You may wonder why your child brings home writing with misspelled words.
Sometimes these early efforts are called “invented spellings,” but they are also known as “developmental spelling” because, over time, they become more complete and accurate as your child learns to read, and develops phonics knowledge.
During writing time, I ask my students to “spell as best they can,” rather than waiting for someone to tell them how to spell a word. This frees them to write about anything that interests them, but also requires them to think about the sounds in the word and to think about the letters they need to represent those sounds. Hearing all the sounds is difficult, so at first they may only
represent one sound, spelling love as L or V.
“Spelling the best you can” requires children to use the phonics knowledge they are learning, and over time I expect to see more complete and
accurate spelling. During the school year, watch as your child’s spelling includes more letters and sounds - even if it is still not complete. When your child progressed from crawling to taking steps on their own, you were very
proud of their development and encouraged them to walk, even though they often stumbled and fell. When children spell “love” as L, or LV or LUV, they are taking their first steps into the world of writing, and you should encourage these efforts as well. Don’t worry that these early efforts will stick with them and interfere with learning correct spelling. With exposure, practice and instruction, children will continue to develop until they can spell thousands of words correctly without even thinking about it – just like they can run and skip and twirl without thinking about it. However, unlike learning to walk, learning to spell takes many years to master because English is a complicated written language.
While it is important to accept developmental spelling, I am also constantly working to teach your child the foundations for correct spelling so that, by the time they are in 3rd or 4th grade, they will spell most of the words they need correctly and they will also know strategies for figuring out how to spell the words they don’t know.
Encourage your child to write at home, and if he or she asks you how to spell a word, say “What sounds do you hear?” rather than simply giving the spelling. Offer praise for what they figure out and accept what they were able to do. When children bring home something they have written at school, ask them to read it to you and show them that you are proud of how they are learning to communicate with writing. I am happy to talk with you further about this if you have any questions.