Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Special Education and Rehabilitation


The curriculum for the educable mentally retarded is based on persisting life problems and one of these, as identified by the Cincinnati Public Schools (1964), is learning to communicate ideas. To be able to communicate effectively your ideas in written form, it is necessary to know how to spell.

In order to operate effectively within a school and community, the slow learner will need to complete his development of communicative skills by l earning to write and spell. While it is true that his needs for written expression are considerably less than they are for oral communication, he will, nevertheless, need to acquire some skill in writing and spelling in order to meet daily situations. He will need these skills to write letters , record messages, compile shopping lists, and complete applications and forms. Writing and spelling skills are closely tied to the development of all other communication skills. For the learner, writing and spelling are not ends in themselves , but merely tools for communication and self- expression. The purpose of teaching writing and spelling in the program for the s low learner is to provide him with an easy, effective way h e can communicate. This can be accomplished by developing his ability to write legibly and to spell correctly in meeting ordinary demands of living. (Cincinnati Public Schools, 1964, p. 169)Horn (1968) notes that spelling errors are distracting and take away from the effectiveness of any written work. They can also be embarrassing in personal as well as in business letters, and perhaps crucial in letters applying for work. Because of the advantages of good spelling ability, it is important for a spelling program to be carefully and systematically planned so the student will learn how to spell correctly. Spelling is a part of life. It is a skill which, if properly mastered, will facilitate written expression and make living more pleasant and adequate.

Fitzgerald {1951) points out the importance of choosing spelling words for the educable mentally retarded . The words chosen should be carefully evaluated . Some teachers have taught as spelling the words which are used by the children in unit studies. Although it is helpful for the student to be able to recognize these words in regards to meaning and use, he should not always be required to spell them. These words will probably never be written again by many of the children. However, the words in the unit which are needed frequently in writing should be a part of the spelling curriculum.According to Fitzgerald {1951, p.13), "A slow learning child should master a small core of basic words rather than dissipate his energy by attempting to learn a large number of words, many of which he will never use.

Johnson further supports this theory:

Spelling instruction should deal with those words the child uses in his written material, such as answering questions in relation to other academic areas, writing letters, and so forth. These are the words the children use and will be using. These are the words they should know how to spell. Many words contained in any arbitrary list are not designed for any specific child or group of children living in a particular environment and having unique needs . These lists will, consequently, contain many words of little or no value while omitting some of relatively common usage. It is known that a relatively small number of basic words (between two and three hundred) comprise approximately 50 per cent of all written communication. Every child should learn how to spell these words. Beyond this, much of spelling instruction becomes a problem of determining individual need. (Johnson , 1963 , p. 218)

The writer through past observations of classes for the inter - mediate educable mentally retarded and through past experiences in teaching these classes has noted that there seems to be no consistent rationale for determining the list of spelling words for these children. Some teachers use conventional textbooks, others use important unit study words, while some use survival or environmental words, or a combination of the above, to constitute the spelling program.

Since the purpose of this study was to gain information about the spelling programs in the intermediate classes for the educable mentally retarded, the writer sent a questionnaire to the teachers of these classes. The data received was charted in order to show the various approaches to spelling being used by these teachers.