicate more..and later on realise their spelling could be corrected using a number of online tools! This year I plan to explore this confidence & skills development relationship this blog space!

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