Dick Hunt's Blog

January 2, 2010

Spelling Bee

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 4:07 pm

Spelling Bee,
by Dick Hunt, October 17th , 2008

Back in my  days of one room school education in Alberta, we had a spelling bee nearly every Friday afternoon. For those who do not know what a spelling bee is; the whole school took part, each grade tested at the level of their grade expectations.  We were given a word to spell, each of us in turn from grade ten down to grade one by the teacher from her list for each grade. The system of teaching reading skills was of course, the use of Phonetics, that is, sounding out  the words in our minds eye to help us spell the words.
There were ten grades in the school in those days and one, usually very young teacher just out of “Normal School” and often with just one year of teacher training after their High School Graduation. The emphasis of course was on teaching ‘the three R’s’, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.  The equipment and resources available was most elementary.  The whole library of school owned books was housed in a glass fronted cabinet about four feet by four feet.  We had  a map case with pull down maps of the world and it’s countries.  There were chalk boards all across the front of the Schoolroom.  We had “flash cards” for teaching phonetics and mathematics.  We bought all our own scribblers and text books. The scribblers had the  “Times Tables’ on the back cover and we were required to memorize them. The teachers were for the most part an admirable and hard working lot who obviously had a passion for bringing out the best in their pupils.
Back to spelling bees. When I opened up the Sun Paper this morning there was a little “Family Circus” item which rang my memory bell.  Father was teaching his small daughter to read, using “flash Cards”  The word being shown was “cabinet” and to help out, Father said, “it’s a place where we keep dishes”.  The little girl said, “Oh, I know – SINK”.  I thought back to incidents in a spelling bee when a grade four girl was asked to spell “Ham” and she was having trouble with that.  The teacher was at that time boarding with the family where the girl lived and so the teacher said, well, Elsie, what did we have for breakfast this morning.  Elsie took a deep breath and said, “Spuds”.  A boy was asked to spell “Father” and the teacher said, “well what do you call your Dad”.  The boy said, “Hep”.  His father’s family name was Heptonstall.  So the system was not foolproof.
But among my most cherished possessions have always been books and I have learned to spell by reading and by sounding out the words.  I have also made use of the dictionary to be sure I have it right.  For the most part when I do make spelling mistakes now it is by reason of my having hit the wrong key by error and because my hands are not as steady as when I was younger. “School days, school days, good old golden rule days.  Reading and writing and “rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick…”

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