Friday, March 13, 2009

Literate? Fluent? Really?

Many teachers and homeschooling parents are pleased when their students can spell a satisfactory percent of the words correctly in the weekly spelling tests. But, this really isn't enough. Spelling lists based on themes are great for learning vocabulary words for the week, but they are not effective for teaching how to spell the spelling words. Once a week tests with busywork such as copying the words over and over again are really geared at memorizing the picture of the word and not how to break the word down into phonic patterns. Additionally, this type of curriculum is highly inefficient. Students will do the brainless busywork just to get it done and out of the way. They often cram the night before and can memorize it long enough for the test, and that's it. So, what is accomplished at the end of the week? They may have learned a few vocabulary words, but they may or may not be able to spell these same 20 or so words the next week. Conversely, with the Sequential Spelling approach, students learn to spell whole word families by taking the short and sweet daily tests, instead of doing busywork. They don't resent the work and they will have learned to spell that word family for a lifetime because they learned how to spell the patterns found within those words.

But, what is more troubling about traditional spelling curricula is what is defined as being "literacy" and "fluency" in a language. Knowing X number of words out of the 100 most common words is simply not enough. Being able to cram a few orthographies and regurgitate them for a test the next day is simply not enough. There are a lot of components of language that should also be focused on. AVKO also pays attention to these other components of language. These important facets of English communication are vital for self expression and comprehension ability; they are therefore peppered throughout the Sequential Spelling series and other AVKO materials.

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