There has been a tendency in recent years to avoid the issue of spelling. The dominance of whole-word recognition has meant that students have lost ground in word attack.
Many students lack a logical approach to the reading and writing of words they have not been personally introduced to.
The balanced approach of the Fitzroy literacy materials meets this need. Each step in our program makes the student aware of a word family (for example, the ar words or the tion words or the ire words, etc), as well as a small set of special words (for example, said or through or eight).
This is, in fact, a phonic approach combined with a whole word approach for special words.
Students who use Fitzroy materials prosper in spelling. The secret of our success is that we make students aware whether each word is normally spelled (belongs to a word family) or has a special spelling (and must be learned by rote). Flagging each word in this simple way gives students a head start in accurate reading and writing.
One academic was quoted in the newspaper last year as saying something like, "Well, correct spelling is only a convention anyway." To this we say certainly, correct spelling is only a convention, but it is one which society shows no intention of abandoning!
Fairly or not, people are judged by their spelling. Many a job seeker or letter writer is discredited because their document is mis-spelled. Computer spell-checkers do not help with homophones (such as their, there, and they're), and anyway are not always available. Spelling is an enjoyable part of the curriculum if you take advantage of the naturally occurring word families of English - as the Fitzroy materials do.
Indeed, once you get past the extremely common sight words such as a, of, the, to, I, who, are, etc, you find that the vast bulk of the "higher" vocabulary fits quite obediently into the 50-or-so common digraphs in English spelling. Words like procrastination, therapy, manufacture, and envious, for example, hold no fears for a Fitzroy student who has completed story 50 or Word Skills 5.
Spelling is here to stay. You will not find any set of literacy materials that supports spelling as thoroughly, as systematically and as successfully as the Fitzroy materials. POC
THERE is a marvellous moment in the movie Greystoke, a grown-up version of the Tarzan story. Visualise an aristocratic dinner party in Victorian England. Tarzan has been brought out of the jungle, is dressed in fine clothes and is being shown off to the guests.
Inevitably, one arrogant blue-blood passes a very denigrating remark, in exquisite English, about the "savage" at the table.
In the early seventies, Faye Berryman and I met and started up the Fitzroy Community School in North Fitzroy, an inner suburb of Melbourne.
Faye had been a secondary teacher who had witnessed first-hand the sad results of children emerging from primary schooling with poor literacy skills. I had been a philosophy lecturer, specialising in logic and linguistics. We had not been trained in primary schooling, but were confronted with the problem of teaching young children to read.