Spelling Words-to Have or Not to Have?

Updated on September 15, 2010
S.G. asks from Orange Park, FL
28 answers

My daughter just started 5th grade this year and a few weeks into the school year, hadn't brought home any spelling words. I figured it was just so the kids could get used to the new grade and easing into the homework load. Boy was I wrong!!! Her school had an Open house and I asked her ELA (English language arts) teacher when they would start bring them home. Her answer was they wouldn't because there is spell check!! My jaw hit the floor along with another parent that was in the room!! Not only was I shocked by this teachers answer but to the fact that my child (who isn't a strong speller to begin with) wasn't going to have spelling words!!!

So I decided to see how things play out with this and to me it hasn't been very promising. She has brought vocab words home from other subjects with the main word spelled incorrect and incorrect words spelling in her planner where she writes when she has a test and what not. I plan on bring this up no later than the end of Oct when we have parent teacher conference if I don't see an improvement with it. I know I can create my own spelling words for home so I'm not looking for suggestions on that. And I know this day and age we are more technology driven than anything but it's still no excuse for basic learning IMO.

So what I'd like to know from you other mom's is do your children still get spelling words in the upper grades?

Thanks in advance!!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the wonderful response! I have talked with the shcool's Principle and I go no where except that the teacher should have said something other than her spell check response! He told me they have vocab words every week and blah blah blah.
I have spoken to other parents as well and many are just as concerned about the kids not having words to spell and feel that the kids are going to get the rough end of the stick in the long run. Our school doesn't have to go by state standards because our school is run by the DOD (Department of Defense) because we live on a military base. IMO we should hold our kids to higher standards!! I do plan on going to the school board meeting next month and see if I can't get this address further.

In the mean time, I'm going to make my own spelling words for her. Just 5 a week right now as both my kids have soccer and she already has her regular homework to do too. I can increase it after soccer season is over in a few months.

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answers from Atlanta on

Hello~ I have a fifth grader and he has Spelling Words every week along with vocabulary. I understand what the teacher is saying, but it's up to the parent to teach/parent the good ole way of studying spelling words. I've never heard of a teacher doing this to the kids. I would bring this up to her and the principal. Maybe ask the other parents how they feel, so you have somone else to back you up. Also, google 5th grade spelling words and maybe you could do spelling with her as an extra. This way she is still learning. Unfortunately, it won't be the ones she needs that week. Yes, you have a valid concern and I would address it. Good Luck!


answers from Kalamazoo on

Wow! That's ridiculous! Just because we have calculators doesn't mean we don't need to learn math!!!!

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answers from Houston on

I don't have an older child yet, but as a former spelling bee champ, I hope this isn't in our future!

Mary L. here is a version of the poem:

Ode to my spell Chequer
Eye halve a spelling chequer
it came with my pea sea
it planely marques four my revue
miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and tipe a werd
and weight four it two say
weather eye am wrong oar write
it shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
it nose bee fore two long
and eye can put the error rite
its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
its letter perfect awl the weigh
my chequer tolled me sew.

For the record, the grammar checker doesn't pick out all the mistakes either!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Wow, that is beyond shocking to me, as a teacher!!

I would NEVER let my students tell me that they had a misspelling because "Spell Check" missed it, so why the HECK would I not to MY part in teaching them correct spelling in the first place?! I think this reaks of a lazy teacher who doesn't seem to care if she turns out lazy students.

Guess when I construct my lessons for Social Studies I will have to be very insistent on providing vocab words and a stickler on spelling. Yes, times have changed, but not to the point that we should be disregarding simple elements of education. What does she expect the students to do when they AREN'T using word processing software to write? Wow, what a way to start my morning...shock and awe ;-)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Rapids on

I know what you mean. We have asked the teachers for 4 years now why they don't teach kids to write, and we were told by all of them, because there are computers. My stepson is in 3rd grade, and his handwriting is HORRIBLE. it is very poor and very difficult to read. No matter how much I try to teach him when he is with us, it just isn't working. The school doesn't care at all.

