One of the things I have enjoyed as the parent of an elementary student is watching how my son’s spelling has evolved over the years. When he’d bring classwork home as a kindergartener and first grader, it could be a bit of a puzzle to decipher his writing. The letters themselves were clear (he’s always been blessed with neat penmanship), but nearly evreting wuz speld fonetikle.
He was never self-conscious about whether he spelled something correctly, and over time, as he and his classmates became more proficient readers and studied weekly vocabulary lists, his spelling gradually improved. As Education.com points out, it’s more important that little kids learn to sound out words and be able to read their own writing than it is for them to know there is a “w” at the end of “snow”:
Don’t correct your child’s spelling. Children should feel like successful, independent writers. If children feel like they can’t write without perfect spelling, they will not think of themselves as writers. Children also may develop a tendency to rely on grown-ups to tell them if their spelling is “right.” Instead of focusing on correct spelling, encourage your first grader to write phonetically. If first graders are representing all the sounds they hear in words, they will be able to read their own writing. That’s what we want from young writers — standard spelling will come later.
But this year, kids are doing a lot of reading and writing work on Chromebooks and other electronic devices that would typically be done with paper and pencil. And as soon as things went virtual, I noticed my son became more preoccupied with his spelling — thanks to all the red lines suddenly appearing under his words. He began asking how to spell words with much greater frequency than before, until eventually, it seemed like he was focusing more on spelling every word correctly than he was on the essence of what he was actually trying to write. He couldn’t stand the highlighting of every last mistake.
Young kids don’t yet need to know every time they’ve used an “f” where a “ph” should be. An easy solution to this frustration: Turn off the damn spell check altogether. It should be an option no matter what device they are using. If the school has issued them a Chromebook, for example, it’s quick and easy to do:
1. Open Google Chrome and click the menu icon in the top right corner.
2. Click “Settings,” and then select “Advanced.”
3. Click “Languages,” and a few options for spell check will open up just underneath the language setting. You can select “basic” spell check, “enhanced” spell check, or you can customise spell check by adding in specific words (such as your last name). You don’t want any of that, though; you want to toggle “Spell Check” off entirely.
Eventually — say, by the time they’re writing papers in middle school or high school — spell check will become a useful tool for catching occasional mistakes. But for most young readers, it can add unnecessary pressure to get each word exactly right.