Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

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Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu Aug 23, 2012 5:14 pm

New David Crystal book out in September:

Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling: The Story of English Spelling
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spell-It-Out-Si ... t_ep_dpt_1
Why is there an 'h' in ghost? William Caxton, inventor of the printing press and his Flemish employees are to blame: without a dictionary or style guide to hand in fifteenth century Bruges, the typesetters simply spelled it the way it sounded to their foreign ears, and it stuck. Seventy-five per cent of English spelling is regular but twenty-five per cent is complicated, and in Spell It Out, our foremost linguistics expert David Crystal extends a helping hand to the confused and curious alike. He unearths the stories behind the rogue words that confound us, and explains why these peculiarities entered the mainstream, in an epic journey taking in sixth century monks, French and Latin upstarts, the Industrial Revolution and the internet. By learning the history and the principles, Crystal shows how the spellings that break all the rules become easier to get right.

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by geraldinecarter » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:55 am

Thanks Susan. I'm looking forward to this. Some of the children I tutored were really interested and curious about the derivation of words. I liked teaching 'special endings' ion, scious, etc. as whole units - it cuts down on memory load and emphasises the roots of our language. But, of course, there are reasons for continuiing with phoneme-by-phoneme introduction. It's just that there are reasons why phonics should be servant rather than master.

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:36 pm

Spelling it out: After 1,000 years of foreign meddling, no wonder the English language is so confusing

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... using.html

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by Anna » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:31 pm

Thank-you for telling us about this book, Susan. It looks fascinating. I agree with Geraldine. Many of my older tutees are fascinated by word origins and will ask about the origins of certain spellings. I know a certain amount but am keen to increase my knowledge with a user-friendly guide. I also recommend the Oxford School Dictionary of Word Origins.

Once my (older) pupils have caught up on their reading skills through a Synthetic Phonics programme, I have been finding it very useful to teach them about prefixes, suffixes and root words. I recommend Spotlight on Suffixes by Gillian Aitken. These really help the pupils' knowledge of grammar, as well as their vocabulary. There are two very comprehensive books of photocopiable worksheets. The main focus of Book One is the doubling, drop e and change y to i patterns. Book Two revises and extends these patterns to multisyllabic words and moves onto Latin and Greek suffixes. It includes some quite challenging vocabulary! It takes over a year of weekly lessons to cover all of Book Two.

I feel that word origins should be taught much more explicitly in schools from KS2 onwards. A knowledge of word roots really helps children who struggle to retain technical vocabulary. It helps them to connect knowledge in the way SP does. I think this would help children with wordfinding difficulties. For example, I recently taught a pupil who couldn't remember if a century was ten or a hundred years. How helpful it would have been for him to learn the roots of all the number words, perhaps organising these into mind maps.

Geraldine, I thought SP programmes did teach the Latin layer of English through suffixes. I am more familiar with catch-up programmes such as Fresh Start and The Sound Reading System, which do this. By this point in a programme children are reading/ spelling multisyllabic words at the syllable level. I assumed that programmes for beginners did this too. It is also helpful to point out that ti or ci represents /sh/ in all the suffixes such as tion, cian, tious, cious, tial, cial. I find this can take quite a lot of practice for pupils to get to grips with.

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:38 pm

"I recommend Spotlight on Suffixes by Gillian Aitken. These really help the pupils' knowledge of grammar, as well as their vocabulary. There are two very comprehensive books of photocopiable worksheets. The main focus of Book One is the doubling, drop e and change y to i patterns. Book Two revises and extends these patterns to multisyllabic words and moves onto Latin and Greek suffixes. It includes some quite challenging vocabulary! It takes over a year of weekly lessons to cover all of Book Two."

Thanks to Susan and Anna for this really useful information.

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by Anna » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:09 pm

I forgot to say that for teaching prefixes and word roots to help with vocabulary (and spelling) I have two American books called Red Hot Root Words. I have yet to use these but will be doing so soon with a pupil who is entering Year 8. She should be finishing Spotlight on Suffixes Book Two next term. I know there is also English from the Roots Up. Has anyone used this? I believe this is American as well. I don't think there are any UK workbooks on word roots. I feel we are lacking here.

Working on word roots is something which I have taken from my English work to apply to my maths teaching. This has really helped children working on topics such as converting between metric units.

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by Susan Godsland » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:48 pm

Don't forget the BABL word game: word analysis and Latin and Greek Vocabulary Extension Game for one, two or more players

Free to download here: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/babl.htm

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by JAC » Sat Aug 25, 2012 11:41 pm

Thanks all for these references. I generally us REWARDS for multisyllable work, but have been on the lokout for an easy to use reference. I like the look of the Red Hot Roots.
The REWARDS Intermediate is good for children from about Grade 5 and the other ones for G7 up. The spellings are, of course, American.

http://store.cambiumlearning.com/search ... ry=REWARDS

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by geraldinecarter » Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:49 am

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/au ... h-spelling

Great article from David Crystal in Saturday's Guardian - his book sounds wonderful!

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:35 pm

Thanks Geraldine, fascinating.

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by Susan Godsland » Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:34 am


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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:43 am

Crystal was on the R4 Today programme this morning:
Anglo-Saxon English was complicated by the arrival of the French, according to writer David Crystal.

Speaking to the Today programme he said that spelling in the English language used to be "very straightforward" until the French and other people "came in and messed it up".
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/ne ... 752801.stm

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by JAC » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:58 am

The Crystal book is another great recommendation from this forum. It seems we did have other letters that were dumped in bygone days. I like the sound of 'eth' and 'ash' ! I can remember seeing the 'ae' joined together when I was quite young, maybe it was in 'encyclopaedia'.
I have spent far too much this month. :smile:

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by JAC » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:24 am

Many fascinating snippets in Crystal's book. He concludes by saying, "We are still some way from devising a spelling syllabus for schools based on sound linguistic principles, but I hope my account provides enough evidence to motivate educators to move in what I believe is a fresh and positive direction.'
I would think he is a bit behind the times in that remark.

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Re: Crystal book: Spell it out. The story of English spelling

Post by john walker » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:25 am

JAC's right about Crystal being 'a bit behind the times' when talking about a 'spelling syllabus for schools based on sound linguistic principles'.
The book is actually a bit of a curate's egg. It makes crystal clear that the writing system is based on the sounds of the language and, as always with his books, it is full of fascinating stuff for those interested in the history and development of the English language. Much of this and more is already in his Stories of English.
However, from a pedagogical point of view - and Crystal is so obviously not a teacher - presenting all the rules and exceptions to the rules that he talks about is a complete non-starter. Teachers can't remember them, never mind children!
His recognition of the primacy of speech and his lack of understanding of how children learn best tend always to pull him in two different directions. So, in my opinion, for the teacher looking for plenty of stories with which to embellish their teaching, it's fine; for anyone looking for a clear-cut linguistic system and a methodology to teach reading and spelling, you can't do better than to read Diane McGuinness's Early Reading Instruction.
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