I think they should do away with the computers until the kids are in high school, and teach them like they did back before computers. I remember in the 80's and 90's in school, we took computer class, and we more or less played games on the computers during elementary. in junior high there weren't computers at all.

I think too much technology is making people stupid. They don't want to learn proper spelling or english at all. Everyone uses technology as a reason not to teach kids what they should know.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

When you bring it up with the teacher and the school - which you should - see if you can find the old verse that's been floating about online ever since spell-checkers were invented. I don't have a copy, but I'm sure you can find it. It starts, more or less, like this: "Eye have a little checker; it came with my pea sea..."

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

two, to and too. Enough said. Spell check can be great, but without proper knowledge of words, they can be spelled just fine, but be wrong. I know that is grammar, but it goes hand-in-hand if you ask me.
Completely unacceptable answer for a teacher!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I would push the school on this, and in the meantime, set up spelling lessons at home.

Computers are not making us stupid, we are becoming satisfied with substandard performance in our schools. Computers are a powerful tool if used correctly (I have two degrees in Computer Science and we need more people in this country to become educated and work in this field as there is a shortage of talent). And yet, children can not be told to rely on the computer to do the work for them.

We also need to set an example for our children. As another responder mentioned, showing the school the answers on this site should demonstrate the need for spelling lessons. Why are we as adults OK with this level of communication?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


This is NOT an acceptable answer!! No wonder we Americans are suffering in education!!!

Our children don't know how to write in cursive because of computers - this is NOT acceptable!!!

I know you said you can give her spelling words - but really - If the teachers won't give her spelling words - go to the principal and then to the superintendent - if that doesn't work - give her spelling words yourself. Do not depend upon the school system to educate your child - as it's obvious they don't care!!! I too would be flabbergasted and DEMAND better!!!

Get active in the PTA and school - ensure that they know you will NOT let them slide!!! Technology or no - our children MUST know how to spell withOUT the aide of a computer - they MUST know how to use a dictionary - not just google the word - these are BASIC skills!!!



answers from Chicago on

My daughter also just started fifth grade and not only has spelling words but if they get 95-100% right on the pretest, gets extra challenge words.

You might point out to the teacher that the spell checker doesn't get all the words right either!




answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter stopped receiving spelling words in 5th grade. Her school only had them in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. I feel they need them in all grades, 1-6. I was NOT pleased, as she is struggles a great deal with spelling, and could really have used spelling lessons more than a whole lot of other fluff that went on at her school. I started out her 4th and 5th grade year giving her "mom spelling tests" once a week. I used words that I noticed she did not spell correctly (that I thought she should know at her age) in her homework writing or in her planner, or just in her around the house play and writing. We did this for awhile, but unfortunately we did not keep it up as the school year got busier. Now just started in a new middle school, and much of her work so far has been completed in school. There is so much more, I cannot see before she turns in, so I'm crossing my fingers she will be more careful with spelling.



answers from Spartanburg on

In todays world too many teachers are use to the parents leaving the teaching up to them. Tell her your concerns. I suggest the dollar tree. They have some great spelling books. Maybe making some cards would be fun for the both of you. Glitter is always a winner!!! Good luck and be at the conference. Tell the teacher that you are a valuable part of the teaching as well and want to help. Some are control freaks but they will get over it . Nice but a Firm parent , usually gets the point across. I only speak where I have had experince. My son is an honor roll student. My daughter speaks on a five year old level. All children are different. It's due to the school system IMO. My son is in 6th grade and the words get longer and harder. However, he does not sweat it anymore. Big mommie Hugs to ya. It's a tough job and if someone has not given you a pat on the back lately then consider this ONE,



answers from Charleston on

When my son was in 6th grade I asked his ELA teacher why there was not more emphasis on cursive writing. Her response was that "all these kids will be using computers, so that's not as important as it used to be."

