kitchen table math, the sequel: learning to read by learning to spell in Aruba

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

learning to read by learning to spell in Aruba

from the Official Tourism site of Aruba:

Dutch and the local language of Papiamento are the official languages of Aruba, but most Arubans speak a minimum of four languages including English and Spanish.
In the cab back to the airport we interviewed the driver re: multilingualism in Aruba.

He told us that Aruban children speak Papiamento at home and in Kindergarten.

Then, in 1st grade (I'm pretty sure it was 1st grade, not 2nd -- but I wish to heck I'd taken notes) students move to immersion classes taught in Dutch.

The teacher speaks in Dutch (and does she write her words on the board?? I don't remember).

The children have a slate of her words at their desk, with a piece of tracing paper on top. They trace over the words as she speaks them.

They learn to hear Dutch at the same time they learn to spell Dutch.

That's the way things were done in America lo these many years ago. Both Frederick Douglass and Huckleberry Finn describe learning to read English by learning to spell English.

Aruban children commence studying English and Spanish in 5th grade. Some years back, they moved on to learn Italian, German, Portuguese, and French in high school, but that is no longer the case today.


Auntie Ann said...

When our boy was in 2nd grade, his spelling was terrible. I bought a spelling curriculum (All About Spelling), and it worked great. But, what I realized is that it worked even better for phonics and reading. His reading accelerated rapidly.

It used to be that any boys who were lagging in reading in early grades would catch up by 4th. Today, that doesn't seem to be happening as much. I wonder if they used to catch up because spelling was emphasized and taught more systematically than it is today. I think of spelling as the other side of the reading coin.

MagisterGreen said...

Well, spelling is now the province of your computer's spell-checker. If it isn't auto-corrected for you, or underlined with a wavy red line, it must be right. Right?

froggiemama said...

Dutch is far more phonetic than English, especially since they simplified their spelling several times in this century (1946, 1996, 2006)

I've always been curious how French kids learn to read. That is a language in which spelling has extensively diverged from pronunication.

One other thing - there is a tradition of Dutch kids learning multiple languages. In the Netherlands proper, they learn German and English, and many also learn French. They need the German and English for university, since few textbooks are published in Dutch. The education system in the Netherlands Antilles is heavily tied to the system in the Netherlands proper, but Papiamentu (can never spell that) and Spanish are substituted for French and German

ClassicsMom said...

I have been fascinated with Webster's Speller and have used the 1908 edition with my son. It really is a shame that schools do not teach the syllabary and use Webster's Speller in my opinion.

Catherine Johnson said...

But, what I realized is that it worked even better for phonics and reading. His reading accelerated rapidly.


I have to REMEMBER to get this pulled up front. (I'm backed up -- I've got a couple of Momof4 Comments to put up front.....aaauuggghhh)


I believe it.

Catherine Johnson said...

froggiemama --- One thing the French do (and which they've stopped doing, I gather --- there's a whole language issue with reading there --- there are a bunch of old posts on ktm on the subject that should be easy to find)

OK, back on topic: the French used to have something called "dictation," I think it was.

A huge number of different spoken French words and expressions sound exactly alike, so they did dictations where the children would listen and write down what they heard --- using the sense of the passage to choose which words were actually being spoken.

I'm pretty sure they had national dictation contests & the like.

Catherine Johnson said...

English spelling is more phonetic than I used to think.

Louisa Moats has a terrific article on that. When you take into consideration the root of a word, you can spell it (i.e., when you recognize a word as having a French root versus a Latin root, that kind of thing).

We have at least 4 separate languages making up English, and those 4 branches are fairly phonetic inside that part of the language.

Auntie Ann said...

Catherine, the same company later put out a phonics-reading course as well, which I haven't seen.

The spelling program was incredibly specific. In stages, as letters and blends were introduced, kids learned the different sounds they make ("a" makes 3: short, long, and as in water, "ch" can be ch, sh, or k) and which is the most common pronunciation. They also learned which letters and combinations could make which sounds. Then, step by step, it built the words, taught exceptions (they called these jail words, and literally have kids thrown them in jail for breaking the spelling rules,) taught blends and syllables, rare rules (like in one-syllable words with "i" or "o" and ending in two letters, the vowel can be long, like cold or child,) etc. It has a build-in review system, practice tasks, and flash cards to lock in spelling.

It took our kid from regularly getting 25% on his spelling tests to getting a couple of 100% grades in a little over a month.

At the same time he started to really enjoy reading, and his fluency and speed improved greatly.

Catherine Johnson said...

Have you ever seen my old posts on Megawords???

I had the exact same experience (only with Megawords, which is a curriculum for somewhat older kids).

C. had suddenly stopped reading. He had taught himself to read in Kindergarten, then he'd read lots until 4th grade when, all of a sudden, he stopped on a dime.

At the same time, I became concerned about his spelling, which was atrocious. Scary bad spelling.

I found Megawords (after being told I couldn't buy Engelmann's spelling program because I "wasn't a teacher") --- and within a couple of months he was reading again.

I am positive the spelling instruction, which focused on multisyllabic words, allowed him to start reading books with multisyllabic words (which is what he'd aged into----)

Catherine Johnson said...

What was the name of your curriculum?

Auntie Ann said...

All About Spelling:

Crimson Wife said...

I use All About Spelling with my 2nd child. It would've been overkill for my 1st student, the "natural" speller (she was a Macy's spelling bee regional winner last August and we're keeping our fingers crossed for the homeschool bee this weekend that feeds into the Scripps regional bee). But it's exactly what my DS needs.

Auntie Ann said...

I chose AAS because I'm a lousy speller myself and I wanted very specific teaching instructions. The manual tells you just what to say and have your child do. It's very easy to use.

Auntie Ann said...

Our natural speller was jealous of the younger getting AAS, but, she really didn't need it and spells wonderfully without the tutoring.