Spelling, punctuation and grammar

“What I want to say to you is exactly the same as what the previous speaker has said.”

It was not impressive that the head of literacy in the school did not understand that “similar” did not mean “the same;” Miss Rabbage would have given her a very hard stare.

SpaG is the term used in school now – spelling, punctuation and grammar. Spelling seems very weak, but if people never read books, where will they see words from which to learn spellings?

At primary school, we were given sixteen spellings to learn each week. It seemed an arbitrary system. Why sixteen spellings? Perhaps the intention was that we would learn four each day in preparation for the weekly test, but that wasn’t the case at High Ham Church of England Primary School. ¬†We were given slips of paper, as small as a sixth or an eight of a page in size, and each Monday afternoon copied from a textbook called Word Perfect the words for the week. The memory remains of the slip of paper, folded and folded again and stuffed into the trouser pocket, but not lost; spellings were too serious a matter for the paper to be lost.

In the time between the transcribing of the words and their being the subject of the test at the end of the week, there must have been time spent learning them; perhaps someone took the slip of paper and asked the spelling of each word in preparation for the weekly anxious moments. It is odd that such moments have disappeared entirely beyond recall, perhaps they really did create such a mood of anxiety and apprehension that the recollection of what must have been many hours of effort has become repressed by the subconscious.

Why were a set of spellings from Monday tested on a Friday, before we moved on to the next section of the book? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to test the words the following Monday, allowing them more time to be absorbed? Or wouldn’t it have made more sense to have tested them less frequently, maybe once a month? Aren’t things quickly learned quickly forgotten? Certainly in undergraduate days at university, exams became a matter of a couple of weeks cramming into the memory as many things as possible, in order to recycle them on the examination paper and then to forget them. Current research suggests that learning needs to be lodged in the long-term memory to be retained. Perhaps Monday to Friday was long enough. Certainly, the words from those times still remain.

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