Spelling Myths vs Facts

i May 20th No Comments by

Spelling correctly is a skill that takes time and effort for everyone except the few who have very good visual memories. For most of us, seeing a word or reading it over and over is not enough to enable us to spell it correctly. We need to actively learn spelling.

Over the past two weeks we have debunked some common spelling myths- from the idea that reading more will make one a better speller and that some people are weak spellers because they do not speak Standard English. Many people are literate – they’re able to read and write but still struggle with spelling.

Today we will look at some spelling facts which ALTA tutors are exposed to during training. These can be useful to teachers who work with poor spellers or even anyone who struggles with spelling.

FACT: Review is essential after learning to spell a word, to move it from short term to long term memory.

Memory is aided by frequency, recency and value. That is, we remember things best that we use or practise frequently that we have learned recently, and that are important or meaningful to us.

How we organise information can affect how we retrieve it from the long-term memory. The way we structure, associate and link information gives us ‘hooks’ for retrieving it. Meaning, pattern, rhythm, images and reciting all help. After a period of learning, recall rises for a short while (about ten minutes) and then falls steeply. 80 per cent of detail is forgotten after 24 hours. However, with proper review after ten minutes, then within 24 hours, again within a week, and so on, recall can be maintained long-term.

MYTH: There is one correct way to learn spelling.
Many ALTA students are embarrassed about the methods they use to learn spellings. They commonly believe that unless you can spell in your head you do not have the ‘right’ spelling approach. Oral spelling is not only an incredibly demanding and difficult way to spell, but also awkward and unrelated to the circumstances when we ordinarily use spelling – in writing.

Some people are able to learn to spell accurately without any (or very little) practice. Most times this is because they have excellent visual memories and can draw on this to remember how to spell. But only a small proportion of the people who write are like this.

Through experimenting with different spelling strategies ALTA students become successful spellers. It’s important to know that there are many effective ways of learning to spell and you just need to identify the ones that work for you.

MYTH: If you want to learn to spell, you should read more.
It is true that spelling is a sub-skill of writing and that writing is a language skill related to reading. However, as skills, the two activities differ enormously. The reading process is both more complex and less demanding than spelling. In reading, we do not want to concentrate on the ordering of each letter in a word in order to get meaning from the text.

We want to read as efficiently and quickly as possible in order to understand the content of what we read. Reading is dependent on recognition skills. Spelling, on the other hand, is dependent on skills of recall. To spell accurately, we must remember all the letters, in sequence. We must pay attention to detail.

ALTA looks forward to the launch of the ALTA Spelling Chart in June.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT