You might have come across the logic of ‘oh, I don’t really need to learn mental arithmetic because I will always have a calculator on my phone!’, which goes hand in hand with ‘oh, it doesn’t matter if I can’t spell very well because I’ll always have autocorrect or spellcheck’. While contemporary technology may indeed have made our lives easier with splitting a bill or not needing to remember whether there is one e or two in our changeable language, it’s still very important to instil the importance of spelling, grammar and doing sums to students for a variety of reasons – not least because the modern world expects us to have these basic skills, and not to suddenly become illiterate or innumerate when our phone dies…
Navigating a Language of Contradictions
English, as we know it today, is a product of centuries upon centuries of borrowing words, morphing then and inventing entirely new ones. A great example is the difference in the language we use to describe animals, and the foodstuffs we make from them: A pig is, well, a pig – but we don’t eat pig, we eat pork, nabbed from the French porc in the time of the Norman conquest in the 11th century; where the new Norman nobility would use Francophone vocabularies to distinguish themselves as superior to feudal farmers.
The more one delves into the idiosyncrasies of English, the more it becomes apparent that the ‘rules’ blur. Take the verb maintain, the noun of the act should logically be spelled (or spelt) as “maintenance”, using the suffix -ence as in prudence, defence and absence – but (as I have just done), this will solicit an angry red underline. Read aloud, “maintenance” and “maintenance” are homophonic, meaning that they sound the same, like the sea and see, pee and pea.
Giving Students a Foundation of Simple Spelling
Nobody expects any teacher to even attempt to impart the correct spelling of every word in any language to each and every student. You might as well try to count every grain of rice in the world, however, ¸ there will definitely be sore spots where your students find certain words difficult – similarly to how there, their and there are used interchangeably on social media. A custom school planner or primary school planner can include a reference guide for the words your students find most difficult and can be included alongside reading records for primary schools in a design customised for your particular school and your student’s particular learning needs and objectives.
Spellcheck is great for saving time, but giving students a solid foundation in spelling (and grammar!) is a great way to set them on course for success in literacy and communication in an increasingly connected world.