Quick Writing Win#2: The New and Improved Spell Check

As writers in the 21st century, we have the great luxury of voice-activated assistive technology to help us with our spelling. And it's as accessible as an I-phone, which these days, is impressively accessible.

Using voice-activated tech as a quick spell check has opened up a whole new level of vocabulary options for many of my reluctant writers. What I often see are exceptionally brilliant and creative individuals stuck using boring and dry vocabulary in their writing simply because they are embarrassed or feel too limited by their poor spelling. Though they often use high-level vocabulary when they speak, it's rare you see that pop up in their writing. And it's such a shame because this is an area where they can often out-perform their peers.

With 'Hey Siri" activated on their I-Phone or I-Pad and programmed to their voice, writers can ask for the spelling of a topic-specific or robust word that fits their content perfectly but is beyond their spelling abilities or comfort-zone, all without lifting their pencil from the paper. 

'Alexa' is also an easy option, with more and more folks having her around their house. During homework time, have Alexa handy for writers to painlessly ask for the spelling of a word when the purpose of the work is content-development and not correct spelling.

Google dictation is the most intensive level of support, where students can construct entire written pieces orally. I encourage writers to begin with 'Hey Siri' or Alexa to experiment with this process and continue practicing their handwriting stamina before moving to certain pieces being completely dictated. It's important for students to learn and cultivate both skills. That way, they can choose which method is best for certain assignments, reducing their resistance and increasing their independence. There should be no late nights when Mom or Dad find themselves typing the assignment due to pity or frustration! Let your child do it---and see that they can.

The best part about all of these supports is that they are free! If you own an I-Phone, I-Pad, Chromebook or computer, you can access and learn these tools within a few minutes and at no additional cost. I've seen kids as young as first grade become completely independent with utilizing this technology and learning when they need to use it.

Some parents give me push back initially when I recommend voice-activated spelling supports because they are concerned their child is not truly writing if they are not able to spell the words independently. While we always want to be equipping our struggling writers with concrete phonics rules to build their encoding confidence and accuracy, this is a separate skill from being able to construct well-organized, meaningful and creative writing content. And the latter is a REALLY TOUGH skill for all learners. We cannot let poor spellers get behind in the writing process while we wait for their phonics skills to catch up. It will only put them further behind their peers, especially in an area where they often have natural giftings. We must help them discover that they already are or can become exceptional writers while still building their weak spelling skills.