For Teachers

For American kids -

This is part of my 5-star review for Johanna Stirling's Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners : At last a comprehensive, knowledgeable book on spelling. Johanna has written a must-read book for ALL teachers. (Ignore the fact the subtitle says it's for teaching "English Language Learners." ) This is a well researched, invaluable book on the `Basic Skills', `Key Skills', `Functional Skills' of spelling.

The first part of the book goes into detail about the various ways of learning spelling, and the challenges faced by learners. I love her detailed explanations of the five systems/ways of learning spelling - all are important and teachers should understand all of them:

1. Etymological System (the history of English spelling). This is one of the most important ways to really learn and understand English spelling. It helps to know why English spelling is the way it is and why we have those `strange' letter patterns like -ough, -igh, wh-, kn- etc. Knowing the history of English spelling will help learners feel less frustrated and annoyed with spelling.

2. Phonological System - the letter to sound (phonic) relationship. Johanna discusses how extremely complex relying on phonics is because English is only about 50% phonetically regular, she explains the importance of long and short vowels, and dissects hard c and g, and soft c and g, and silent e. (She rightly has serious doubts about primary teachers using just phonics to help spelling)

3. Graphemic System is about seeing letter patterns, understanding word endings and knowing some spelling rules like plurals -f to -ves, -y to i

4. Morphological System is about adding prefixes and suffixes to root words to change the meaning - uncomfortable, unhappy, dissatisfied etc.

5. Lexical System - Johanna points out that this is a very interesting system. It's about words families with the same letter patterns and related meanings. It's about the visual link between words not the phonetic: two, twice, twelve, between.../ sign, signal, signify, signpost.../know, knowledge, knowledgeable...

It's not a book full of spelling rules but a brilliant one-stop reference guide on how to teach spelling, the background of spelling and how to celebrate spelling (and not moan about it!).

Spelling can be learned and loved. And teachers must learn to understand and love it too so they can help and teach students properly. This book should be on all teaching training book lists.