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As I a) grow older, and b) spend more time working with and listening to young children I realise that the things we, as adults think of as logical, or simple are not always perceived that way by children, and maybe, by forgetting or ignoring these things, we are missing a trick when it comes to helping educate our children.

I am thinking in particular of the link between reading, writing and spelling.  It seems logical to me as an adult that if you can read, you can write, and spell.

After all, if you can recognise the shape of letters, you can form them with a pencil unless there is some underlying medical condition which means you can’t.  If you can read the word ‘banana’ accurately, then you can write it, and spell it correctly, particularly with high frequency words like ‘and’ and ‘the’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ which even a child will read many, many times in an average day.

Now that we have a standardised system of spelling it is logical that you spell the word ‘chair’ the same every time you want to write it down.

Isn’t it?

Except that it isn’t for children.

And I’m not talking about a few children. I’m talking about lots of children.  I’m not talking about children at the lowest end of the ability scale either.  Children across a wide age and aptitude range seem to be struck by the inability to connect the dots between reading, writing and spelling.

They might read the word ‘chair’, perfectly.  If you then ask them to spell it, they might well spell it ‘chayr’ if they were given it in a list of spellings.  If you then set them a piece of writing about a chair, you will often find that they spell the word chair; ‘chare’, ‘chayre’, ‘chayr’, changing the spelling as they go along.

I observe this time and time again in my work in school.

Because of this I think it would be a great help if while we are teaching children, or helping children with their spelling and reading we reiterated the following:

  1. If you can read the word you can spell the word
  2. If you can spell the word right once, you can keep spelling it the same way.
  3. Spelling is standardised, so you only have to learn a spelling once, and then the hard work is over.