Why Meaning is so important for Spelling

When my boys were in primary school, they had an English book that was used for reading and spelling.  It was different to the type of reader that I had in school (who is old enough to remember the Maura, Seán and Rusty books).  Their English book was more of a workbook.  Along the left hand side were random words chosen simply because they were phonetically similar. Spelling homework was to learn off the words.  It was pretty easy to remember them, in the short term, because they all had the same sound.

Understanding what the word meant wasn’t really part of the process, but without meaning, learning how to spell the word is worthless.  Being able to use the word again, in the appropriate context, is an essential part of learning to spell. It is also an important aid in reading and composition. Why else would we need to do it?

Spelling needs meaningIn order to understand what a word means you have to either make a visual still image of it or create a contextual mini movie in your memory.  Creating this means that in the future when reading the word, for a fraction of a nano-second, that image pops back into your head and you have understanding.

This skill allows you to expand your vocabulary and comprehension.  It allows you learn new languages quickly and easily. Like all skills it must be learned and honed.  Controlling your images for spelling and comprehension is essential.  It is easy to make an image for nouns.  Imagine a dog – easy.  For abstract words it is more complicated but once mastered it too becomes easy.  This is where internal mini movies come into their own.

A good Thesaurus dictionary is a vital item in every home.  I think they are a wonderful way to connect words of similar meaning to the same internal image. If you come across a new word to spell and are unsure of the meaning, look it up in the Thesaurus.  Chances are that you already have an internal picture of another word that has a similar meaning to the new word.  Now all you do is tag the new word on to the same image.

Some skills are learned to do something that lasts for a short period of time.  Learning how to put meaning behind every word is a skill that will make spelling easy for the rest of your life.

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