Skip navigation

Before I begin I will state that many schools have already begun phasing out spelling tests. I do know of many teachers that use them but they are gradually phasing them out. This is a great thing and I will explain the reasons this change is necessary.

First I will define spelling tests. A word list is sent home on Monday for study during the week. On Friday the kids listen to a teacher dictate the words orally and they attempt to spell them correctly. The tests are marked and a percentage grade is awarded.

One of the reasons I oppose this is the fact that grading is perhaps the best way to get a child to hate school and learning. If you assign a grade to a students’ work you are motivating them to learn to earn marks. Marks become the reason for learning. It squelches the desire to learn for its own sake.

For students that excell in school, spelling tests are wonderful things. I always got ten out of ten and much praise for my spelling ability. Despite the fact that I never studied or put the slightest bit of effort into it.

Spelling tests are super boring. Learning things that aren’t interesting or fun is very difficult. Reading and writing about interesting things is much, much better.

For students who struggle to read and write, I can’t imagine anything more demoitvating then getting a two out of ten week after week. After a while it would seem pointless to try and we are already setting up the student for a lifetime of failure in school. Some kids have a really hard time and need a lot of support to learn. It is essential that they have the kindest learning environment possible.

It starts the sorting process of school. Kids get grouped into smart, average and stupid from a young age and they never lose this label. Marked assessments contribute greatly to this problem.

Spelling tests are also a poor way to learn spelling. There are much better strategies. There is phonics, sounding out, memorization and editing your written work. Not to mention that in this day and age, spell checkers are the way to go. You no longer have to spell perfectly, you can do it with the help of spell check. I realize that spell check is often used incorrectly but that is why instruction in how to use it properly is so important.

I am not trying to say that spelling is unimportant. I am saying it is over-rated. It can be taught while speaking, writing and reading. The more you read, write and speak, the more exposure you get to words and the easier spelling becomes. Even famous authors get their work edited. Why not kids’ work?



  1. Yey you made your post 🙂 I see where you are coming from – I was like you in that I found it easy to get good marks on the spelling tests, and I did find it very rewarding to get the good grades on the spelling tests. What I am curious about is how you would propose to teach the students English instead – I still think it’s important that they understand the basics of how the language they speak and should be able to read and write works, what other methods could be employed? Using your same argument that it was very demoralizing to constantly get low marks on spelling tests, I always struggled with math tests, even simple things like the times table. As an adult we can just use calculators – I’ve often wondered if we should be reevaluating how we look at math too.

    • Lots of reading, writing and editing your work will teach you spelling and grammar and it’s a lot more fun than a spelling test. You can also teach things like word families. Dr. Seuss is all about word families. Cat hat sat fat mat rat bat. House mouse spouse louse. Mean clean green machine. It teaches kids patterns in the language and helps them learn how to read and spell. You can do phonics and get them sounding words out. You can get them to think up words that rhyme. You can clap syllables sing songs write stories. You are only limited by your imagination.

      • That does sound like a lot more fun 🙂 and I think you are right, my parents taught my sisters and I how to read before we even started school by reading to us a lot, and pointing at the words as they read so we got familiar with what words sounded like and what they looked like on the page – you’re really on to something here 🙂

        • tentacledancer
        • Posted July 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm
        • Permalink

        I did learn to read before school started also and it was from being read to and asking a lot of questions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: