I’ve had a few mamas ask me lately about invented spelling and how exactly it works in practice. While I don’t claim to have all the answers, I thought I’d take a moment to SHOW invented spelling in action via ALuv’s writing. (I really wish I had this on video!!) There’s a danger in doing this because ALuv is a completely different child than yours or any of the students in your class, but I think walking through one of his recent journal entries might help.
Here is his response to the prompt: What do you like best about Halloween?
This is about how the conversation went over this writing activity:
Mama: What is your favorite thing about Halloween?
A: Trick or treating.
Mama: Okay, let’s think about how we would say that in a sentence. My favorite…
A: …thing is to go trick or treating.
Mama: Perfect, that’s a great sentence. I’ll let you start writing. I go over to NJoy and start working with him.
A: He glanced up at the Word Wall and wrote MY. Mom, how do you spell favorite? I already wrote the f.
Mama: Okay, what sound do you hear now? I hear a vowel sound.
A: /f/-/a/-/a/-/a/- I hear an a.
Mama: Good job! Write that down. Now, say favorite again and stretch it out slowly to see what other sounds you can hear.
A: He writes FAVIT.
Mama: Wow, you got a lot of those sounds. But you know what? There’s another sound in the middle of that I can hear (we’ve been studying blends, so I know he can do this). See if you can hear it, too. /f/-/a/-/v/-/r/…
A: He writes an R after the V.
Mama: Great job! That’s right. It’s like those blends we’ve been talking about. You can hear the v and the r sound side-by-side.
A: He writes TH after I hear him say /th/ /th/ /th/ to himself. (We just finished a word study unit on the ch, sh, and & th sounds.) Then, he looks up at the -ing chunk I have on his desk and asks, Does thing have the ING at the end?
Mama: It sure does.
A: He writes IS, TO and GO by memory.
I am working with NJoy across the room on something else and he doesn’t ask for my help. After a couple of minutes I am curious to see what he’s done. TRICRTRETING (trick or treating). He proudly brings me his sentence.
Mama: Wow! I see you spelled trick or treating all by yourself. That sure has a lot of sounds in it. And you wrote down every sound! Amazing!! I don’t dare tell him it’s not one word because it sure sounds like one word.
* * *
One question that pops up a lot when I get asked about invented spelling is: How do you know when to ask your child to give you more?
I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are my thoughts. What your child can do varies from each developmental stage to the next. Just like your child starts on training wheels to ride a bike, so she needs to start somewhere with spelling. For example, in the above journal entry, I asked more of ALuv with the word favorite (to listen for the r) because I knew he’d be able to do it. We’ve been working on blends for the last few weeks in our Word Study, so I knew he was capable. If we were just beginning to work on short vowels, his spelling of favorite (FAVIT) would have been just right for his spelling stage and I would have left it as is. Asking more of him when he wasn’t ready could have frustrated him; just like taking the training wheels off before the child is ready to ride would be frustrating.
I hope that walking through this example was helpful. I have been asked a lot of questions lately about invented and conventional spelling, so I plan on answering them as best I can in a post next week.
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