spelling instruction are presented and compared in the article, 'Three paradigms of spelling instruction in grades 3 to 6' (Taylor-Heald, 1998).
In this article the three paradigms are identified as the traditional, the transitional, and the student-oriented. Each of these paradigms is a model for teaching children the basic and fundamental concept of spelling.
In this research paper, Taylor-Heald's article will be used as a basis for identifying each of the methods. Firstly, from the article by Taylor-Heald we will describe each method, how it is utilized and also discuss Taylor-Heald's view on each of the methods.
After looking at each of the methods separately, we will then briefly examine the major differences between the methods.
We will then discuss the implications of each of the methods, including how each method is used and the benefits of each method. This will also include looking at various other research studies that offer perspectives on the teaching of spelling.
Finally, we will conclude by showing how the student-oriented approach does appear to be the most promising approach, just as Taylor-Heald suggests.
The Traditional Paradigm
The traditional paradigm, as the name suggests, is the main method of instruction that has been used in the American school system to teach spelling and also to teach the basics of language.
The method is based on students being taught vocabulary in the form of words that do not relate to each other. These words are random and have no relationship to each other, or to anything else being taught to the students.
The teacher gives these words to the students, with the students expected to memorize them and the students are tested on this at the end of the week.
This approach assumes that students know nothing at the beginning and that all information must be given to them. This includes the idea that children have no knowledge of words, sounds or language.
With this approach the teacher's position is as the information giver, where it is assumed that the only information the children have, come from the teacher.
Taylor-Heald (1998) regards this method as outdated. It is argued that this method is only popular because it is what parents associate learning spelling with, because it was how they learned to spell.
The Transitional Paradigm
The transitional paradigm is an extended version of the traditional paradigm, developing from the traditional paradigm with some changes occurring.
The transitional method makes use of the same process of giving words to students and testing them on these words but also incorporates some other methods.
The traditional method makes use of reading as important in assisting a child in learning to spell. The importance of reading came about through various research and theories on integration that suggested that there is a direct link between a child's ability to read and their ability to spell. Based on this, it is believed that if a student is taught to read, they will also become proficient in spelling, and so the too are integrated as one teaching activity to achieve two purposes.
The other difference is the use of other spelling strategies such as visual, phonetical, syntactic and semantic.
Visual strategies include using written words and pictures of words as aids in spelling. Phonetical strategies includes incorporating how words sound. Syntactic strategies involve looking at words not independently but as part of sentences. Semantics strategies involve relating words to their meaning.
The Student-Oriented Paradigm
The student-oriented paradigm is the most modern method and is based on ideas of cognition and social construction.
Cognitive therapies are therapies that relate to how a person thinks, and attempt to solve problems based on changing how people think. The theory of social construction is described in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Hume, 1975) where ideas are defined as feeble copies of original impressions, impressions being the products of immediate experience. According to Hume, every idea is derived from an antecedent impression and experience provides us with the ideas as well as the awareness of their association.
These 'ideas' as Hume calls them, mean anything that people believe and can be equally applied to learning to spell. The theory applied to spelling means that knowing how to spell comes from a past incident of seeing how things are spelt.
Taylor-Heald (1998) describes the ideas of the object-oriented group as being that language and word construction are part of a process of development that takes place over time.
Central to this is the idea that reading is the perfect tool for aiding in learning to spell and also that spelling is fundamental to writing.
Taylor-Heald is supportive of this approach, arguing that it is the most recent and the best, outdating the two previous methods. While arguing this though, Taylor-Heald does note that there is limited research on the area.
The approach with this method from a teaching perspective is that reading, writing and spelling activities would be integrated, with all being taught together and all contributing to an overall understanding of language skills. The essential argument is that reading, writing and spelling are not separate entities but form part of an overall understanding of language.
Comparing the Three Paradigms
Each of the three methods offer a different approach for the teaching of spelling. The traditional and transitional both are centered on the teacher, with the teacher selecting the word lists for students to use. Based on the assumption that children are 'empty' of learning prior to being taught, in both these methods, what the children learn is completely dependent on what the teacher teaches.
In contrast, the student-oriented approach, with its integration of reading, puts more focus on the student as they are more able to choose what to read.
From the traditional, to the transitional, to the object-oriented paradigm, we see a greater emphasis on the integration of spelling with other tasks. For the traditional approach, students look at the individual words and spelling as a separate activity, unrelated to anything else. For the transitional approach, spelling becomes integrated with the sounding of words and with words as part of sentences, extending the learning process to including further aspects of learning language. And in the student-oriented paradigm, central to the approach is the integration of spelling with the learning of language and with reading and writing.
Also from the traditional, to the transitional, to the student-oriented paradigm, we see a greater emphasis on making spelling more relevant. In the traditional approach, spelling is not related to the meaning of words or the sounding of words. In the transitional approach, spelling becomes related to the sound of words, the look of words and the meaning of words. In the student-oriented approach spelling is understood not only in combination with the meaning of words, but also with understanding words in context of their place in creating meaning.
For a child, reading a book allows them not to focus on how the words are spelt, but on what the words mean. With the student-oriented approach, there is not a focus on spelling, instead spelling is seen to come naturally and in tandem with learning to read and write.
Scott (2000, p. 67) reports that "few poor spellers are only poor spellers. More likely, such students are also poor readers and poor composers of written text and may have weaknesses in lexical, morphological, and syntactic domains that extend to spoken language as well." This observation is an important sign of the link between spelling ability and language ability. With the two being linked, it is logical that they can be more effectively taught together rather than separately.
Implications of the Three Paradigms
As we have seen Taylor-Heald (1998) argues that the student-oriented paradigm is the preferred approach. In practice, this approach means that teachers would balance teaching spelling with the teaching of other activities, especially reading and writing.
It is suggested that teachers use less drills and practices to teach spelling, as the traditional and transitional approaches would require, and use more integrated approaches. This involves having spelling instruction integrated with reading instruction and also incorporating various language activities that combine the teaching of spelling, language and meaning.
There is also opportunity for spelling to be integrated to the teaching of any subject. The content of the reading can deal with the selected subject, while the reading and writing component will be an activity naturally incorporating spelling.
Sulzby (1980) describes one successful approach that integrates reading, writing and language skills. This approach involves using children's dictated stories as a tool to learning language, comprehension and meaning. Sulzby (1980) describes an activity where students dictate text and then reread and edit the text to create the meaning their spoken word intended. By doing this students understand the link between words and their meaning, the written word and the spoken word and also learn to understand language, writing and meaning. Part of the effectiveness of this technique is the fact that students play a major part in it. They are not…