I have little doubt will be found true, and that is, that it is scarcely possible to devote too much time to the spelling book. Teachers who are impatient of the slow progress of their pupils are too apt to lay it aside too soon. I have frequently seen the melancholy effects of this impatience. Among the many pupils that I have had under my charge, I have noticed that they who have made the most rapid progress in reading were invariably those who had been most faithfully drilled in the spelling book.
Richard G. Parker
I asked palisadesk a couple of weeks ago whether in her experience good spellers were also good readers and vice versa. Here's what she had to say:
> Are your 7th graders who tested Level A less skilled readers than the kids
> who tested higher??
Yes, definitely, but the correspondence isn't exact. That is, some lousy spellers are excellent readers but none of the SUPER-lousy spellers were excellent readers. All the sixth and seventh graders who scored at level A (meaning they couldn't spell even regular words like plant correctly) were middling to poor readers, though some had B's in reading and most were not considered remedial readers. I found a consistent correlation between word decoding and word recognition and basic spelling.
In fact, some kids with poor orthographic memory learn to read via spelling. They don't really master distinctions like "supper" vs. "super" or "stared," "starred" and "started" until they master the spelling skills involved. Then it seems to click in.
I'm familiar with Ehri's work [post on Ehri's new study t/k] and the fluency research is supportive, too, of the need for visual representations of the word (Shaywitz's "word form area" in the, I think occipital, lobe, is key to fluent word recognition, and also connects to the right hemisphere visual and meaning areas).
Many normal kids, not "LD," get stalled at the point of multisyllable words such as the ones they encounter in more advanced (especially nonfiction) text -- words like photosynthesis, heterogenous, homeostasis, bicameral, etc. They have not been trained to "see" word parts (morphemes) and they have a strategy of just taking a wild guess based on the first letter or letters. Guessing from context or pictures no longer works well in middle school and beyond.
I call these kids "bumper car readers" -- they crash into the front end of the word and hope for the best, but can't segment it into its parts. Once they can easily do this, long words are no problem and are easy to read AND spell, with a few glitches here and there (is it occasional or ocassional?). Bob Dixon, who wrote the Spelling Mastery series and Morphs as well, calls this the morphographic principle, and says kids need to g through abnout half of Spelling Through Morphographs (about 70 lessons) to really internalize it. I bet a year of SM level D,E, or F would do the same. For reading, rather than spelling, a good quick fix is a program called REWARDS from Sopris West (www.rewardsreading.com) -- it teaches multisyllable word decoding, morphemes, word parts, some vocab and spelling, and fluency (rate). There's an intermediate level for kids in grades 4-6 and another for grades 7 and up -- the strategies are identical but the vocabulary is more advanced in the secondary version.
BTW Bob Dixon wrote a great book for grownups that you can sometimes find cheaply on alibris -- it's called "The Surefire Way to Better Spelling." It's got a lot of the handy stuff from Morphs in it. But the actual programs are better for teaching kids, because they are carefully structured to provide the needed practice, transfer etc.
For years now I've had a feeling spelling was much more important than anyone knew (or than anyone knows today, I should say).