Studies of spelling are not particularly numerous in New Zealand, the 2 standard bibliographies listing no more than 20 completed during the last 50 years. All but two of these studies appeared before 1970, and only five are more recent than 1960. The majority are diploma of education investigations, interred in university libraries and rarely, if ever, consulted. Of the others a handful have achieved, quite recently, in the context of the debate over falling standards, a position of some eminence and authority.
In the last few years there have been signs of a new interest, both in New Zealand and overseas, in the teaching of spelling. This is evident in the amount of space American and English journals have lately devoted to the subject, and in the appearance, last year, of a new Department of Education handbook on the teaching of spelling. As well, there is the work of two New Zealand researchers, John Nicholson and Peter Freyberg, who have demonstrated, in recent and separate investigations, that changes have taken place in the achievements of some New Zealand children.
Spelling research is making good progress. Two of the areas it is finding very fruitful are:
1 an examination of the words children write - and subsequently misspell;
2 investigation of how we recognise misspellings and remember correct spellings.
This set item contains examples of recent works, one of each type:
1 some of the results from a close examination of samples of writing from 1250 primary school children;
2 an account of one of the ways we make new words out of old, and the effect this has on spelling.
Diagnostic information from the science assessment resource banks can provide valuable national information about what students know about a particular subject. This information can help teachers sharpen their classroom planning.
Two strengths of the ARBs are their links to national curriculum statements and the range and control they give teachers and schools over what is to be assessed. They include a set of 96 writing resources for English, covering poetic and transactional writing. In view of positive feedback from ARB users, it has become apparent that schools can use the scoring guides when there is a need to make levels-based assessment of their own poetic and/or transactional writing tasks.
Spelling is an important aspect of literacy – but not something that children can “pick up” during reading or writing. Here are some practical suggestions for combining spelling with writing in the primary classroom.
From Alan Duff’s original vision in 1992, the Books in Homes programme grew to reach 397 low-decile schools and 78,000 students by 2001, with well over a million books distributed. The evaluation was based on questionnaire responses from Year 5 students, teachers and principals. The results showed that Books in Homes is well established as a powerful force for change in these schools, with significant improvements in reported reading habits and attitudes to reading associated with the length of time the scheme had operated within each school.