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Does technology make learning spelling unnecessary?

Published on 02 February 2024
Edited on 08 April 2024

We all have access to so many modern devices that seem to replace the need to learn to spell. Starting with autocorrect in word processors in the 1990s through Generative AI with Large Language Models like ChatGPT today, there are so many tools available at our fingertips that might lead us to the conclusion of “no, we don’t need to learn to spell anymore”.

But learning to spell for its own sake is not the only goal here.

By following a science-based curriculum around spelling, we are not just teaching our children how to spell: we are teaching them how to be better readers.

From Richard Gentry and Gene Ouellete’s Brain Words: How the Science of Reading Informs Teaching: “By starting with an auditory analysis, rather than visual memorization, children effectively activate their reading circuitry.” The “auditory analysis” they refer to is based on the initial focus on audio (processed in the temporal lobe of the brain) as a means of learning to connect vision (processed in the back of the brain) with speech (programmed in the front of the brain).

Furthermore: “Reading circuity is optimized with automatic word reading for fluency, which greatly benefits from retrieving knowledge of correctly spelled words from the brain’s Word Form Area.” This means that, the deeper the neural pathways between the three sections of the brain that kids develop by building their spelling skills using auditory-based approaches early on, the easier reading will come to them in later years. Those pathways become stronger, and reading because easier, less of a chore, on a daily basis.

The whole book is a fascinating discussion of how the brain works, how spelling and phonics are instrumental, and how reading and writing curricula need to adjust given some of the poor practices espoused in the past 20+ years through Balanced Literacy. I highly recommend this book.

If you are a parent whose child brings home spelling tests and want to help them improve their practice of the words, please try Spelling Test Buddy today.

A boy using technology, his laptop