Friday, 10 June 2016

The Spell-Write Way: A Brief History

In 1983 Spell-Write was published by NZCER. It was a simple book of Alphabet and Essential Lists, Groups of Words, a 'How to Learn a Word' Chart and a few spelling rules.

It was simple, but powerful. Its power came from the teachers whose hands the book was placed. Teachers who had extraordinary insight into the process of teaching literacy. They absorbed Spell-Write into their current practice. They knew what to do. They knew 'The Spell-Write Way'. Nobody called it 'The Spell-Write Way' it was just 'what teachers did'.

This sophisticated knowledge had evolved over decades in an education system, led by Beeby, that respected the learner. That knew teaching was best when it was holistic and balanced in its approach and the needs of the learners constantly informed teaching.

The arts played a big part. The arts; drama, dance, music and visual art connected the child to their learning. To teach literacy we must first know how to use the arts as a teaching tool. Beeby recognise this in the practice of teachers like Sylvia Ashton-Warner and Elwyn Richardson, and the arts advisory service was born.

With the new millennia came change. I was the last Primary School Art Adviser in the Wellington Region. Like many advisers at the time I had to choose to become a numeracy adviser or leave the service. I left. We now only have numeracy and literacy advisers.

Teachers confidence in their 'way', their knowledge was weakened and threatened. Wave after wave of new claims from influential people, people with easy access to the media, they swamped the humble hard working and skilled practitioner. Who were these people? They were the academics pushing their narrow agendas to make their mark, the 'overseas experts' giving keynote speeches at conferences and the education publishers at these same events selling their wares with their 'international expertise', all paid for by schools under the column of PLD. Tomorrow schools roll out ensured these influences would thrive.

How did this impact Spell-Write? Well it continues to be published and used in NZ classrooms with over 750 teachers and 5,000 student using it online as I write this blog www.spell-write.nz.  Thanks to the resourceful, capable and resilient teachers who held their ground, Spell-Write continues to be a valuable resource. Teachers who tap into the deep well of knowledge that is our education heritage know how to use Spell-Write. They know 'The Spell-Write Way'.


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