Encourage your daughter to spell correctly, and having your own vocabulary list is a good idea. With chat and texting, there's not much demand for correct spelling, but I am usually impressed when I read good grammar and correct spelling because spell check will overlook synonyms and the context of a sentence. One of my "college educated" friends carries a dictionary with her everywhere because she's struggled to spell the more common problem words.

Vocabulary for her will be a challenge throughout school if she's stifled now from doing it right the first time. You're on track and asking early in the year is a good starting point. How do other parents feel? Good luck.



answers from Atlanta on

OK, I know that I'm going against the tide here, and *PLEASE* don't get upset. But I would LOVE it if this were the biggest problem I had with my children's schools.

Yes, I agree that was a very reassuring response, and this probably reflects a mismatch of what *you* think is important and the school. Or perhaps the message was miscommunicated - I'm sure that a child that turns in a paper with spelling errors will get *some* feedback from the teachers, right? Just because a specific list of spelling words isn't being sent home doesn't *necessarily* mean it isn't being taught in the classroom.

No school is going to be a perfect match for you, and this *is* something that you can easily do a MUCH better job yourself because you have a much better idea of what particular level she needs to work on. A list handed out to the class will probably be the same for all the kids and not take into account where *she* is. Check out the Spelling City. It's a great way to for kids to practice a list of spelling words, and they have at least 3 modes for each list - teach, test, and play word games. You can create you own list of words just for your kid, or you can look up lists registered by schools all around the nation. If her teacher doesn't have a list, find another list from that school, a nearby school, or thousands of 5th grade classes in public and private schools in any state. (Plus, she doesn't have to waste her time writing sentences proving that she understands something she may have learned 2 years ago.)

It's fine to discuss with your school or teachers the things you take issue with, but my *personal* advice is to not make much fuss about the small things that you can fix, so that you have more leverage to make an impact when bigger issues come up, as they inevitably do. You won't have a reputation as being a being a "difficult" parent or complainer, you know what I mean? And 2-3 years down the road, you may need to ask for something big and you'll want them to see you as someone who doesn't complain much.

I'm just sayin'.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Our kids have weekly spelling lists from K-6. They have 'no excuse' words for each grade (there's no excuse for misspelling these words). At the end of each grading period they have a review of all of the spelling words from the past 9 weeks and at the end of the year they have a review of the entire year's worth of words. My husband and I are pretty good spellers and we feel learning how to spell correctly is important. I don't rely on my contact list to provide phone numbers...I use my memory (I feel it keeps me a bit sharper) and I don't expect my kids to rely soley on the 'easy way out' i.e. spellcheck. I can't imagine a professional not being able to spell what should be basic words by the time they're an adult and expect to take them seriously. Granted there are some pretty important things kids need to learn these days to get ahead when they're on their own, but it doesn't hurt to give them a good starting point.



answers from Atlanta on

As so many others have said, spellcheck is not a substitute for knowing the correct spelling. I teach college and I remind my students that they need to proofread assignments themselves because spellcheck won't catch wrong word usage. Also, I'm not an expert or anything, but I think that physically writing the word is an essential part of learning it for children. One technique which our son's school uses to help kids learn spelling words is to read the word, say each letter while pointing at them, write the word themselves, and then say each letter pointing at the one they wrote. It looks like the physical writing process is part of learning the word. As for cursive, I'm not big on it--I stopped writing in cursive in 4th grade because my writing was so hard to read and my printing was better. I can still write, however, without a computer and I wouldn't consider typing a substitute for handwriting.



answers from Washington DC on

I am typically a good speller and hate that the pat answer is they have spell check. I homeschool 2 of mine and we use a couple spelling books. Mine are in 4th and 7th.
We use 500 Key Words for the SAT by Charles Gulotta
and Spelling Workout from Modern Curriculum Press


answers from Washington DC on

We haven't had spelling words since 4th grade. That said, there are words that they have to know how to spell in different subjects as they go along. For example, in Biology, they need to spell Osmosis. They have worksheets and such. They make flashcards for the definitions. When they take the test, they spell the word correctly or they lose one point for misspelling.
As for the spell check comment -- sorry, but that wouldn't fly with me either.
What you can do at home is look at the subject books - History, Science, etc. and pick out the words that are bold faced in each unit -- those are the ones that are usually on the tests -- and make her write them 5x each. That way she will remember how to spell them. You can also make her make flashcards for the definitions.



