What is wrong with spelling lists

Why do schools insist on sending pupils home with word lists to learn? Studies have shown that giving pupils a list of unrelated words to spell is not the best way to acquire language. So why are schools still insisting on giving them to pupils to take home to learn? Many of the pupils find this ‘method’ of learning difficult if not impossible and this ‘method’ has little connection with current theory.

I recently saw such a list contain words like ‘neck’, ‘pack’ and ‘ramp’. These words have no sensible connection in meaning or structure (save for ‘ck’).  If it is important for the pupil to be able to spell words containing ‘ck’, this item should become part of a varied lesson in class. The pupil should look closely at the two letters separately, together as a single unit of sound and then as in integral part of words in meaningful text. The pupils are more likely to acquire these words if they are involved in class activities such as drawing the letters separately, then drawing them together forming patterns on a page and looking at a word containing these letters for 10 or more seconds while imagining unusual or funny interrelating pictures. Only after activities such as these will the pupils remember how to spell the words.  They will remember them on a more permanent basis if they are asked to read a text that contains frequent usage of a particular unit such as ‘ck’, if they are asked to gap fill these words in the text and then if they are then asked to write their own sentence or story containing these words.

 It is commonly known that an open and relaxed mind is necessary for efficient learning.  Sending pupils home with extra work to do that should have been done in class, creating tension in the home when the pupil and the parents are likely to be tired and want to relax after a busy day and denying them the opportunity to spend ‘quality time’ together only helps to support the growing belief that learning is painful and a necessary unpleasant activity geared to dreaded tests that have little relation to real, appropriate and relevant learning. It is no way to create a firm foundation from which our future generation will become informed and valued members of our society.

An end to isolated word lists I say.


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