Little children love to write. They pick up a crayons, markers, pencils, or pens and start out scribbling, and sooner or later, their scribbles start to look like shapes and squiggly letters.
This is all part of the early childhood developmental process. Just as they learn to crawl first, then walk, children go through developmental stages as they learn to speak and write.
After scribbles, they make strings of letters as they tell a story about a picture. Later, they write one consonant letter to represent a word. The parent or teacher can’t yet read the story, but the child can read it back without hesitation.
Still later, the children become more proficient with beginning and ending consonants and a few vowels. They write stories that are a bit more understandable to the adult reader.
(Me and my best friend sledding downhill with my friend’s dad. His made a jump for us.)
Educators use the term inventive spelling or invented spelling because children use the letters they know to create their stories even before they have formal spelling instruction. Yet this early writing clearly shows that the children are using the phonics they have learned directly or indirectly. Children whose parents have read to them a lot often have some nonphonetic “sight words” under their control, too.
Later, as they learn some rules for spelling and writing, their sentence patterns may become a bit choppy. Their writing reflects their oral language patterns and may omit punctuation.
I want to play NO you can’t go out to play You were a bad girl.
Finally, children put their phonics knowledge, sight word knowledge, oral language, and punctuation skills together, and they begin to write stories adults can read. While there still may be errors in punctuation and capitalization, this next writer has reached the level where he can communicate through writing, and this is the ultimate goal of spelling and writing.
On Saturday mom, Dad and I went to the circus. The ring master announced the acts. We saw a lion tamer put his head in the lion’s mouth. Then some acrabats swung on the trapeze up in the air. My favorite act was the one where the clowns ran around and tripped each other.
This developmental process is not level across the ages. One of the great surprises that I had when I first began teaching was the great range of ability and achievement in a single classroom. There were always some children well ahead of grade level and some children that lagged behind grade level. This is the constant challenge that teachers face: how to meet the needs of all of these individual children and their widely varying achievement levels. It is honestly exhausting, but teachers do it day after day. And they still smile.
At any rate, teachers encourage children to write using whatever knowledge of phonetics they have at any given time. The more they practice sounding out words, the better they will get. And that’s really what invented spelling is: sounding out words using the sound-letter knowledge (phonetics) already known to the child. How exciting to compare a child’s writing sample from the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year. (This is why child portfolios of classroom work are so valuable for teachers and parents.)
Parents sometimes don’t understand the term invented spelling. I think the word “invented” sometimes throws them off. I like to call this type of spelling “early phonetic spelling.”
So what. Who cares?
Teachers care. I give a special hand to teachers for their hard work in the classroom. As a teacher, then later as an administrator, I was deeply impressed with the dedication and care teachers demonstrated on a daily basis. I am retired now, but teachers still hold a special place in my heart.
Teachers know and understand child developmental levels and know how to work with each child at his or her own level. They can read a piece of children’s writing and peg their phonetic levels based on the type of writing the child displays. They plan their lessons based on these trained observations of student writing. This is teaching at its best.
Take a look at this very well-done “Message to Parents from Your Child’s Teacher” by Christine McCartney. It has an important message for parents about education.
The Last Meow
Cat memes have become quite popular on Internet. Cat spelling and grammar have even developed rules for correctness (with variations, of course). Cats have fairly consistent syntax (sentence structure), but there spelling is still….well, at the inventive level. However, I think this is primarily due to their independent natures, their own desire to remain in control, and finally, their desire to do whatever the heck they please. And what can you, the adult, do about this? Nothing. Nada. Nil. Fageddaboutit. Cats win every time. They are, after all, the superior race.
=<^.^>= Meow for now.