Mention spelling to just about anyone, and they will likely bemoan the ‘craziness’ of a language that has ‘so many rules and so many exceptions.’ But watch out– talking about English like this doesn’t help anyone: not teachers, and not learners.
Spelling rules have ‘ruled’ education for generations now, but do they really help?
Take these so-called “short u” words, for example.
up but mother love young son one flood must come just what was funny touch other done does country glove
Of these twenty words, only five of them follow a ‘u’-based spelling rule. If the rest of them are exceptions to that ‘rule,’ then is it really a rule? And what are learners supposed to make of a word like ‘does’ – is it a ‘short u’ word despite containing an ‘o’ and an ‘e’, with not a single ‘u’ in sight?
Despite their varying spelling patterns, all of these words have one thing in common: they contain the same stressed vowel sound /ʌ/ which we can simply call a CUP of MUSTARD. Working with the stressed vowel sound as our point of reference, the fun begins! Look at these same words, now organized by spelling pattern. The result is a spelling ‘bar graph’ that helps us notice which spelling patterns are most prevalent and which are least common. Learners can do this kind of exploration with each new batch of words they collect on their Color Vowel Organizer. (Download your free Color Vowel Organizer on our Teachers page.)
Before, learning to spell meant learning rules and memorizing exceptions. Now, with Color Vowel®, learners can engage in Color Vowel Spelling Exploration, a student-centered discovery in which learners work with the words they learn, use and collect over time.
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