Today I want to talk Spelling Tests.

school I can hear some of you shudder at the sound of these words. I know I do.

If something works, you keep it.
If something doesn’t work, you dump it.
I’m on the side of dumping spelling tests.
As far as I’m concerned, they don’t work and cause so much stress on parent and child.

I remember in my early teaching days, it was school policy to give children a spelling test every Friday, no matter what their age. Every Friday these poor children would meet the question from their parents

‘Well, how did you do?’
‘I got 9 out of 10’ said Graham in a proud voice.
‘What!! Well there’s no sweets for you then, is there?’ replied an irate mummy.
Graham was 6 years old.

Now, I understand that this was a reaction of the mother and nothing to do with the merits of spellings tests but it had a profound effect on me. For the rest of the school year all the children in my class got a remarkable 10 out of 10 every week! And the accompanying treat.

Spelling tests don’t work. Well not for the majority of children.

The spelling test is rote learning with children sometimes not even knowing the meaning of the word.

Most children are capable of getting all the spellings right if they have spent sometime during the week learning them.
What they find difficult is to connect these words with those they use in their writing. engineer
The word ‘said’ is a notorious misspelt word for young children.
They are given the word in their spelling list, learn it and get the spelling correct in the test. Sometimes they are able to recognise the word in a text, in context. Trying to read the word out of context becomes much harder and then, the writing in context – ‘sed’.

Then comes the blast from the teacher
‘I can’t read this. It’s all wrong and you’ve spelt the word ‘said’ wrong and you got it right in your spelling test! Go away and do it again and make sure all the words are spelt correctly!’ (Actual words from a teacher in year one (5-6 year olds)

The writing was remarkable for this little girl. She had written a beautiful imaginative story. Not one word was spelt correctly but she had sounded them out to the best of her ability. ‘Sed’ was the spelling test word.

If this had been me at that age, I don’t think I would have picked up a pencil ever again. I would have been scarred for a long time. To be absolutely honest, this particular little girl was a tough nut and although not scarred I don’t suppose her writing ever had the same imaginative flair.

The thing is, spelling comes to those who wait. Once it comes, it stays.

We could churn out writers who can spell each word correctly but have no challenge in their words or emotion in their texts.
Or, we could encourage children to become interesting, brave and exciting writers by concentrating on the content rather than the spellings.

The correct spelling will come, just like learning the 6 wives of Henry VIII. The most important thing is the quality of the writing.

Children should be inspired and praised for their efforts not criticised and red penned.

Before I leave you I think I should say that I’m one of those dreadful people who can spot a spelling mistake at 100 paces. But, I would much prefer to read a page of inspirational writing with no correct spelling rather than reading something perfectly spelt but lacking ‘fire’.

I’d like to know your thoughts on the spelling test. Are you for or against them?

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