A colleague of mine and I were recently discussing how to teach spelling to ESL/EAL students and how important spelling is. A thought occurred to me: what if there were two forms of spelling – spelling as a life skill and academic spelling, and how these two forms should inform how we approach spelling. My daughter is at the beginning stages of learning how to spell as a native English speaker; the words she can spell are strongly related to the ones she can sound and read – CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, CCVC (consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant) words, sight words, and so on. For me, learning how to spell these words is a life skill – they form the basic rules of English and determine how words are formed. It would make sense that any spelling lists sent home would link to what she is learning to read in class. But then as students get older things will shift – once a foundation is formed, how does the purpose of writing change at school? Writing will be used for explaining math problems, answering science questions, and writing essays; the vocabulary students must learn to spell will change as they advance. Should the way we approach teaching how to spell change accordingly – especially for those students coming in at slightly later grades who don’t speak English or who have limited English, but who have a similar spelling knowledge base as my daughter in their own native tongue. If this is the case, that there are two forms of spelling and two purposes for spelling – life skill and academic – how do the spelling programs we currently have in place for ESL/EAL students need to change to meet those two different needs? Is it okay to start a student coming in after grade 1 or 2 with the same types of words as my daughter is learning, or should they simply focus on the academic words they will need to answer subject-related questions, to write essays, etc. Are our current spelling programs for ESL/EAL students meeting their immediate academic needs, or do we need to change our approach?
Academic English Language Learners - A Change in Perspective
Academic English Language Learners - A Proposed Solution
Setting Up an EAL Department at an International School
ESL Students and Specialist Classes
Learning to Read vs. Vocabulary Building