Writing is a quintessential life skill. In fact, aside from basic math, literacy is the most important technical skill taught in most elementary education programs. Part of our writing education is learning how to spell words correctly. This is particularly challenging in the English language as our Frankenstein language is composed of several languages with differing rules. Despite the fact we can use spell check on our computers to check for mistakes, young children must continue to improve their spelling or become ineffective writers.
Clearly, technology has changed the landscape of education, yet it can be used as a teaching aide versus an excuse to be lazy. Improving spelling starts with recognizing when a word is wrong as well as knowing what word is the right word. Despite popular misperceptions about the technology, spell check only identifies unrecognized or abnormally used words. As such, teachers can use generic programs like MS Word to help kids correct their mistakes before they later learn how to find mistakes on their own. After all, beginners need help and technology makes finding mistakes easier.
Education is about solving progressively more challenging problems. Giving students the opportunity to correct easier mistakes before more difficult ones are presented allows them to learn. Programs like Word are useful, because they show something is wrong while functions can be disabled so students must figure how to spell words correctly. This can be very useful when teaching a large class. Meanwhile, instilling a limited trust in the spell check will also serve students later in life. On the other hand, low tech solutions, such as intentionally writing out mistakes on flash cards, are also useful.
Meanwhile, spelling is more of an issue with usage. In other words, children need to use their words to properly learn them. Between reading books and simply writing, they have a much better chance of learning their vocabulary. Beyond the tediousness of writing the same words over and over again until the spelling is memorized, children need to be able to develop relationships between words and their spelling in order to better understand why words are spelled a certain way. Creating their own stories, for example, helps instill these relationships. Mastering spelling requires students to learn in the same way they are going to use words.
Furthermore, spelling in young children is an even greater challenge that requires time. Byway of using vocabulary words in the class on a daily basis or playing simple games like hangman and crossword puzzles, children can improve their spelling skills. Then again, spelling is only part of an overall skill set required for literacy. With this in mind, spelling will improve as students learn to become better readers and writers. In the modern world, however, teachers need to introduce helpful technologies like spell check by using it as a learning tool versus a crutch. Failing to do so will ultimately make lazy writers when students need to improve their skills.