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Helping Your Child with Spelling in the Digital Age

Posted by Jenny Mason on 7/7/2016

School has changed a lot in the last few decades. With students using devices or tablets or laptops in schools more and more, the use of spell check has not been as helpful as we all thought it might have been.


Wittgenstein considered language an evolving game – With his theory that ‘meaning is use’ he didn’t think that rules were that important as long as we all understand each other. To an extent he is right and you only have to look back a century or two to see how we use language has changed dramatically.


However, spelling seems to have suffered with digital technology. English is a language with many exceptions and homophones (words that sound the same, but are at times are spelt differently and have different meanings). A common example of a homophone is ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’ and words like here and hear. When you are typing stream of consciousness, it is easy to make this mistake and we find them littered throughout social media.


While autocorrect does fix up some mistakes, you still have to know which word you mean when you are typing. Another underused tool in Word is the Thesaurus feature. Vocabularies should always be widened and I always encourage students who are not aware of many synonyms (similar meaning words) to use this feature to improve their writing and make it more interesting. You can also use this feature for a quick definition of any word.


Social media is filled with slang and words spelt incorrectly on purpose, it has become a whole language of its own. There is nothing wrong with this at all and perhaps in the future, students will have the chance to take social media as a subject. However for now, when you check your children’s English assignments, you will usually find the assessment criteria includes spelling and grammar, so it is something to focus on and the younger the better. Spelling is a visual thing, we all know when a word does not look right sometimes. Perhaps if your child is having trouble with spelling, get out the old fashioned pen and paper and write the word, over and over. If there is a difficult name or place that your child is struggling with, use tricks to remember the spelling. I recall a student who used to say the word in their head, eg. Shakespeare became shake-spear-ey, just so he could remember there was an ‘e’ at the end. Do whatever works. 


On a serious side, if your child really struggles with spelling, perhaps it also is worth having a test done, just to see if dyslexia or any other learning disabilities are at play. Remember the classroom teacher is only a call or an email away and would be happy to discuss any issues. Help your kids with spelling, stick post-its around the house, give them a verbal spelling test at dinner. Showing an interest in their learning will be rewarding for everyone.    

Author: Jenny Mason

Jenny Mason

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