How important is spelling in today's classrooms?

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Until about 15 years ago, spelling was a consistently significant component of the second-grade curriculum [source: Toppo]. Spelling books were standard issue, spelling lists were extensive, and winning a spelling bee meant serious bragging rights.

Today, spelling bees are kind of like "Jeopardy": exhibitions of novel talents that make us marvel and applaud. In an age when young people read and write in digital shorthand almost by instinct, spelling skills can seem a little obsolete.

And yet, spelling lists still find their way home in second-graders' backpacks, and teachers still red-line "becaws" and "of coarse" in written work. Recently, though, some people have started to wonder why.

In an age when speed and concision rule, is it worth our time to learn proper spelling? Should you give it the same weight as the reading and math homework your child brings home?

In education circles, the answer is a resounding yes, but perhaps for different reasons than you think...