Monday, February 26, 2018

Book Explores How To Teach English Spelling

Thirty years before Noah Webster issued his landmark dictionary, he attempted to transform people into better spellers with his American Spelling Book publication.  The 1788 book became known as the Blue-Back Speller. However Americans have always struggled to be strong at spelling.  John Fulford, MA, B. Ed., has a solution.

The experienced English teacher has penned a terrific book, How to Teach English Spelling:  Including the Spelling Rules and 151 Spelling Lists.

“English spelling is complex, confusing, and often seems illogical, states the book’s back cover.  “Teaching English spelling often seems a thankless task.  No matter what techniques the teacher or parent uses, the results are often disappointing.”

So how will this book crack the problems that plague Americans for centuries?

He believes students need to know why a word is spelled the way it is and to know the rules that govern how we spell words.  Of course some spelling needs to be memorized, but students need to know how to break a word into syllables and pronounce it correctly.

Fulford knows his stuff, having taught English and ESL for over 30 years in America and abroad.  Kirkus Reviews says his book is “a highly effective guide for teaching the convoluted spellings of English words.”

English certainly makes spelling challenging. Look at all of the exceptions to the rules and things that seem weird, including the following:

Words with a double “c” get pronounced differently.  There’s the heard “c” sound in account but the soft “c” sound in access.

Words with silent letters, like the silent “e” in safe, use, and home.  Many words start with a silent letter — whole, psychic, knit, heir, gnat, and mnemonic.

Some words use double consonants – bully, follow, dollar – and some don’t.

Some words change a y to an i when the tense changes – cry to cried – or when we go from singular to plural – baby to babies.

There are five ways to pronounce “ought” – drought, dough, rough, bought, through.

We have homophones to confuse us – here/hear; past/passed; sun/son; hour/our; and know/no.

So many letters make the same sound.  For instance, the “shun” sound comes from tion, sion, tian, sian and other letter combos (ie: action, explosion, confession, magician).

Fulford notes that spelling doesn’t get enough attention. He writes:  “Despite the fact that English spelling is so important, the subject gets very little attention.  Most of the hard work of teaching spelling is done in the lowest grades.” But he notes many students graduate high school or college as bad spellers.  Hopefully this book – and his earlier publication, The Complete Guide to English Spelling Rules will serve a great purpose.

“English is now the most widely used language in the world.  Somewhere between 500 million and a billion people on every continent use it every day.  There must be some form of general agreement how words are spelled; otherwise, there would be linguistic chaos.  Over time, this general agreement has become a series of spelling rules.  For historic reasons, the English language contains an extraordinary variety of words, many with strange letter combinations that can produce a bewildering range of sounds.  Yet almost all of those words are subject to the spelling rules.  There is a logical pattern to the spelling of most English words.”

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource."

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