As some of you may know, about 8 (ack!) years ago, I spent 3 months teaching English at a small private junior college on the outskirts of Beijing. As part of the teaching program, I required each student to keep a journal. They had to write in it at least once a week. I would collect the journals on Friday, read them over the weekend, and return them on Monday morning with corrections. I was always amazed at how well these students (even the ones with limited English) could express themselves. However, every. single. one. consistently made the same two spelling errors.
At first, I tried correcting the errors in their entries and hoping they would catch on.
They didn't. A more drastic approach was called for.
One Monday morning, after handing back their journals. I wrote the following on the blackboard in huge letters:
"What is that word," I asked.
"TRUE," my students replied in unison.
"No. You are wrong. It is TURE. TURE is not a word. Please spell TRUE like this."
And I erased TURE and wrote TRUE on the board.
"Whenever I see TRUE spelled TURE in your papers I'm going to scream and yell and beat you over the head with a bowl full of noodles."
The students all laughed.
Then, I wrote another word on the board in huge letters:
"What is this word," I asked.
"FIRST," my students replied in unison.
"No! You are wrong. It is FRIST. FRIST is not a word. Please spell FIRST like this."
And I erased FRIST and wrote FIRST on the board.
"Whenever I see FIRST spelled FRIST in your papers I'm going to scream and yell and beat you over the head with a bowl full of noodles."
My students all laughed, and I continued with the day's lesson.
The next week only one student was beaten over the head with a bowl full of noodles.