The spell checking a document activity is one of those few lessons I do which (in some shape of form) has likely been done in every primary school across the land for well over a decade now. I did at one point over the summer debate whether to scrap it this year, but felt that it fitted well into the word processing tricks lessons I do at the start of Year 4 and does still have some valid points to put across to the children which I think would likely be overlooked if they weren't taught explicitly in this lesson. Another question I sometimes ask myself is how I would react as a parent if my child came home from school to tell me they'd learnt how to spell check a piece of writing using ICT today - since I thought that such a statement would be quite a reasonable lesson to learn in school I decided to keep the lesson.
Now, many people argue that computers have removed the need for people to learn how to correctly spell words since it is all done for them. This, in my opinion is a mistake since all the computer merely does is looks to see if a word you've typed is missing from it's dictionary and then if it is offers you some suggestions for what the correct spelling of your word could be. What it doesn't do is recognise many proper nouns as being spelt correctly (since they obviously don't appear in its dictionary), it makes suggestions on the assumption that you have a good enough knowledge of English spelling patterns to have made a reasonable-enough attempt at a word in the first place and then requires you to know which is the correct spelling from a suggested list of several likely similar words to replace your wrong word with. With this in mind, I always make a point of emphasising these common misconceptions to the children during the lesson - the spelling (and grammar whilst we're at it) checkers are only there to guide you and the importance of proof-reading work yourself should never be undervalued.
For the actually activity, I ask them to do a variety of things with a copy of The Tortoise and the Hare I obtained from this fab stories website: http://ivyjoy.com/fables/ and placed into their individual folders on the network as this file:
- correct all the spelling mistakes I've 'mistakenly' made when I retyped it by right-clicking on each word underlined in red and choosing the correctly-spelt replacement;
- replace all the blue words with more exciting/interesting synonyms as taught the previous week, ensuring that the new word still makes sense within the sentence;
- improve the appearance of the text by applying more attractive fonts/colours (whilst ensuring the title still stands out by making it bold and in a bigger size for instance);
- inserting clip art pictures to illustrate the fable.
The lesson seems quite nicely pitched at their level and even if some of the children are already familiar with the spell checking function, they do all seem to be fascinated when I tell them of its limitations and like the opportunity to consolidate their word processing skills in readiness for more purposeful future application.