Whether you call it invented spelling, inventive spelling, or kid spelling, if you’re an early elementary school teacher, you’ve probably become an expert at decoding it. But parents who are unfamiliar with the process may be confused when writing samples come home riddled with “misspellings” and are quite difficult to read. They may start to worry that their child is struggling with spelling when, in fact, he is making appropriate progress.
Invented spelling is just a step in the process
Young independent writers who are just starting with formal spelling and phonics instruction rely heavily on invented spelling. They usually begin by writing the letters that represent the first and final sounds in a word. With more practice, they gradually begin to include middle sounds by adding vowels and additional consonants.
As your child progresses further through spelling development, he acquires a better understanding of the word structure and how to apply prefixes and suffixes, silent consonants, and alternative/irregular spellings.
Invented spelling is not sloppy spelling.
Sloppy and rushed work means students are continually misspelling words they already know. But, through invented spelling, children are demonstrating their grasp of letter sounds and early phonetic awareness. A recent study showed that kindergarten students who relied heavily on invented spelling showed stronger literacy skills a year later.
Your child is not doomed to be a bad speller.
Your child may struggle with spelling now because he hasn’t had enough exposure to reading and writing to fully develop his spelling skills. But even students who are heavy readers can still struggle with spelling because their visual memories can’t always recall what a word should look like. With continued practice, both in the classroom and at home, young children can overcome these spelling struggles.
Tools for Moving Beyond Invented Spelling
Continue to stress to parents the correlation between reading and writing at home and successful spelling. The more a child sees a word in print or writes it on his own, the more likely he is to spell it correctly. Also, encourage parents to help their child sound out words and help him spell words properly when he is struggling.
In the classroom, keep your lessons for phonics and phonemic awareness going strong. Focused instruction and practice can get students on their way to conventional spelling.
Check out these tools to support parents in the home and to reinforce your phonics teaching in the classroom:
Through children’s writing samples, parents will be able to understand their child’s developmental writing stages, including invented spelling. They’ll learn many valuable tips and strategies to support young writers.
These phonics assessments are quick checks to help you determine areas of weakness and subsequent growth for each student.
Motivational, research-based workbooks take a systematic approach to direct phonics instruction. Step-by-step lessons help students work through advancing levels of phonemic awareness and sound-letter knowledge. As skills are mastered, students lessen their dependence on invented spelling.
Using visual support for common vocabulary words can help students expand their word knowledge and advance to conventional spelling. This resource is especially helpful for English Learners (ELs).