Monday, January 12, 2009

Spellbinding Fun

When I was in Primary 5, I hated my spelling homework. Every week we were given a list of uninspiring words which we had to learn and write a sentence using each one. It was excruciating to have to find interesting sentences with dull words like inflate or distribute. Ok, I might have learned to spell the words, but I hated the falseness of the sentences I had to create. Looking back, it would have been easier to write a piece of prose with all those words in it but hindsight is a fabulous thing.

Anna too hated the spellings and sentences style homework. Then, midway through primary 4, everything changed. Instead of the tortuous sentences, we now have a range of activities which is meant to appeal to every learning style. In the last few weeks we have had buzzing bees - where she has to draw an outdoor picture with 8 bees along which she writes her words, fancy writing, where she writes the words out in all sorts of creative self made fonts, writing the words every which way, backwards, vertically, horizontally, circling all the vowels or consonants within the word, writing each word in the petals of a flower and so on. It's all very creative.

My absolute favourite is back writing, where we have to write the words on each other's back and guess what they are. It didn't take Anna long to twig that if she took a long time to guess, she would effectively just get her back rubbed for longer. I'm actually thinking of making it the standard form of communication in our house.

Fun though this undoubtedly is, I have some reservations. Something within my childhood and its traditional teaching methods turned me into a freakishly anally retentive pedantic bore when it comes to spelling and punctuation. I would argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing. While my literature producing colleagues may burn effigies of me, stick pins in dolls of me and hate me with a passion unrivalled in its intensity for my take no prisoners style of proof-reading, they still keep giving me stuff to check.

I was worried that these new methods did not teach how to use words in context. What use is it to learn the notes if nobody introduces you to making melodies? I probably shouldn't interfere with the perceived wisdom of education professionals but I've added a few games of my own - acting out the words, or just having a talk about what they mean and how you can use them.

Before anybody trawls through this blog looking for spelling mistakes to show me up, I would remind you that I am also human and that some posts may have been written after application of grape to brain. I may have an unforgiving proof-reading eye, and never fail to point out mistakes, but I really am a big softie and have never been horrible to anyone for making a spelling or grammatical error.

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