As important as learning how to speak, writing is an integral skill that students try to master in school. While the shift in a Communicative Approach has lighten the burden of producing writing sentences, paragraphs and pages of compositions, there is still a need to address spelling difficulties.
In our classroom, there are students who struggle with spelling. This hinders them from going a step forward in composing as they get stuck with that challenging word and lose their train of thoughts in the process.
One way to remove this hindrance is the use of Inventive Spelling or Phonetic Spelling. First graders are on the stage of learning letters and their sounds. This strategy will help them further in getting familiar with letters and their sounds and even the new sounds produced when they are combined to form blends.
From an article in education.com, here are some Do’s and Don’ts in Inventive Spelling:
Do have your child stretch out the words she is spelling to try and hear all the sounds in the word. For example, “cat” should be stretched out /c/ /a/ /t/. Have your child say the word slowly and listen to all the sounds that she hears. If he doesn’t hear a sound in a word (let’s say he writes “ct” for “cat”) gently push him to listen carefully to the word once more (going with the “ct” example, ask him what sound comes between the “c” and the “t”).
Don’t correct your child’s spelling. Children should feel like successful, independent writers. If children feel like they can’t write without perfect spelling, they will not think of themselves as writers. Children also may develop a tendency to rely on grown-ups to tell them if their spelling is “right.” Instead of focusing on correct spelling, encourage your first grader to write phonetically. If first graders are representing all the sounds they hear in words, they will be able to read their own writing. That’s what we want from young writers– standard spelling will come later.
Do find out what sight words/spelling words your child is learning in school. If your child’s teacher has taught the students the words “the” and “and”, then your child should be consistently spelling those two words correctly in his writing. You can hold your child accountable for words that he has spent a long time learning about and practicing in school.
Here is a link of sight words we use in the classroom: https://www.education.com/magazine/article/firstgradesightwords/
Don’t worry if you can’t read your child’s writing. Try to point out why it is important for your child to be able to read her writing. Talk with him/her about including all sounds in the words he/she’s writing and remind him/her to put spaces between words. Often kids will not be able to hear all the sounds in words– that’s okay. Usually kids start by representing beginning sounds, then beginning and ending sounds. The final stage of invented spelling comes when kids are able to include middle sounds. For example, if a child is asked to spell the word “cat” she might start by writing “c” then “ct” and finally “cat”.
In addition to these, I always remind the students to use words they already know. Sometimes, these words appear as “little words” inside longer ones.
I also emphasize at the beginning of class the development of words from a single letter to a syllable and finally words. This skill in identifying syllables can help them spell even longer words later.
As adults, we may have to keep ourselves from correcting their spelling right then and there. DO encourage them and praise them for the works they are able to finish. They are budding writers after all. Standard skills in spelling will develop and alongside this is a confident writer.
Till our next adventure!