Combating Students' Difficulties with English Spelling

Although the language program at the College of Languages and Translation, King Saud University offers several English language courses: Listening, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary building, grammar a dictionary skills in the first four semesters, the spelling skill is completely ignored. Since many college students at COLT are poor spellers, I developed a spelling course that was integrated into the teaching of listening, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary and dictionary skills courses that she taught. The course aimed at providing students with the basics of English spelling and helping them associate the spoken sounds with the written forms. The course consisted of a series of graded spelling lessons that covered the following: English vowels, different pronunciation of the vowel letters; adding a final silent e; pronunciation of vowel digraphs; vowel digraphs and silent e; vowel digraphs with the same pronunciation; consonant letters with more than one sound; different pronunciations of consonant letters; silent consonants; double consonants; words with 2 pronunciations; 2 words with the same pronunciation; words with 2 parts of speech; words commonly confused; doubling consonants before –ed, -ing, -er; hidden sounds; spelling rules for regular verbs; dropping silent e before a suffix; doubling consonants before a suffix; changing y into I before a suffix; adding –s and –es to verbs and nouns; adding –ed, -ing, -er to verbs; spelling rules for the present progressive, the simple present tense and simple past tense; spelling of irregular verbs, plural nouns, adjectives, adverbs; rules for adding affixes (adding consonant and vowel suffixes, dropping silent e before a suffix, changing y into I before a suffix, doubling of consonants, adding a combining vowel or a combining consonant, consonant replacement before a suffix; changing pronunciation of a consonant before a suffix (assimilation); adding verb-forming, noun-forming, adjective-forming and adverb-forming suffixes; words with 2 parts of speech (words ending in –ate, -ment, -age, -ain); spoken vs written forms (assimilation, elision, flaps, reduction, vowel linkage, pause and juncture); punctuation (use of hyphenation in compound, apostrophes, contracts, ordinal numbers; acronyms and abbreviations; spelling variations (American vs British spelling). Each lesson consists of one rule and words illustrating that rule. To help the students compare and contrast, make the connection and recall the rules, a summary lesson was given every 5-7 lessons. Minimal pair practice is also given. The written forms are always associated with the spoken sounds and vice versa. The students were encouraged to make their own word families. Pre- and post-test results showed significant differences between students who took and those who did not take the spelling course in spelling performance as well as the spelling performance of students before and after taking the course.

Prof. Reima Al-jarf
King Saud University
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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