The key to spelling success? Keep the focus on WRITE, not RIGHT.
One of the best things we can do for young children when it comes to teaching them to write and spell is to make writing implements and paper readily available and give them the time, space and encouragement to write.
One of the worst things we can do is to allow them to get caught up in “spelling it right.”
In my classroom, I often see first- and second-graders struggle to write because they’re worried about spelling. These children often avoid writing, get less practice writing and ultimately feel unsuccessful as writers. This can be avoided simply by encouraging children to write from an early age, without getting hung up on how to spell.
Learning to write and spell is a long and complex process.
Scribbling—The very earliest stages of writing actually look a lot like drawing. In fact, if a child is expressing an idea by putting symbols on a page, this is writing.
Experimenting with Letters—After a child learns to form letters, he will write by putting random letters on the page because he knows that words are made of letters. As a child learns more about letter sounds, these early writings will have some letters that correspond with the sounds in words.
Phonetic Spelling—In the next step, also called invented spelling, the child attempts to sound out words and does her best to get every sound into the written word. At this stage, a sentence may look like this: mi kat iz nis (My cat is nice).
Memorizing Simple Words—In kindergarten, children learn some conventional spellings for short, common words such as "and," “we” and “is.” In first grade, children are expected to learn more of those common “high-frequency” words. Often these words do not follow spelling patterns and simply need to be memorized, such as “was,” “what” and “they.”
Spelling Rules—By second grade, children have learned most if not all of the common spelling patterns. This is the year in which children make the leap from phonetic spelling (sounding it out) to primarily using conventional spelling.
Before children even know all their letter sounds, they learn that words have correct spellings. While this doesn’t deter some children and they simply spell what they hear (phonetic spelling), others can become preoccupied with getting it “right.” This is where adults can play a big role. If we tell our preschoolers how to spell each and every word they want to write, they may become reluctant to exercise their phonetics skills on their own.
So, what should we do?
When learning to write and spell, a preschooler needs lots of opportunities to write without the fear of being wrong. Here is a list of some of the many ways you can encourage your preschooler to write.
Enjoy this magical time of learning and growth and feel confident that if your child is showing an interest in books and writing, your child is well on his or her way to becoming a confident reader and writer.