How Magical Spelling Works – Teaching the spelling strategy

English Language

English is an unusual language, in that it has amalgamated several different languages, and their different spelling patterns.

Because of the rapid development of the layman’s printing press in England, spellings were decided upon erratically, often by an individual printer, and then maintained.

Visual Strategy

We are left with an inconsistent spelling system, with many, often contradictory, rules. The only way to learn to spell English unconsciously (like all ‘good’ spellers do) is to store a ‘picture’ of the word in your visual memory.

Some people seem to do that naturally, others accidentally learn to spell visually through a number of other methods. Many people try hard to learn to spell English words with conscious rules, or by sounding out, and fail dismally.

English is ambiguous

The letters used to write English are very ambiguous.

There are 1,120 ways of representing 40 sounds in English.

There are only 33 ways to represent 25 sounds in Italian.

As a result, people brought up in English-speaking countries use slightly different areas for reading than people brought up in Italy.*

*A cultural effect on brain function, Nature Neuroscience, 3(1), 91-96, 2000, C.D.Frith, Uta Frith, & 14 others

Where does Magical Spelling come from?

“Magical Spelling” is the name I coined in 1988 for the way I was teaching spelling using this visual method.

Robert Dilts, an originator of NLP, had found a number of people who were good spellers of English and ‘modelled’ what went on in their heads as they were spelling. There was a common strategy that all these good spellers used.

When I did my NLP training, I encountered Dilts’ modelled ‘spelling strategy’, tried it out on myself (I am a natural good speller), and decided it was what I did.

Then I set about teaching Dilts’ strategy to people of all ages, who couldn’t presently spell English words. I wanted to develop a method of teaching spelling using this strategy which was virtually foolproof, so that people who hadn’t been able to spell previously, could quickly begin to spell naturally, without having to think about it again.

Why is it better?

Magical Spelling is a visual strategy for teaching spelling, and also for literacy, which seems to fit English better than a system based on sound.