If you asked a child who is learning how to write to spell the title of this blog, you’d most likely see something like “y nvntd spln mtrs.” At first glance, these words might look like nonsense, but let’s take a closer look! Beginning writers spell out the sounds they hear in words. This generally means writing more consonants and fewer vowels. Try to read “y nvnted spln mtrs” by simply saying the sounds the letters make. Now think about all the work that went into writing those letters– pretty impressive, right?
Helping Kids Become Writers
As parents, we often want to teach kids the “right” way of spelling. Kids want that too — they ask us how to spell words then write down each letter we say. But by always telling kids how to spell words, we take away an important learning opportunity. For them, inventing their own spelling allows kids to apply their knowledge of letter sounds as they break words into small chunks of sounds. Allowing kids to use invented spelling is an important step on their journey towards becoming writers.
But even more than giving kids a chance to practice segmenting words into sounds, invented spelling does something much bigger: It gives kids the freedom to write. Instead of waiting around for a grown-up to tell them how to spell something, invented spelling shows kids that they already have the tools they need to become a writer. Of course, they’ll need to develop more skills and tools over time, but no one needs to begin writing with perfect spelling. What makes you a writer is simply picking up a pencil and trying to use letters to represent the sounds in the words you want to write.
Invented spelling is a great example of what we know about learning all sorts of things– in order to become better at something, start by doing it. When we can let go of a drive for perfection, creativity and learning thrive. If kids already see themselves as writers, teaching them conventional spelling is much easier and more authentic. Kids will want to learn how to spell words because they want people to be able to understand their amazing writing.
Reading & Invented Spelling
This article summarizes new research about invented spelling, saying, “The most valuable early literacy skill to encourage in kindergarten is neither alphabetic knowledge nor memorization of key sight words. In fact, it’s not a reading skill at all.” Not only is invented spelling an important writing practice, but it also has a strong correlation with reading skills as well.
Wondering why? Invented spelling helps kids practice segmenting (taking apart) letter sounds as they write words. This is the other half of blending (putting together) sounds that kids do when they read. The study mentioned in the article concluded that it was more worthwhile to focus on invented spelling than simply memorizing sight words.
One of the biggest things we can do to help our kids learn is to allow them to try out ideas and make mistakes. Invented spelling is one of the best ways to do this! Try these tips:
- Don’t stress. Know that your child will eventually learn how to spell words correctly. As your child gets more comfortable writing, introduce several simple sight words (try starting with “the,” “and,” or “you”). English has many irregularities, so try not to blow your child’s little mind by introducing too many tricky sight words at once.
- Find the brilliance in your child’s writing. Look closely at your child’s writing and marvel at how many letter sounds are being represented. Reflect on all the hard work that is going into the writing.
- Focus on the content of the writing too. Talk about the stories your child is creating, even if the stories aren’t all represented in writing. Show that you value your child’s creativity and are genuinely interested in what is being written. Kids will want to write more when they know they have an authentic audience.
Writing can be a wonderful way to get a glimpse into your child’s mind. Have fun exploring writing together!