Sort of a timely recast of this video, given the supposed controversy of things like “science-based.” In the video, Louisa Moats describes the disconnect between science and practice.
I would say that there are a few different sides to this issue. On one hand, Dr. Moats points us into a critical area. Teaching spelling to students is important, and not just for it’s own sake necessarily (though that’s fine too). Though there are tools to help poor spellers work around their difficulties (predictive text, spell-checkers), those take extra time and writing is more than spelling. The real emphasis and missed golden nugget here is the connection between spelling and reading. When the hand writes and spells words, by matching sounds with letters, areas of the brain important for reading development are activated. Listening to sounds and representing them with letters, letter patterns and word parts (like roots, prefixes and suffixes) helps activate cortical circuits needed to develop and improve reading.
The travesty and the aspect worthy of outrage as Dr. Moats suggest, is that this science of reading and spelling and overall language development isn’t taught or understood in the majority of university level teacher education programs.
But there’s another important piece to the pie that the phonics camp sometimes misses in their expertise about language. What’s sometimes overlooked, is the science and overwhelming clinical evidence of the importance of an educationally therapeutic alliance between teacher and student. In therapy this is the “therapeutic alliance,” deemed perhaps one of the two most important ingredient in success and personal growth. In teaching students who are scarred with feeling different and “less than” or “not good enough” from an academic learning point of view, this is no less important. Developing the critical skills of connection, vulnerability (not being the “sage on the stage”), and challenge between teacher or tutor and student is as important as matching sound to symbol.