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Could Teddy Roosevelt Spell?

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Subject: History, Language Arts
Grade: 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

Students stage debates about English spelling vs. simplified spelling.


Students extend their knowledge of U.S. history as they explore the controversy about simplified spelling.


spelling, simplified spelling, debate, U.S. history, Teddy Roosevelt

Materials Needed


Lesson Plan


  • Provide students with a list of rules for English spelling, such as Rules for English Spelling. Review the rules with students and brainstorm any additional spelling rules they know.
  • Ask: Do you think English spelling is too hard? Why or why not?
  • Organize students into an even number of teams, and explain that they are going to debate whether to replace English spelling with simplified spelling. Assign each team a pro or con position and an opposing team.
  • As they prepare their arguments, encourage the teams to explore print and/or online resources on the controversy about simplified spelling that took place early in the 20th century. Tell students to be sure to include examples of words from the class spelling list in their arguments.
  • After they complete the debates, have students vote on the results.
Extension: Invite each student to write a letter to the editor of the local paper, describing the debates and making a case for his or her position on simplified spelling.


Evaluate students on the extent of their research and the accuracy of the arguments they make during the debates.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Linda Starr

National Standards

Language Arts:

Social Sciences:


Originally posted 05/28/2001
Last updated 04/24/2009