Spelling Expectations for Assignments
Question: Last year, my niece was a fifth-grader. When I was trying to help with an assignment, she told me she didn’t have to correct her spelling on school papers. She only had to spell correctly on her spelling tests.
I was convinced that she was mistaken and made her correct all her spelling mistakes. The next day, my brother spoke with the teacher. To our astonishment, my niece was correct. The school assumes that in the upper grade levels all papers will be written on computers, and spell-check will take care of the spelling. What do you think?
Answer: Fifth grade is a bit soon to stop stressing correct spelling. Each time a child misspells a word and it is left uncorrected, the misspelling is reinforced. We don’t think the teacher should correct the misspelling, but circle it so the student can correct it.
There are several flaws to relying entirely on computer spell-checkers to catch spelling errors. First, you cannot rely on spell-checkers to catch all errors because they do not always catch homophone errors (war, wore), even though they are getting more context-sensitive. And relying on spell-check, and grammar-check as well, can lead students to abandon the important final task of checking their work.
Furthermore, countless misspelled words can affect how teachers view a student’s work. Some students may spell so poorly that it is impossible to know what they have written. Plenty of handwritten assignments remain part of classroom work and tests at most schools.
Finally, the experts weigh in on both sides of this question. Some think relying on computers leads to skill losses in writing. Others believe skills lost to spell-checkers are being replaced by other skills, such as better research skills.
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