Saturday, March 03, 2007

Author Jim Trelease coming to Cville

He is coming in March for the Virginia Festival of the Book, . I will admit that I have only skimmed through his popular book "The Read-Aloud Handbook." But when I visited his website and came across a page called The Reading and Spelling Link, which is based on "a letter from researcher Stephen Krashen to Education Week, suggesting a more practical approach to spelling instruction than direct instruction," I was intrigued. A quote from that page:

There is also very good evidence that direct instruction in spelling has limited effects. It begins with J. M. Rice's study "The Futility of the Spelling Grind," published in 1897, that showed no relationship between the amount of time devoted to spelling and spelling achievement, when measured on tests involving words in sentences and compositions. And it includes Oliver Cornman's study, published in 1902, showing that dropping formal spelling instruction had no effect on spelling accuracy, whether measured in isolation or in compositions.

In a 1991 paper, Howard White and I reanalyzed the Rice and Cornman data using modern statistics and confirmed their results. In 1977, Donald Hamill, Stephen Larsen, and Gaye McNutt reported that children who had spelling instruction spelled better than uninstructed students in grades 3 and 4 did, but the differences disappeared by grades 4 and 5. This suggests that spelling instruction, when it works, only succeeds in helping children learn to spell words that they would have learned to spell on their own anyway.

Wow! That's some pretty revolutionary thinking, eh? And here I had purchased a wonderful spelling program for Emily back in August, AVKO Sequential Spelling, which we were are both pretty happy with. We had tried "Spelling Power," but it was a complete failure. So, what to do now? I'm a very eclectic homeschooler, and I try not to push my kids when they're not ready for a subject. I like to think of myself as a natural-learning facilitator. :) Now this research suggests that I can drop the spelling if they're not interested, and things will turn out great, so long as they read a lot. Well, I read a lot when I was growing up. Emily reads all the time, so I am thinking she just needs some time for her spelling to catch up. For now, if she asks for spelling lessons, or if I suggest it and she agrees, we'll keep at it. But if/when it becomes a bone of contention, I don't think I'll worry about it too much. And I plan to be at Jim Trelease's appearance!

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Melissa Wiley said...

Ooh, sorry I won't be there to hear him. I quoted him in an article in Albemarle Family last year...small world!

Silvia said...

What's a cross-country trip with a van full of kids in comparison to hearing this speaker? Come on, Lissa, you can do it!