Backpocket Words: Sharing the Essence of English Spelling

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Do you think English spelling is crazy?  Do you have children or grandchildren who aren’t learning to read and spell easily?  Did you have such experiences yourself as a child? Are you new to English and finding its spellings unpredictable? Are you frustrated or fascinated by spelling?

Perhaps you don’t know whether to write innoculate or inoculate or why chrysanthemum starts with ch, while crystal does not. (There is a good reason!) Why is there an rh in rhythm but an rrh in arrhythmia and diarrhea? What vowels belong in the middle of pand­ _monium or sacr_l_gious?  This book will help you understand and share the logic and coherence of the English writing system.

For more than a decade, author Gail Venable has been guiding students as they learn to unlock its secrets. She’s started them out on a path of asking and answering questions about why words are spelled the way they are, find the answers through their own research. If you do this work with students, this book can help you share your understanding and discover new questions of your own. 

By learning to investigate the structures and meaning of words in individual morphological families, students begin to unlock the secrets of the entire spelling system. They start to ask questions about why words are spelled the way they are. As they investigate, students gain confidence that the writing system holds answers to their questions. They see that they are capable of finding those answers through research. What a relief!

If you are doing this kind of work and want ideas that will help you share your enthusiasm with others, Backpocket Words was written for you. And if you are new to these concepts –a teacher, a tutor, a parent, or simply someone who is fascinated or frustrated by English spelling–you, too, will find entertaining and illuminating stories here.

Gail Venable is a speech-language pathologist and Orton-Gillingham-trained reading tutor. It was only in her 35th year of practice that she began to understand and share the beautiful coherence of English spelling.

By: Gail Venable

  • Model: OV631

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