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Point of View: Insufficient teaching spells trouble

Nov. 2, 2010

By Amanda Earp
Copy Desk Chief

My prodigy of a 5-year-old cousin just started kindergarten this fall and I could not be more excited for him to finally learn how to read and write things other than his name and the occasional other word he knows.

There is, however, one thing I am not excited about - his school district, like many others in the area, will not be teaching him spelling. I grew up practicing every week for a weekly spelling test that I actually loved because I was a nerdy kid, but most children probably hated spelling tests. Looking back now, I feel those spelling tests were important and something that should be continued in the education system.

These spelling tests taught me not only how to spell, but also random mnemonic devices like "i' before 'e' except after 'c'" and "double the 'c,' double the 's' and you always have success." They may be dumb sayings, but they helped me on my spelling tests and I still say them in my head when I'm writing.

I'm sure the school district feels that spelling is "old-fashioned" because of the wonderful spell check we all take for granted on our cell phones and computers. The problem, though, is that spell check is not always there.

About a year ago, I took the horrible GRE and no, I'm not exaggerating, I thought the test was horrible. One section of the test is analytical writing and not surprisingly, the format for this section does not have a spell check.

I understand the GRE is just one test that not everybody is required to take.

There are, however, other tests and situations these students will face where spelling is important.

Beginning in fourth grade, students will take the writing portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Multiple times before a student graduates high school, a writing portion of this test will be taken and it will be done without using spell check. Along with the TAKS test and GRE, most students will take

the SAT.

This standardized test requires a student to be knowledgeable in spelling and grammar.

If teachers are not going to teach children how to spell, then how could they possibly do well on the tests they are expected to excel at?

The answer is -- they can't. Teachers should not rely on technology to do their job for them. Just because the technology is there does not mean it has to be used constantly. Learning how to spell is one of the most useful things a child learns and is something that all children should be taught.

If not, the upcoming generations are going to constantly rely on a red squiggly line to tell them they misspelled a word. Luckily for my cousin, I'm going to make sure he knows how to spell correctly and does not have to rely on spell check for every single word.

He may hate me for it while I'm teaching him, but in the future I think he will appreciate his savvy spelling skills.

Amanda Earp is a graduate student from Huntsville and the copy desk chief for The Lariat.