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No spelling tests

(24 Posts)
PotteryLottery Sun 30-Nov-14 20:57:57

DD's school doesn't do spelling tests at all, they tackle spelling in class.

Am not sure if I should be pleased that I won't have to coach her for these tests or worried that she will struggle at secondary school and do my own tests at home.

Is there any research about the effectiveness of spelling tests?

spanieleyes Sun 30-Nov-14 20:58:55

They don't work.

Starlightbright1 Sun 30-Nov-14 21:02:18

yes I can tell you my DS learnt them for tests and they don't get put into work. He is now going through the same with times tables. He move up every two weeks when he gets them right then can't remember them. I believe there was some research into spelling tests not been effective however I don't think my experience is classed as anything other than anecdotal

Hulababy Sun 30-Nov-14 21:02:41

Most research shows that spelling tests have no real benefit. They certainly don't teach children how to spell.

Many children manage to get full or near full marks in tests, but then fail to remember them when writing independently.

There are far better ways of learning spelling rules than a weekly test.

My school also doesn't spend spellings home, though we do tackle spelling in class.

Ferguson Sun 30-Nov-14 23:20:44

Yes, plenty of parents would be delighted not to have to coach for spellings.

Don't think you said what Yr group, but if Phonics is being taught properly, if DD is reading and writing at an appropriate level, and she is happy in other subjects and activities, then there is no reason why she shouldn't sail through primary, secondary and then university.

However, if you 'fret' unnecessarily that could possibly hinder her.

In MN book reviews, search for 'Phonics' and you should find a useful book to help you both.

Mashabell Mon 01-Dec-14 07:37:14

Spellings tests are great for children who are naturally good spellers - who have exceptionally good visual memories and have no trouble imprinting the right look of words on their minds and score full marks nearly every time. (I can imagine that many MN posters fell into that category. Poor spellers tend not join discussion forums.)

But even gifted spellers often misspell words they got right in tests when they are writing a story and concentrating on what they are trying to say and not just the spelling. Heterographs (there/their, to/oo) in particular keep tripping everyone up.

For most children, spelling tests do far more harm than good, because of the stress they cause to both children and parents. They help to make weak spellers even more nervous about their poor writing ability than they already are.

English spelling takes loads of learning. It takes an average of 10 years to become fairly competent, but it's practice that does the trick, not testing: write, write and write some more.

Parents can be useful as walking dictionaries when their children get stumped by a spelling when doing their homework, but not by making a spelling a big issue. I never met a child that did not want to learn to spell well.

sunnyfrostyday Mon 01-Dec-14 08:48:12

We've just stopped doing them at dcs' school, and I am delighted! The one homework I hated, and made absolutely no difference to spelling ability. DS1 got full marks every week, but still can't spell for toffee.

LooseAtTheSeams Mon 01-Dec-14 09:17:25

We don't have lists of spellings to learn at home - that is a change and may be due to the teacher. They did have a spelling test at school but that was unannounced and seemed to be aimed at working out levels. I agree spelling tests generally work for good spellers - you'd remember the odd word you got wrong because it stood out, whereas if you got a lot of them wrong it's not that helpful. I think what is important is that children recognize that spelling matters, though, and get to practise writing and thinking about tricky words and ways of remembering how to spell them. Similarly, it's not rote learning that really fixes times tables, it's lots of practice using them.

maizieD Mon 01-Dec-14 15:19:09

English spelling takes loads of learning. It takes an average of 10 years to become fairly competent,

Do you have a reference for the source of that assertion, marsha?

Mashabell Mon 01-Dec-14 16:56:51

Most pupils still make lots of mistakes on their GCSE exam scripts, i.e. at age 16, after 11 years of schooling.

As a secondary English teacher i found that those who did not not were exceptionally rare. They really stood out. I have had many graduates tell me that they did not really become confident spellers until the end of university, after lots of essay writing.

Bernard Lamb and a Mr Richards (English tutor at Oxford) researched this thoroughly. They were both shocked by their findings. Several surveys in the US have found the same.

maizieD Mon 01-Dec-14 18:48:36

Did Mr Lamb and Mr Richards produce a peer reviewed paper which can be accessed online?

Or do you have links to the US surveys?

Hulababy Mon 01-Dec-14 18:52:51

Only link to those people I have found so far is this: www.englishspellingsociety.org/aboutsss/leaflets/whyeng.php
But that has Masha Bell's name on it...

...so I will see if there is more. I am curious. I know there is a lot of educationalists out there who state spelling tests are pretty pointless, and n awful lot of teaching staff with anecdotal evidence which states it is.

But have never heard the official line on it taking 10 years to learn to spell, etc.

