Spelling is a key element of meaning-making. Being able to spell is important for meaning-making in both reading and writing. If a text contains incorrectly spelled words, it can cause difficulties and errors in fluency and comprehension when reading. When writing, it is easier to focus attention on generating ideas, selecting precise vocabulary and sequencing the content if the task of spelling individual words is not challenging and onerous. Much like handwriting or touch-typing, the transcription skill of spelling must become automatic in order to free all other resources required for composing a quality written text. Being able to spell words is regarded as a 'prerequisite to expressing vocabulary in writing' and it 'bridges idea generation and text generation'. Spelling has also been described as a critical word-formation problem-solving 'skill for developing word wizards and competent composers who can translate their ideas for others via well-crafted texts'. Furthermore, the teaching of spelling can support the development of reading skills. Becoming proficient in Standard English spelling is a complex and gradual process, and it requires instructional attention in the middle years of school. Persistent and unresolved difficulties with spelling can have a negative impact on overall wellbeing and mental health. For example, research has shown that students with spelling difficulties are 'susceptible to becoming withdrawn, anxious and depressed'.
This chapter begins with an overview of current theoretical perspectives on learning Standard English spelling and it details how these perspectives can inform the teaching of spelling. To guide the assessment and instruction of spelling, a list of some key linguistic terms pertinent to spelling is included in this chapter. This chapter also presents specific assessment and teaching strategies that can be adopted in the middle school years to help students refine their spelling.