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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spelling and the 11+

We have known for many years about shorthand. The Ancient Greeks and the Roman used shorthand. The first official inventor was Marcus Tiro in about 63 BC - and his system had 13000 symbols. Think of the outcry amongst parents of Eleven Plus children if they, and their children, had to learn so much new material.

The Pitman system is used in England - and this has 26 strokes with a range of dots and dashes to represent vowels and diphthongs. The problem with the Pitman system is that you have to be a reasonably good speller.

Today’s executives are expected to be able use their own computers and word processors. This is not to say that the day of the shorthand typist is over. The traditional picture of a shorthand typist is a woman invited into a room. With a hitch of her skirt she settles down to take dictated letters and reports. Those days, thank goodness, are gone for ever.

So how is this going to leave our eleven plus child who can not spell? Spelling checkers are only useful if you can spell at least part of the word.

Part of the answer is to help your child to collect and learn all spelling mistakes from school and home. Collect the spelling mistakes as they are made. Set up a system of learning the errors.

I worked today with a serious eleven year old. Her next goal is the SATs tests in May of this year. She could have felt satisfied after passing her eleven plus examinations - but she wanted to keep feeling stretched. Communicating in writing is a big part of the SATs tests. She passed her eleven plus examinations by working through multiple choice papers - just making a series of little pencil marks. She has, however, problems with sounds within words. She continues to need to work at her spelling.

If only she could be offered a secretary. This would take a lot of stress out of her life. She would not have to feel concerned if she could not spell a word - because she could employ someone to spell for her.

Why should she be able to employ someone? Quite simply she is very bright. Her spelling will continue to cause her concern in the years ahead. Naturally she will be given help with her spelling at different stages of her life. If spelling does prove to be a problem in the years ahead it is probable that she will simply invent her own system.

So in years to come, when your grandchildren are contemplating the eleven plus, you will be able to say confidently that you once read about the famous woman who developed a new system of shorthand.

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