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Noah Webster's Spelling Book Method for Teaching Reading and Spelling
Mr. Donald L. Potter
It is a little known fact that reading was taught by means of spelling for over 200 years. Today the impact of spelling on reading achievement is not as well appreciated as it once was.
The late Dr. Ronald P. Carver did extensive research into the causal relationships between spelling instruction and reading ability. Carver concluded, "One very important way to learn how to pronounce more words accurately is sometimes overlooked, that is, learning to spell more words accurately." (Causes of High and Low Reading Achievement, p. 178). He also notes that "spelling was used to teach reading for almost 200 years, but by the beginning of the 20th century, the tide had so turned that learning to spell was largely seen as incidental to learning to read." Quoting C. A. Perfetti, Carver observed, "practice at spelling should help reading more than practice of reading helps spelling." (p. 179.
In June of 2004 Miss Geraldine Rodgers sent me her essay, "Why Noah Webster's Way Was the Right Way." She argued from the history of reading and the psychology of reading that Webster's spelling book method of teaching reading and spelling was superior to all other methods. I was surprised to learn that that Webster, in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, defined a Spelling Book as, " A book for teaching children to spell and read." He also wrote under the entry, Spelling, "To tell the name of letters of a word, with a proper division of syllables, for the purpose of learning the pronunciation. In this manner children learn to read by first spelling the words." You can see that Webster was quite clear about the dual purpose of the spelling books in his day.
You can imagine my surprise at the improvement I began to get with my tutoring students when they started working through Webster's Spelling Book. I decided to type up my own edition to use in my private tutoring and my tutoring work at the Odessa Christian School in Odessa, TX, where I teach remedial reading and Spanish.
In this edition, I have retained everything in the original 1908 (descendant from the 1829 edition). The only differences relate to formatting. I chose to list the words in rows instead of columns. I also allow the words to divide at the ends of lines. I have found that this works fine for all students. We are teaching students to read and spell by syllables and not by word shapes or context. When reading and spelling are taught by the Spelling Book Method, all guessing at words from shape or context is completely eliminated. The student's total focus is on pronouncing the words correctly, high levels of comprehension are a natural result.
- Publication Date:
- 1496153278 / 9781496153272
- Page Count:
- Binding Type:
- US Trade Paper
- Trim Size:
- 8.5" x 11"
- Black and White
- Related Categories:
- Education / Teaching Methods & Materials / Reading & Phonics