Spelling

Studying for Spelling Test

Studying for Spelling Test

(scroll down if you just want to see what words were thought to be most used, and therefore most needed in a spelling lesson, in the 1940s)

“Some people are ‘eye-minded,’ some are ‘ear-minded,’ some are muscle-minded,’ and some have little mind of any kind….”

So says Calvert’s headmaster V. M. Hillyer in the 1944 version of the Calvert Speller.

According to the preface of this little book, The Calvert School made a statistical investigation covering several years to determined the words most often used as well as those most often misspelled by children and adults. They combined their results with those of others who had looked into the same topic, and then divvied them up by order of frequency and produced a little speller which the Calvert school used for grades 2-6.

The first fifty words are the words that were determined to make up about half the words in regular use that are commonly misspelled. The book contains 3000 words in all. Hillyer felt that after the words in the book were mastered (6th grade), a student’s time was best spent in actual composition, looking up further words on an as-needed basis. “A child,” he said, “does not easily enlarge his vocabulary by studying meanings of words that occur in a spelling lesson, but by observing and studying the words used in reading or in the speech of others at the time when read or heard.” He also said it was appropriate to continue to assign spelling words associated with the childrens’ other studies.

To return to the opening quote, he explained that it was best to study spelling words using all three approaches, “look, listen, and feel, as each impression helps the other and in the hope that at least one of the mental impressions may take.”

First the student should look very intently at the words. Then read the word aloud, enunciating clearly and perfectly (window, Hillyer stresses, not winder). The student should then spell the word aloud (quietly to himself if in the classroom), counting off the letters with his fingers. Finally, Hillyer thought the student should write the word a number of times- but only after the first two approaches had been taken.

Like Charlotte Mason, Hillyer believed you should not call attention to the specifics of the wrong spelling or you would solidify the error in a child’s mind. It’s sort of like sending my husband for something at the grocery store. I have learned not to say, “cheese, any kind but American,” because he will come home with the American cheese. When you give directions to somebody, Hillyer says, you don’t say, “Take Linden Avenue, not Maple,” because ten minutes later the person you directed won’t remember whether or not he is supposed to take Maple. Only mention the correct version.
For example, if a child has spelled trestle incorrectly, you don’t say, “You spelled trestle with an -el at the end, and it’s -le.” Instead, you would simply say, “The correct spelling of trestle is…” and then give it. Charlotte Mason had her teachers go around the classroom with some sort of paper to quickly cover over errors so they didn’t make an imprint on the child’s mind. When we do spelling lessons, we do them with a dry-erase board, so we can quickly erase spelling errors, or on the computer so we can quickly delete them.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share the list of words on the final page- these were words sixth graders under Hillyer’s tutelage were not only expected to know, but were assumed to be in common usage. No real shockers, just interesting:

Gibraltar
Hawaii
Havana
Ky.
Milwaukee
Massachusetts
Manila
Md.
Mo.
Me.
Oklahoma
Poughkeepsie
Philippines
Pompeii
Raleigh
Savannah
Schenectady
Sicily
Seine
Thames
Vesuvius
Aladdin
Apollo
Caesar
Pharaoh
strategic
synthetic
quotient
automatic
apparatus
technical
deceased
efficiency
establishment
syndicate
transient
monopoly
incidentals
accompanies
psychology
observation
endeavor
assessment
beverage
sundries
obligation
eulogy
nutritious
machinist
accessible

 

You may also be interested in some of our other posts on Charlotte Mason’s approach to language arts, grammar, composition, spelling, etc.

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