Invented Spelling

Invented or inventive spelling is one of the terms used to explain a young child’s attempts at spelling before they become conventional spellers.  There is much controversy about this theory.  Supporters of this concept feel that is natural to progress through stages of writing just as we did when learning how to talk. They feel that removing the constraints of spelling correctly, frees a child’s mind and allows them to write more openly.  Also, by allowing children to sound out words, use the rules/skills they have learned and recalling their prior knowledge, allows children to depend on themselves for answers and eventually makes the child a better/stronger speller.  Critics of this theory feel that allowing a child to spell words incorrectly permeates their mind and causes their spelling to suffer.  In my opinion, the fact that invented spelling is based on knowledge of phonics and the gradual development of  children, it supports a child’s confidence in writing.

“Learning to spell is a process that continues throughout a child’s schooling” (Feldgus,E. and Cardonick, I. from Kid Writing). It is illogical to expect young  children to walk through the door accurately spelling ALL words from the get . Dictation, does not support writing development as strongly as allowing them to creatively spell using their prior knowledge. Gradual progression seems to support the child most appropriately.  Children “pretend” to write as they gradually learn more and more rules to apply to spelling/writing.  “Teachers need to help children do their own phonics-based writing or KID WRITING, rather than take dictation for children.  Teacher’s expectations of children’s writing send the empowering message “You can do!” Taking dictation sends the self-limiting message, “You can’t so , I will do it for you.” (Feldgus, E. et al).

To me, the best way to combine these contradicting theories and ensure students get the best instruction would be to allow them to try  their hand at writing, encourage their work and then add the correct spelling to the paper so that they may compare the two.  They can draw knowledge from that comparison.    Feldgus and Cardonick say “A most effective way to teach spelling is to have children sound out words and then compare the phonetic spellings to the conventional spellings.  In that way, children are thinking and learning throughout the process.”  Allow students to use “kid writing” for words not yet taught, but expect that they use conventional spellings for words that have been formally introduced in the classroom.

This article discusses the pros and the cons of invented spelling.

Check out these additional resources on the topic!


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