I have had parents ask me about whether or not children really need to practice spelling words on a regular basis with the spell-check feature on computers. They have also asked whether or not writing skills have become outdated with the commonality of keyboards. Technology certainly makes writing a lot easier; I wouldn’t want to be writing this blog with pen and paper. Nevertheless, the skills of spelling and writing are foundational skills that remain important.
The process of writing out words leads to an understanding of how to form letters quickly and efficiently, and even the slower pace of writing out a word by hand lends itself to the process of sounding out and blending letters to become familiar with word patterns.
Similarly, blending sounds and memorizing word formations that are part of the weekly process of preparing for spelling tests are important for children’s self-reliance in writing. As young children practice and re-practice writing out spelling words, they enhance their levels of confidence for skills mastered.
I appreciate the work of former teacher and author, J. Richard Gentry, who emphasizes the importance of spelling instruction that helps children break the code of English. He states that “when conventional spelling is taught in balance with developmental spelling and writing for meaning, students are on track for proficient reading and writing by the end of first grade. In the beginning phases, the processing of spelling, reading and writing are nearly one and the same in terms of activating reading circuitry in the brain.”
Literacy skills build upon one another, and practice with the art of language in every form has value. The benefit of writing out spelling words is not an isolated skill; it is part of the complex process of becoming proficient with literacy. Writing and reading are skills that require practice and yield huge benefits. Technology is a tremendous tool to bolster literacy opportunities, but the spell-check feature is certainly not a substitute for the practice of regular spelling tests and the practice of writing out words by hand.