Language, Literacy, Technology, Thoughts

The Honest Truth About Spell Check…Sincerely, Teacher

by Beth Crumpler

Dear Students:

Spell check is notorious for being viewed as dumbing down your spelling abilities.  Throughout my years in the teaching profession I have heard rants from many teachers about the evils of spell check and how it makes students lazy and unable to learn how to spell correctly.  The naysayers who view this way use the argument that using spell check makes students rely too heavily on it and therefore makes them pay less attention to learning how to spell correctly.

I flat-out find the above argument weak and contrary to the truth.  I get so tired of hearing educators say spell check is an enabler for you.  I understand the logic to the argument.  However, my own experiences with spell check prove the above argument invalid (at least in my opinion).

I’m a Generation Xer who grew up in a school environment in which computers were the “new” craze.  I remember when computers were first introduced into my elementary school.  I remember a computer lab being created for the first time and a new teacher with a strange name, “Tech Ed”, teacher running it.

Word processing became a huge thing as computers flooded their way into our schools.  With word processing, came spell check.  I remember my teachers insistently objecting to the use of spell check for quite some time.  They insisted in having us students use dictionaries, the traditional way of looking up words to learn how to spell. Nonetheless, my classmates and I found the dictionary method absurd.  In our opinions, using the dictionary to learn how to spell, seemed pointless.  Our logic, “How can we look up a word in the dictionary and learn how to spell it, if we don’t even know how to spell it?”  I remember sitting there in elementary school using dictionaries with no avail, trying to figure out the location of a word so that I could learn how to spell it.  If I asked a teacher how to spell the word, they would tell me, “Look it up in the dictionary/”  I thought, “Really?!  Yeah, that really works!”

Using spell check to figure out how to spell seemed logical, easy and actually worthwhile to my classmates and I.  We could quickly figure out how to spell a word, study the correct spelling and then fix the word.  Cha-ching!  We hit the jackpot on this one!  No more roaming through dictionaries endlessly for hours with no outcome.

As I progressed into high school, spell check became increasingly important.  As I learned more advanced vocabulary and had no idea how to spell words, spell check and I became best friends.  I know it must sound like I relied on spell check too much and therefore mustn’t have learned how to spell well.  Not true!  Truth is, for years I had been terrible at spelling.  The traditional dictionary and rote memorization method did nothing much for me.  Spell check worked for me.  It made me better at spelling. I did not rely on it just to correct words.  When I used spell check I actually would study the correct spelling of words.  Before fixing a word, I would look at my awful spelling, look at the correct spelling in spell check, look at my spelling again to compare what mistakes I might have made, look back at the correct spelling, memorize the correct spelling and then click to apply changes with the correct spelling.

Spell check worked for me because I studied the words.  I did not do what most of my teachers had argued that students would do.  I can’t recall anyone I knew that just clicked to change the spelling without studying the correct spelling first.

Students, the honest truth is that spell check will help you become a better speller like it did for me.  Don’t let anyone else bring you down or make you think otherwise.  I am living proof that spell check does not dumb down students.  Don’t listen to naysayers.  Instead actively use spell check in a productive way that will help you continue to succeed in your academic studies.


Teacher (as my ESL students call me)

P.S.  This is from the experiences and viewpoints of…a teacher who was once a student…a Generation Xer who remembers when spell check was introduced in school…a former student who remembers the old pointless dictionary method…a teacher who became a teacher due to the lack of belief in me from some of my  former teachers and who wanted to show students like you that someone believes in you…a teacher who “yes” as a student was once a bad speller…a student who used spell check to learn correct spelling and who later went on to become a teacher…a 21st Century teacher who is avid about using technological advances that help you learn more fluidly…and a teacher who sometimes breaks traditional ways of thinking by believing in and applying outside the box strategies that help you succeed.

Has spell check helped you become a better speller?


About adaptivelearnin

I am an educational professional who is passionate about needs analysis and materials creation to enhance student learning of all ages. I hope the content I share here will be of value to you in some way. Opinions are my own and are not those of my employer. Join me at my session for the 2013 TESOL International Conference, "ESL Instruction: Developing Your Skills to Become a Master Conductor", March 21 10:00 AM in room C144. My presentation focuses on listening, speaking and pronunciation music teaching techniques incorporated with ESL teaching. This is not your typical music/ESL presentation with chants and songs. Be prepared to use your vocal chords, diaphragm, lungs, mouth muscles, and arms like you have never used before in pronunciation, speaking and language instruction. Learn how to use music conducting skills in the language classroom to better facilitate language acquisition. Learn how to use music performance skills (vocal and instrumental) to better facilitate language learning. Be prepared to laugh and have fun. I look forward to meeting you and working with you.


2 thoughts on “The Honest Truth About Spell Check…Sincerely, Teacher

  1. Teacher – I never thought about it, but I used to do the same thing with spell check. I actually don’t like it now when spell check automatically changes my word without me able to see how I originally spelled it. Your post makes me think that as teachers, we might underestimate our students’ innate desire to learn.

    Posted by | July 25, 2012, 6:04 am
    • Yes, very true. As a student, no one ever taught me how to use spell check to learn. I just had the curiosity to learn and so I studied words myself. I don’t like auto correct on mobile devices. But, spell check is good because my mistakes are not changed until I approve to apply changes. Thanks for your insight.

      Posted by adaptivelearnin | July 25, 2012, 7:11 pm

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