Have you ever wondered why handwriting is so prevalent in Spelling You See, or if it works as a handwriting program? We’ll get into these questions, and more, in this blog post.
Spelling You See is not difficult, but it is different.
This is a statement we often make about our spelling program, and it’s easy to see why. As soon as you open the books, you are struck by the fact that there are no spelling lists and no tests, but there are lots and lots of lines for writing. In fact, the first two levels of the program (Listen and Write and Jack and Jill) contain a Guide to Handwriting, and specific references to handwriting are made in the Instructor’s Handbook. This often gives rise to several questions, such as:
• If this is a spelling program, why talk about handwriting?
• Does this mean I can use Spelling You See for my handwriting program, too?
• What if my child uses a different style?
• What if my child wants to write in cursive?
• How much should I emphasize handwriting as I guide my student through Spelling You See?
It might be helpful to think about it first as a tool; now think about the difference between learning how to use a tool and how to apply a tool. Consider the simple calculator as an example. The first time you picked up a calculator, you had to learn how to turn it on, what the different keys meant, how to clear entries, etc. Then, once you were comfortable with the tool, you were able to use it to balance your checkbook, calculate student grades, check answers to math problems when the answer key wasn’t handy, and so on. Handwriting should be considered in the same way. Spelling You See is not designed to teach actual letter formation—the “how to” of handwriting. There are many other programs on the market specifically for this purpose (or you may simply be choosing to do this on your own). Instead, Spelling You See is an application of handwriting—a situation in which students use the “tool” of handwriting to accomplish the task of learning how to spell.
So why do we even mention handwriting in Spelling You See? Simply put, there’s a lot of it in the program, and it can interfere with student’s ability to learn spelling if not executed efficiently. Knowing the four principles related to handwriting in Spelling You See will help you, as the parent, guide your student as he works through the program.
…helps the student focus on spelling. Automatic, correct spelling comes as words are imprinted on a student’s visual memory. If the brain is trying to remember how to form letters while also trying to learn spelling, obviously less brain power is going to spelling. Therefore, students who have already established handwriting patterns should write in the way they find the most comfortable. Note: this is the most important handwriting principle in Spelling You See. It should be as automatic as possible so that the brain can focus entirely on learning correct spelling.
…prevents exhaustion. In the first full paragraph of this blog post, I typed the letter e 50 times. If I were writing by hand, I would have created 50 strokes because I write the letter e with a single stroke. However, I have seen some children write the letter e using 2 or even 3 strokes. That means that, if they were to copy just the first paragraph, they would write 100 or 150 strokes to my 50. For young children, whose hand muscles are still developing, writing in this manner will soon cause the hand to tire. That is why Spelling You See includes a suggested Guide to Handwriting. If you have a student whose hand gives out before 10 minutes is up, or if you have a young child who is still learning the mechanics of handwriting, we recommend that he learn to write letters as shown in this guide.
…enhances memory. People often wonder why Spelling You See encourages manuscript over cursive. After all, isn’t cursive easier on the hand, and isn’t comfort the most important principle? Yes and yes. However, writing in manuscript gives two additional advantages. First, it is much closer to print, which we see in everyday reading. Second, because each letter in manuscript is formed separately, using a distinctive set of strokes, the physical action of writing the word creates a stronger impression on the brain and makes remembering the correct spelling more likely. Too many letters in cursive are formed in the same way (think e and l), and the flow between the letters doesn’t create as strong an impression on the brain as the hand is writing. If a student can write comfortably in manuscript, we recommend that it be used for spelling work.
…facilitates reading. This last principle really is a matter of common sense. In Spelling You See, the student needs to be able to read aloud what he’s written, and you need to be able to read his writing to see if he’s spelled correctly. As long as the student’s writing is legible, you don’t need to be concerned about perfect letter formation.
Handwriting is an important tool used in the Spelling You See program, but parents should remember that it’s just that—a tool. As you use Spelling You See, please don’t obsess over handwriting. Stay relaxed and engaged, have fun, and watch as your child develops spelling skill and confidence.