In a world where the Spelling Bee grabs such a lot of attention and hype, and schools and parents boast about the students and wards they have groomed to contest in and earn that grand trophy, it is downright exasperating for the majority of teachers to deal with the unenthusiastic attitude of many of the students towards correct spelling…one of blissful ignorance or general indifference. Many teachers only wish that they too could sink into the same blissful state and not have to deal with underlining or circling the endless spelling mistakes in a composition, and sometimes even within a single sentence. Undoubtedly, the student (or at least the parent!) too becomes annoyed to see the cross mark or whatever mark it is that the teacher adopts to indicate to the student that there has been an error. With the new communicative approach to English, rote learning has been almost thrown to the winds. As far as spelling is concerned, in many cases, the age old (or old fashioned) dictation test is still the best method of ensuring that students learn their spellings. Teachers do make time to go through the spelling rules and the spelling techniques; the authors of textbooks pore over spelling rules endlessly in all the textbooks. But with the SMS language prevailing, and the unshakeable feeling that ultimately spellcheck will oversee it all, the apathy towards spelling continues.
http://www.brighthubeducation.com/middle-school-english-lessons/12319-fun-vocabulary-review-lesson-using-sticky-notes/ recommends an interesting activity whereby students learn both the spelling and the meaning of words in a hustle and bustle fashion. The activity and the movement recommended, linked with its sense of competition, probably prompts students to master their list of words and hopefully retain and use the words in the appropriate context. It is a different kind of dictation with the pressure to perform at the moment, unlike conventional dictation where the other classmates are unaware of the achievement or lack of achievement of an individual student since the marks of the dictation test are given at a much later point of time, and where it is up to the individual student to reveal, not reveal, or fabricate! It is apparent from the activity mentioned in the link that it is vital for students to conjure up an image of the word even as they utter it…nay, even as they think of the word, as it helps them spell correctly. The spelling rules help undoubtedly in this, but then so do the associated images.
Let’s look at the word flamboyant. As a teacher, I would probably tell my students to divide the word into syllables (here 3) and then spell out each syllable. This method is easily followed by many students, but in order to help those students who find it impossible to remember the spelling of new words, even if their lives depended upon it, there is a way of helping them remember the spellings by using a combination of letters and pictures (like in the game of Pictionary), blanks and (sometimes) letters for the student to decipher the spelling of the words in their list.
The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.