I’ve had quite a few questions about invented spelling recently and wanted to attempt to give my best answer for each. Here they are in random order:
My child spells unknown words as they sound, versus spelling the words correctly. Is that normal?
Yes, yes and amen! This is invented spelling! It is absolutely normal and should be encouraged in many cases (note, I didn’t say all cases-see below for an explanation). If you wonder why I like invented spelling so much, please click here. Here is another post of mine showing how invented spelling can actually help, not hinder, our young readers.
How do you know when to ask your child to give you more in his or her spellings?
I will sometimes jump in there and ask for more, only when I know that the child can give me more. If my child can read most CVC short vowel words correctly and he spelled hog with just the HG, I’d praise him for his efforts and then say something like, “I’m going to say hog very slowly out loud. See if you can hear a vowel sound in the middle of H and G.” On the flip side, if my child could not read many (or any) CVC short vowel words and spelled hog HG, I’d celebrate with him and then shut my mouth. 🙂
If my child uses invented spelling, will this hinder his ability to spell words correctly?
In my opinion, it works in just the opposite way. BUT, we must keep kids accountable for spelling words correctly when they know them. I keep sight words we’ve studied on our Word Wall and the Word Study patterns we’ve studied in ALuv’s Word Study Notebook (see the end of the short e post for his WS Notebook). This way, if he misspells a word (like GIT for get), I can remind him, “Hmmm…that word sure sounds like it should be spelled G-I-T, but it’s on your Word Wall. See if you can find it and fix it in your writing.” With the older kids I tutored, I’d sometimes simply say, “Does that word look right? Think about how that word looks when you see it in a book.”
Is there a time NOT to use invented spellings?
There are a few things in my opinion that you have to consider in answering this question:
- The Audience: just like we do as adults. When I jot down my grocery list, I am not so concerned with my spellings. But if I’m writing a letter to the governor, you’d better believe I’m going to have someone else read through my letter to make sure it all looks good. Kids need to do the same thing. We can act as their “editor” when it really counts. Correct spelling is a courtesy to the reader; BUT we need to also keep in mind that young spellers are not able to spell everything conventionally, yet. And requiring them to do so every. single. time. they write can break their confidence as a speller and writer.
- The Developmental Stage of the Speller: Just like in reading, there’s a “just right” level for spelling, too. If you ask too much of your very young speller, frustration may set in (for her & you). Keeping in mind where your child is developmentally and what she knows about phonics, hold her accountable for conventional spellings when appropriate (also see question above for more).
- The Use of the Text: If the child is going to be making a book that others will read or that he/she will read over and over again, I like to try to go for conventional spellings as much as possible. One way to do this is “pre-loading” the conventional spellings of needed words before writing takes place like I did in this post.
For other ideas on helping your child with spelling, you can visit this post.
I hope that somewhat answers the questions I’ve gotten recently regarding invented spelling. If not, I’ll be happy to help in any other way I can. 🙂
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