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Backpocket Words: Sharing the Essence of English Spelling

$34.5  Paperback
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Gail Portnuff Venable

  • Backpocket Words
  • Backpocket Words
    This book will help you understand and share the logic and coherence of the English writing system.

ISBN: 9781940722108

Do you think English spelling is crazy? Do you have children or grandchildren who aren’t learning to read and spell easily? Did you have such experiences yourself as a child? Are you new to English and finding its spellings unpredictable? Are you frustrated or fascinated by spelling?

  • Why is there an a in the middle of excavate, for example, or an e in pandemonium?
  • If “long O” is spelled oa in the middle of a word and ow at the end, why should they write ow in the middle of rowed?
  • Why is there an h in exhort but not in exorbitant?
  • Why do rhyming words like maze and days not end with the same spelling?

This book will help you understand and share the logic and coherence of the English writing system. As students investigate, they gain confidence that the writing system holds answers to their questions. They see that they are capable of finding those answers through research. What a relief!

For more than a decade, the author has been guiding students as they learn to unlock its secrets. She’s started them out on a path of asking and answering questions about why words are spelled the way they are, find the answers through their own research. If you do this work with students, this book can help you share your understanding and discover new questions of your own.

The author has 35+ years experience as a speech-language pathologist and Orton-Gillingham trained reading tutor. She has embraced a new way of working with students: investigating the spelling of words to uncover the principles of English orthography: an approach that brought with it new understanding and joy. How could she best describe her work to other people? Eventually she realised that, just as she did with students, she could simply start with a word. Now Gail always has a great word in her back pocket to talk about, and this book contains 51 of her favourites.

The book was written for people who have been investigating English spelling and want to explain their enthusiasm to others. But if you are new to these concepts, you too will find entertaining and illuminating stories here. Choose an entry and see where it leads...

"Right from the first few sentences I was thoroughly captivated. For every teacher and every university teacher training program, Backpocket Words should be required reading. The vivid scenarios in the book pique the reader's curiosity, demonstraing the power of scientific inquiry."
- Angela Wilkins, former President, The Orton-Gillingham Academy

"Intriguing and inspiring! After reading just a few of the short vignettes found in Backpocket Words, any reading teacher or tutor will be motivated with confidence to go our and dispel the myth that English spelling is crazy."
- Kathy Penn, forner teacher, reading tutor

"Backpocket Words is a joyful and illuminating celebration of the fascinating order of our English spelling system. Gail's inviting, accessible style makes the book a treasure fot anyone seriously curious about language, and an invaluable resource for educators. Each vignette shines a light on spelling-meaning connections most will not have noticed before. Gail also shows us how to follow the spelling-meaining trail back to a word's historical origins. Accept the invitation to wander through English spelling with Gail. Not only will you learn about eh words in her back pocket, you will learn to blaze your own orthographic trails, for yourself and your conversational partners."
- Peter Bowers, PhD, researcher, author, founder of Word Works Literacy Centre