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Inventive Spelling

Inventive spelling (often referred to as creative or incomplete spelling) is used by young children to represent letter-sound relationships; typically it begins with initial consonants to represent a word. Using this method children often spell words incorrectly, but they demonstrate an understanding of our language.

Spelling Development

The developmental approach to teach writing emphasizes the expression of ideas. In the preschool years, a child typically scribbles and writes letter-like forms or random letters. Throughout kindergarten, a child progresses and the writing becomes more purposeful and decipherable. By the end of second grade, a child should transition from inventive spelling to conventional spelling -correctly spelling a word. A primary grade child should correctly spell previously studied words and spelling patterns.

Stages of Spelling and Writing

A child’s typically progression in learning to write and spell is as follows:

  1. Picture writing – drawings of themselves, family, pets, home etc.
  2. Scribbling – need I say anymore
  3. Random letters and numbers – H 7 5 K O
  4. Beginning consonant letters – I w S m
  5. Beginning and ending consonant letters – I wt sm mk
  6. Vowel letters – I wont soM Milk
  7. Complete spelling – I want some milk.

This approach to writing places emphasis on what a child wants to say – not on how to properly write it. However, a child is encouraged to spell as accurately as possible. This technique will not hinder learning conventional spelling or create spelling difficulties. A child gradually moves from inventive spelling to complete spelling in the early elementary grades.

Writing and Spelling Tips

Our school offered the following tips to encourage this developmental approach to writing and spelling:

Write notes to your child.

I like to include notes in their lunch boxes. Other great ideas suggested by our school district include: labeling objects around the home, positioning writings in a conspicuous area to promote rereading of the material, and placing notes under their pillows. Who said the tooth fairy was the only person who could leave something under the pillow?

Encourage your child to write at home.

This should be an entertaining activity. Both of my children write their own thank you cards. I address the envelope but they are responsible for the “thank you” letter. We typically listen to music, talk about our day and write together. A great activity on a rainy day! We also like to write notes to each other on road trips – a fun activity to pass the time.

Let your child observe you writing.

Our school district offers some good advice: share your writing with your child, tell them why you are writing and let them see you make a mistake. I typically write my shopping list while my children are eating breakfast and ask them if they have any special healthy requests – I typically need to remind them that the word healthy was a requirement not an afterthought.

Guide your child through this developmental process.

Offer advice but do not overwhelm them (e.g. with spelling corrections) as learning should be fun and progressive. Our school offers some advice in this area as well. They recommend showing your child how to hold a pencil correctly. In addition, assist them in writing the sounds they hear. When possible, separate the word into its distinct phonemes (in layman terms, say each sound). For example, if your child is trying to write the word dog, you would say the individual sounds or /d/, /o/,/g/. Clapping for each sound or syllable in a word is another great exercise. Assist them in spelling sight words correctly. Also introduce the concept of spacing between words. A great way to assist them is to use their finger to create the space. Finally, talk about capitalization as well as punctuation.

As always have fun teaching your child how to spell and write. Be patient and praise them for their accomplishments.

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