FAQ: “Is it OK for student’s to use invented/phonetic spelling? What if we hang it in the hallway or send it home to parents? They can’t read it!”
Invented spelling, temporary spelling, and developmental spelling are terms typically used to describe young children’s spelling efforts before their spelling becomes conventional. However, letting students spell “wrong” has bothered many people- not usually teachers however!
The fact of the matter is, invented spelling is based on knowledge of phonics. Common sense tells us that five, six, and seven year-olds should not be expected to accurately spell all words on their first attempt. And research tells us that once students have learned more phonics and done more reading that it will of course have an impact on their spelling. Think back- didn’t your mom keep things from your childhood that had invented spelling? Wasn’t it cute? Wasn’t it developmentally appropriate? And guess what? You can spell now! You wrote that way then, but you can spell now. In response to parents being able to read things that are sent home, I ask this question: “Who are you teaching? Students or parents? Who do you most want to be able to reread their writing?” My answer is students. I teach and will always be teaching students.
We have to take into account also how it feels for a student when a teacher (who is only trying to help) marks on their paper with conventional spelling. “If you write on my paper, it is no longer my paper”. Children do not learn to spell by having you pour your spelling knowledge onto their work. They learn to spell by developing and extending their knowledge about letters and sounds. They use what they know and take risks to learn more. The place for kids to have this daily risk taking while still feeling safe to do so is Writer’s Workshop. When we write over or under student approximations at spelling, we run the risk that students will stop writing what they want to and stick to writing what they can spell.
Donald Graves (a teacher of writing teachers) stresses that children need to be able to write freely without interruption to their thoughts. Allowing children to attempt spelling enables them to use the vocabulary of their oral language in their written language. Spelling is functional- it enables the writer to express meaning. It is, therefore, a tool for writing, not a barrier to the process. There are lots of mini-lessons for teaching “spelling” during a Writer’s Workshop… those will be coming soon in another BLOG post.