Web chat: Clare Winstanley - author of Spelling Made Magic


Here's our web chat with education expert Clare Winstanley 

Author, teacher and (perhaps most importantly) mum, Clare Winstanley is an expert in spelling and literacy for children diagnosed with dyslexia. She also has vast experience of working with children for whom spelling is a challenge. And with those who just need an extra boost. Clare has an amazing ability to help children make positive, HAPPY, easy associations with spelling using everyday objects. Clare is also the author of our brilliant book, Spelling Made Magic.

Here's some more information about Spelling Made Magic

Fredd wrote:
That's definitely interesting! Do they face instant expulsion if they get it wrong?

Thankfully, no! Just a few more spelling sessions with me! :)

xxJaneyxx wrote:
Lol - well done for 'holding the fort'

What is your favourite word to teach?

I adore teaching 'mediterranean'! Thanks for asking that Janey. The word is so tricky, often because it's been mispronounced and therefore misheard, but if you chop it into chunks, you end up with 1 syllable of 3 letters, just as it sounds (m-e-d) then 5 syllables of 2 letters, so it sounds as tho it is easy peasy. My pupils are always so chuffed with themselves when they learn it and go home desperate to ask their friends and family if they can spell the word, too. Invariably, many will get it wrong so my pupil becomes a spelling expert in their eyes and teaches them how to syllabify the word.

I also like 'misunderstandings' because it is 17 letters long and nearly falls off the table when I get my young pupils to build it up with my jig letters!

Clare Winstanley wrote:
Fredd wrote:
That's definitely interesting! Do they face instant expulsion if they get it wrong?

Thankfully, no! Just a few more spelling sessions with me! :)

sorry - I meant from the Facebook group Beth found!

Collywob wrote:
Do you feel that teachers (both at Primary and Secondary schools) not correcting spelling mistakes makes the pupils lazier about spelling?

Personally, I view the matter from a different angle. As someone who has worked with dyslexics for many years, I know how disheartening it is for them when the work they have spent hours trying to do is returned covered in 'angry' red marks where spellings have been corrected. So for that reason I always counselled teachers just to pick out a few spellings (as few as 2 or 3 even) for the pupil to learn. (I also encourage teachers to mark in a less angry, confrontational colour than red, such as a soothing green or attractive lilac!)

But your point is about teachers not correcting spelling at all. I can see that students could think 'Why bother?' if their spelling went uncorrected. For myself, I would want to know if I was spelling something wrong because I'm a perfectionist (although, see my earlier reply about 'accommodation'!) It's good if teachers mark the content and give good feedback to the pupil but I definitely (defiantly!) feel SOME misspellings should be corrected so that the child learns from that, too.

Fredd wrote:
Following on from Collywob - does the availability of spell-checkers on computers make children moe lazy with spelling, or make spelling less important? Should children be restricted to handwritten work during school?

I don't think that spell checkers make children lazier with spelling as for one thing, they end up with lots of squiggly red lines marring their work if they misspell and for another, it takes time to go through the list of spelling options to choose the correct one. Also, they've got to be able to recognise the correct spelling, so if they do resort to spell checker they are still required to apply their spelling knowledge to select the right choice.

There is a place for handwritten work and indeed, one piece of coursework for the English GCSE has to be handwritten (I believe) but we all need to be computer literate these days and the computer is a godsend for those whose handwriting is difficult to read or slow to produce.

Shame I wasn't there Clare, we could have gone together! But looks like our forum members appreciated your sticking around, thank you.

ElectronBlue wrote:
Interesting comments about the Latin. I did two years of it and still haven't found it to be useful in my day to day life :)

My question- over the past five years or so there has been increasing debate over whether dyslexia actually exists. What are your thoughts on this argument and why do you think that?

I'm going to make this my last reply as I have been here for 3 hours now and the tummy is starting to rumble! But thank you so much to everyone who has written in; I've really enjoyed reading and answering your questions and sincerely hope I haven't overlooked any questions. If I have, I apologise profusely and will make sure I answer them next time I join in a webchat. :)

Ok, does dyslexia exist? I believe, unequivocally, yes. Far more learned people than I have researched dyslexia and found a chromosome that is responsible for it, they have analysed the brains of (dead) dyslexics and found them to be 'wired' differently to those of non-dyslexics and the one in ten of the population who have dyslexia to a lesser or greater degree will testify to their experience of 'difficulty with words'.

In the old days, dyslexics may have been denounced as simply 'thick' or 'stupid'. (I can hardly bring myself to type such damning words). But you only have to look at Einstein, one of the most famous dyslexics, to know that his dyslexic brain was capable of the most amazing divergence and creativity of thought and invention. Dyslexics have amazing skills in problem solving, spatial awareness and creativity making them entrepreneurs (Richard Branson), architects (Richard Rodgers?) and entertainers ( a host of actors & actresses) to name but a few.

There are some excellent books on Dyslexia around if you want to look into this further. Prof Maggie Snowling from my home town of York has written several. Fawcett and Nicholson from Sheffield (?) University are prolific authors and Philomen Ott wrote an excellent book which is very accessible to parents and teachers. Jean Augur wrote one of the first books from the point of view of a dyslexic's mum and that is very readable also. Have fun!

Again, many thanks to you all and thanks for having me on the members forum this morning (and afternoon!)

Fantastic. I think that was the longest web chat we've done.
I'd like to give a huge thank you to Clare for being our guest today and answering all your spelling related questions.

and I know she won't mention it (so I will) but we had a Spelling Bee in the office as part of the launch for Spelling Made Magic - there were many rounds and many fell, over words such as guerilla, fuchsia and mnemonic - but our Amy battled through and won the trophy.

Click here for more information about Spelling Made Magic

Clare Winstanley wrote:
pollylolly wrote:
Oh woo I'd like to let her know how much we love her book and that my OH said he would have killed for this as a rubbish spelling teen.

Thank you so much for that lovely comment! I wish I had been able to help your OH when he was at school but hopefully the book will help him even now to become wizard at spelling. I'm online now if you have any questions you want to ask - about spelling, preferably, rather than who is going to win the World Cup!

Don't know if your still reading Clare but I'm afraid we missed the webchat as we had a prior appointment I'm looking forward to reading your responses and the questions you were asked now.