Monday, October 26, 2009

Spell-checkers - are they really good for us?

Until I started teaching again, I hadn't realized just how dependant I've become on my spell-checker. I gave my eldest pupil a 'tricky words' list and told her to note down any words she habitually had trouble spelling. Following an old adage that you should never ask a child to do anything you wouldn't be prepared to do yourself, I printed out a sheet for me and kept it by my desk as I typed. So far, there are five words on it but I anticipate more. What is of even greater significance is that many of these are not difficult words - address is one of them - they're just words that I have let the spell-checker spell for me so often that my brain has forgotten how to spell them unaided........
But does it really matter? Outside of teaching literacy skills, do we really need to know how to spell when everything is done on computer?
I was talking to someone recently about calculators and how children can't really use them until they have a firm understanding of numbers because they need to be able to discern whether the calculator has come up with a plausible answer. Now I'm beginning to think the spell-checker fulfills a similar niche in the literacy world; of course you need to know basic spelling rules and be able to read competently but that's about it.
Pretty soon, I reckon students will sit exams on computers. Then, just as when I was at school and adults were horrified that we were allowed to take calculators into Maths exams, I bet that spell-checkers will be permissible in English exams. The need for perfect spelling will become a thing of the past. But will that really be such a bad thing??????

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Favourite books

I came across a blog recently asking people to name their favourite children's book. For me this is tricky; I read constantly as a child, have read even more when teaching and, now, of course, keep an eye on all the competition. Charlie and the chocolate factory would definitely be on my list as would Matilda - another Roald Dahl classic but there are just so many.....
For further inspiration I took a look at 'banned books' on Amazon; a bizarre list of books apparently banned by the American Library Association ranging from Judy Blume's Blubber to Orwell's 1984. I was pleased to discover I'd read most of them (and don't think they've resulted in any lasting damage!).
I spent a while browsing the titles, pondering on what was so wrong with the listed titles before coming to the conclusion that for me, choosing a favourite book is like choosing my favourite song - it all comes down to my mood.
Today I'd say my favourite is Dogger by Shirley Hughes - a tale about a small boy who loses his beloved toy at a jumble sale and a kind big sister who retrieves it for him. It's a picture book tale to warm anybody's heart . Ask me again tomorrow though and I'll probably say something very different.........