AugustRose Mon 01-Dec-14 19:02:22

My DS1 had weekly spelling tests in primary from year 3-6 and is good at spelling BUT he was always in the top group and might just be naturally good. He also had weekly times tables tests and couldn't retain then until year 11 as he struggles with any kind of maths.

DD1 went to a different school who didn't do spelling tests and although she is an advanced reader her spelling is pretty bad, even now at age 12.

DD2 goes to the same school as DD1 and they are just now (as of this week) introducing spelling tests - she is in year 3 - she is a confident reader and I think her spelling is probably OK for her age so it will be interesting to see if she improves by the summer.

Feenie Mon 01-Dec-14 20:09:42

I have - from Masha, about a billion times. So it must be true hmm

HesterShaw Mon 01-Dec-14 20:16:37

The only reason why teachers give children "spellings" and administer weekly tests is to stop the parents moaning.

They don't work. Children who are poor at spelling don't do the work at home, and if they do, they don't remember them, and children who are good at spelling can often do it anyway. Other ways to teach spelling are needed.

Notcontent Mon 01-Dec-14 22:06:24

My dd has weekly spelling tests. She is a good speller as she reads a lot but she finds the tests stressful and now in year 4 they are doing spelling patterns (part of new curriculum) which means they often don't know what words will be on the spelling test! Getting it wrong is very disheartening for children and doesn't teach them anything.

Mashabell Tue 02-Dec-14 07:29:28

Maizie,
Why can't u google Bernard Lamb and Bernard Richards if u are really interested? I read their stuff more than 10 years ago. I am amazed u haven't heard of them. They are both of your persuasion - i.e. that poor spelling standards are the result of poor (then modern) teaching methods. In 2007 the BBC had me challenging Lamb on Breakfast in 2007. He used to be chair of the Queen's English Society.

The states do regular literacy surveys. They have something like an 'annual report card' on the state of education across the US. I am sure u can find plenty of those online too.

Mashabell Tue 02-Dec-14 07:49:18

Getting it wrong is very disheartening for children and doesn't teach them anything.

For parents too!
My son who is very mathematical found learning to spell very difficult (unlike his sister who never ever had to work at it). He used to get quite upset at primary school by all the "sp"s all over his written work every time he got it back. It almost put him off writing more than a few sentences, although his natural inclination was to write loads and very fast.

I kept reassuring him that if he kept writing, it would get better. It did, and mainly just with practice. Sometimes i used to collect a few words that kept tripping him up and get him to take a closer look at the tricky bits in them, or even copy them out neatly a few times each. The various exercises they did at school obviously helped too, but it takes time.

With at least 4,219 common words containing tricky bits like 'hair, care, bear, aerial' and 'there/their' nobody becomes a good speller without practice. So let's give kids plenty of that, but don't torture them with stressful tests as well.

fuzzpig Tue 02-Dec-14 07:51:03

DD has a weekly spelling test now she's started junior school and having read that they make no difference, I just thought fine, we will go along with it because it's homework, but not expect miracles IYSWIM. I have to say though, despite my expectations, DD does seem to retain it in her everyday writing. Literacy is her strong point and her passion though. Her spelling issue is that she is a bit careless but having spellings to learn seems to have helped her buck her ideas up a bit and think about spelling patterns while she's writing, and when she makes mistakes thankfully it doesn't get her down (surprising as she's very sensitive), she just learns from it. So for her, I'm actually glad she gets them - she really enjoys it and always asks me for extra words to learn now. (If the same were true of times tables etc I'd be very happy but she really struggles and her targets for that are too high)

However I know anecdote does not equal data and it's just that spelling tests happen to fit well with her personality and learning style. I remember when my teen DSD used to get spelling tests, she's severely dyslexic and I know that the tests made absolutely no difference and were just making her sad sad

Feenie Tue 02-Dec-14 12:52:44

Hulababy did google, Masha - she told you she could only find one reference, with your name on.

Cloud2 Tue 02-Dec-14 14:03:43

DS1 used to have this, and he is good at spelling. DS2 don't have any spelling test, he is good at spelling too. So I think it is not use.

But when DS2 start to learn how to write at Y1, he like to come to ask me how to spell something, I would always ask him to try first using his phonics skill, then I would correct him. I found this is quite useful.

Mashabell Tue 02-Dec-14 17:52:49

Feenie, I got 10 links for Bernard Lamb on the first page!

Hulababy Tue 02-Dec-14 18:25:23

To be fair I only googled "lamb richards spelling uk"

Mashabell Tue 02-Dec-14 19:41:03

I am amazed u got any result with that google, Hulababy.

They are two people: Bernard Lamb was at Imperial College
and Bernard Richards at Oxford.

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