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[Susan notes: Here is great use of research in a letter.]

Submitted to Christian Science Monitor but not published

To the editor

According to the Monitor, there has been a return to explicit spelling instruction because we cannot assume children will "pick up (spelling) as they go along."

We have known for a long time, however, that spelling instruction is not effective. Here is one example: Elementary school principal Oliver Cornman dropped all spelling instruction from his school for three years and kept careful records: Dropping spelling had no effect on childrens spelling accuracy. His study was published in 1902, but his conclusions agree closely with those of other researchers.

In addition, there is evidence that children do, in fact,"pick up" spelling, not by just "going along" but by reading. In fact, the only way we can acquire the complex (and often unteachable) rules of spelling is by reading. This claim is supported by research, including studies showing that our spelling gets worse after we read misspelled words.

Good readers are nearly always good spellers, but may not be perfect spellers. They usually know when they are about to make a spelling mistake, however, and can usually recognize the correct spelling of a word when presented with alternatives on a spell-checker. This feel for correct spelling comes from extensive reading.

Stephen Krashen

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