answers from New York on

Our school district didn't initially do phonics or spelling, instead they did "sight words". Horrible! The best part is in the 4th & 5th grade they do a spelling bee LOL! Well, both of my daughters won in their respective year and I was told how amazed the teachers were by the AP. When the AP said "Good for them!" I replied, "Yes, good for them that they have me to teach them." School is to supplement what parents teach their kids. Parents have a choice (at least we still do in this country) as to where to send our kids based on the education we want to see them receive. Fight in you school for a better education for your kid or place the child in a different school (even if it means paying tuition--a sacrafice to some--but a sacrifice worth making.) Good Luck!!!!


answers from Houston on

just realized in horror that my daughter is 2 weeks into 2nd grade and has only brought home math so far. I guess i have to check. Spelling is so important!, whats next, no math homework because there are calculators .......outrageous!



answers from Chicago on

Oh my! My jaw would have hit the floor too. Misspelling common words and using text/leet speak is not acceptable. Ugh!

Show the teacher several of the responses on this Mamapedia website so she can get an understanding of how atrocious spelling has become, EVEN with spell check.



answers from Macon on

Wow! I'd be putting a call in to the principal and then the school board. There's no spell check when you write a grocery list, directions to your house for a friend, a thank you note to Grandma....all that stuff. No excuse.


answers from Erie on

That is appalling! However, I was likewise disappointed when I learned that our children's school didn't enforce or even teach proper handwriting, so I taught them cursive writing at home. Sometimes, you just have to fill in the gaps, no school is perfect.

But I do agree you should bring this up at the next PTA meeting. I had Vocabulary words every week until 12th grade, we both had to know how to spell them and what they meant for the tests. This helped me a great deal in college.



answers from Columbus on

I am a teacher of younger children, first through third grade. I believe that spelling must be taught. Spell Check is a tool that can help us when writing, however, part of being an educated citizen is knowing how to spell words in the English language. I think this is something that should be brought to the principles attention. I can understand seventh graders doing vocabulary vs spelling. However, I think spelling rules should still be taught in the fifth grade!



answers from Atlanta on

My kids have just started sixth grade and are bringing home vocabulary words in which they have to know the definitions, put them in a sentence and know how to spell.
I would consider not waiting to talk to the teacher/school, but to do so now. To get more cooperation from the school, come to them as offering to help come up with a solution, not accusing them of doing something wrong- no matter how you feel about it. Let them know that as a result of the "new policy", your daughter is having problems with spelling (when the computer is not being used) and you'd like "together" to find a solution.
Please keep us posted.



answers from Atlanta on

Wow! Calculators and spell check on the computer are great tools....but, not something to rely on! There will be many times in your child's life where a calculator/computer will not be available and she will have to rely on her own skills. I would bring this issue up immediately to the principal to discuss this and see if the answer you were given by the teacher is how the school administration feels as well. Yes, teachers are there to supplement what the parents teach their children at home, but this is just ridiculous in my opinion!



answers from New York on

I'm kind of going to play devil's advocate here (not saying that relying on spell check is the right answer), but I think when I was in school at some point spelling and vocabulary words got combined.

That said, not only should she have to learn the meaning of the word, she should obviously know how to spell it.

And I don't know why I'm reminded by this, but I was the last class in my middle school to have to diagram sentences. Back in my Mom's day, everyone had to do that. And a lot of people in my generation can't form a proper sentence, so....



answers from Dallas on

omg, that's ABSURD! i was annoyed that they don't start spelling tests until 2nd grade in our district. what next? we're no longer gonna teach math b/c we have calculators? good for you, stand up for your child's education!

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