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Good Spelling: The Search Goes On

Cedric Croft, Valerie Thomas

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.
Both pieces of research have practical outcomes for teachers. The first project arose out of the need to revise a spelling book. The facts that emerge remind us, if we need reminding, that a relatively small group of words make up a high proportion of children's writing - for primary children 50 words are used so often that they make up about 50% of the words written - but beyond this core of words children have extremely diverse vocabularies. Additionally, although a small common core of frequently misspelled words can be identified, spelling errors tend to be more diverse than personal
The second piece of research gives us some help with untangling that small group of misspellings that occur when two or more meanings are run together to make a new word - did the child who wrote burthday know it was made up of birth and day? Compound words, when understood, are usually easier to spell.

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