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Teach by teaching, not correcting - Spelling

Caspar using a dictionary

With the boys at home I'm spending a lot of time observing them, seeing how they work and learn. I'm also getting some insight to how they work at school. I understand the Montessori concept of respecting the child's work and right to self correct however there are times when it's hard to explain to others. Cylinder blocks are self correcting, spelling is not. 

In creating a rhythm where Caspar is encouraged to write he is using a journal daily. It's not necessary for me to read the journal although often he wants to show me what he has written and drawn. Usually I can make out the words and understand what he is communicating. Of course so many words are misspelt. But he is six, his enthusiasm for writing and sharing comes first. 

Montessori teachers don't correct a child's work. There is one thing she (the teacher) must never do and that is, to interfere by praising a child's work, or punishing him if it is wrong, or even by correcting his mistakes - from Maria Montessori in The Absorbent Mind.  The teacher will assess what the child has learnt and guide them, enabling the child to learn what is needed to improve. We (as parents) should be doing the same. 

The child should be learning on their own, directing their own work and making their own discoveries. The teacher is the guide. Caspar is using his own personal dictionary to look up words he is unsure how to spell. He obviously doesn't do it for every word however as the 'guide' he will on occasion ask for me to add a word. I am not correcting his work but guiding him - giving him the tools to learn the word for himself. 

Using a dictionary is also a great way for children to check their own work. A child who is not familiar with someone else correcting or 'checking' or 'fixing' their work will become self reliant - they will check their own work. It's hard though isn't it. To read a child's work and not to point out the mistakes. But how freeing it must be to know that your work isn't going to be judged. 

When they are constantly corrected, children learn to be afraid of making mistakes. They begin to limit their exploration and cease to try new or challenging work. By allowing children to self-correct and learn from their mistakes, we teach them that the purpose of work is not just about getting the right answers. It is about the process of learning to learn. - NAMC

Montessori writes that correcting a child's work has a lowering of the child's energies and interests - it is a punishment for making a mistake. A child must be free to practice making words, making sounds, free to experiment using and combining letters, free to make mistakes. We trust that with time and practice the child's confidence grows and they refine their skills.

If you are looking for further information of the Montessori approach to reading and writing in the home I recommend Montessori Read and Write - A Parent's Guide to Literacy for Children by Lynne Lawrence. 

Edited to add the above pictured dictionary that Caspar is using is the My Personal Dictionary by Oxford. 

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