George Lucas Educational Foundation

Does spelling count?

Does spelling count?

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Does spelling count? That used to be the big question. What students meant was “will you be taking off points for misspelled words?” While using technology in class now, the question is essentially, “do we have to spell words right on purpose?” I frequently use an online discussion tool. Many students use text speak and emoticons whenever they are using an online tool in their personal lives, be it social media or mobile. Students have learned a variety of ways to make their words become their voice, including emoticons, CAPITAL LETTERS, and lots of punctuation!!!!!! Some teachers allow that style of writing while using online discussion tools because it increases their excitement and engagement with the tool, freeing them to “learn the way they live,” Other educators feel that if you are using the tool for a class students should be practicing proper writing skills at all times, including spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, etc. What do you think? Does digital writing count?

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susan offen's picture
susan offen
Literacy Graduate Student

I do believe spelling counts. I feel that spelling and handwriting are getting pushed to the side in curriculum today for a variety of reasons. One reason is the shift in instructional priorities. The second reason is our current emphasis on digital forms of communication. Word processing programs, spell-check, among other editing tools have led people to believe that teaching spelling and penmanship is no longer necessary. These skills are foundational skills that help build reading and writing skills. Research has proven that children's ability to map sounds to letters grows through practice and by exposure to print, amn of their direct letter-sound associations grow more conventional(Hendersson & Beers, 1980; read, 1975; Templeton & Morris, 2000). This growing ability to map sounds to letters becomes a kind of glue that helps hold words in memory. As their knowledge of words increases, and as they are taught reading and spelling in school, children have more information from which to develop more sophisticated theories about the system. Invented spellings gradually become more conventional in appearance as children begin attending to how sounds are spelled, not just to single letters, but also to patterns of letters. Graham, Best Practice in Writing Instruction(2007),p.184. I agree that spelling and handwriting are building blocks. Poorly developed skills can affect higher level-literacy processes. I do not feel they should be neglected by any means. However, I do feel that students need to experience writing on digital devices as well. We need to prepare them with 21st century skills to be successful in today's learning world. Therefore, I believe there should be a balance. I feel they should be taught foundational skills in spelling, handwriting, reading and writing first but encourage them to practice and learn writing using technology as well. One suggestion for teachers would be to have students writing rough drafts with pencil and paper and writing final drafts on the word processor.

Debora Wondercheck's picture
Debora Wondercheck
Executive Director, Founder of Arts & Learning Conservatory

Of course spellings count if one can not spell it corretly he/she cannot correctly pronounce it,overall language perfection evaporates so i think is is truly important

Joe Beckmann's picture
Joe Beckmann
Retired teacher educator - UMass, EDC, various school systems

Spell it HOW? you just did it as "corretly," and, of course, earned a squiggle red underline. Too many - perhaps thee - type on phones and low functioning keypads, or use software without that squiggle, to rely on how "critical" spelling may be and whether it be truly or truely important....

Linda Kardamis's picture
Linda Kardamis
middle school math teacher in Ohio - I blog at

This is a tough question. As a math teacher, I started out not counting spelling (points off for spelling was a pet peeve of mine as a student.) But I soon found that the students weren't learning how to spell basic math terms and thus looked like they didn't know what they were talking about.
I found a good compromise: I took a half point off for each misspelled point on their test. BUT - if they wrote each misspelled word 5 times and turned it in, I gave them the points back.
It was win-win: if they cared enough about losing points, they would write the words. But not making it mandatory saved me from the headache of tracking them down.
I found that the students' spelling of the words dramatically improved with this system.

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

Students should know the difference between times when spelling counts and when it does not. Spelling is an important skill that kids should always be learning and practicing. However, with social media, it's a skill that is not practiced often enough.

Compromise on this issue is always appreciated by students. Try assigning a "tweet report", where students have to create a series of tweets on a subject. This will give them an opportunity to express themselves when spelling "doesn't count".

As long as you're clear on your expectations, students will rise to any challenge!

Jenni Christensen's picture
Jenni Christensen
Middle school language arts teacher in eastern Colorado

I do the same and find that it works in my classroom, as well. Glad to hear I'm not the only one!

PBWalls's picture
Studio Teacher/Welfare Worker

When in doubt I ask, "What would I want for my children?" The answer is yes, spelling matters.

Barbara's picture

I had a spelling disability while in elementary school. I would limit myself to words that I knew that I could spell correctly when points were taken off for spelling. As a teacher I only take points off for ELA. My students are evaluated for their knowledge of the subject without being hindered by their spelling ability.

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