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Is Spelling Important?

Why is spelling important?

Spelling is the basic skill underlying writing. Without learning to spell fluently our train of thought is interrupted during writing. How many times have you had to change a word because you didn't know how to spell it? Have you ever had the problem where even spell check didn't recognize it? I know. Before learning the logic of English, I sometimes abandoned the perfect word because I didn't know how to spell it well enough to look it up.

If we lived in a purely oral tradition, spelling would not be important to us, though neither would reading. Yet, we live in a world that is infused with print. Writing is part of our everyday communications more than at any time in history. Though we may not write as many letters, email, texting, Facebook, and Twitter mean that almost everyone is writing constantly.

Children, though, often do not see the importance of spelling. Why not spell book, buk; or read, rede? Spelling standards prevent confusion and they also add to the creativity of English.

Spelling is ultimately about expression and communication. So I have been thinking. My training in intensive phonics instruction (from a branch of Orton-Gillingham) was quite rigid. There was little room for creativity. Yet both sides have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

People who support inventive spellings do so in the name of creativity. They do not understand that creativity is limited by lack of foundational knowledge. (Thus adults who do not learn to spell often sacrifice the best word for one they know how to spell.) People who support intensive phonics, at least as I was trained, often disregard creativity. Yet we are all creative people. Whether an engineer, artist, marketing expert, administrative assistant, salesman or teacher, we all benefit from creative problem solving.

Spelling standards are the gateway to creativity. This needs to be reflected in curriculum as well as in real life.