Spelling bees not effective teaching tool, education professor says

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Spelling bees have taken wing on the big screen - with the movie "Akeelah and the Bee" and the documentary "Spellbound" - and have even landed on the stage with the musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

On May 30 and 31, nearly 300 spellers will compete for the championship title in the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., with the finals broadcast live May 31 on ABC.

But despite the soaring popularity in recent years, spelling bees are not an effective way of teaching spelling, says a University of North Texas expert.

"The way most people learn spelling involves a strong visual component, and often a kinesthetic component, as well," says Dr. Mary Harris, professor of teacher education and administration at UNT's College of Education.

Harris says that because a spelling bee involves mainly auditory features, it is not recommended for weekly classroom practice for spelling.

"A good spelling learning routine involves looking at the word spelled correctly, saying and hearing its sounds, writing the word, and looking at the word," she says.

But for good spellers, the competition of a bee can build other skills, Harris says.

"I'd say it rewards an important combination of learning skills and teaches poise under pressure and sportsmanship," she says. "Spelling bees are a fun occasional competition, as are timed math drills, basketball relays, art shows and many activities that enable students with particular gifts to shine and everyone else to call up more strongly a set of learning skills."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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