Inventive Spelling: Let Your Child Explore With Writing!

By: C.Q. Wilder, M.Ed

June 20, 2014

Think about this situation. Your child just handed you a piece of paper and said that it says, “I love you mommy.” but all you see are some lines, the letter x, and a smiley face. You might think, “What in the world is this?” or “This doesn’t sound like what my child just said.” or lastly, “I need to teach this child how to spell!” These are all valid thoughts or concerns however, just like we develop from an infant into adulthood, no one says to you, “Stop growing taller this way. Let me show you how to grow this way.”

Yes, you can tell a child how to do something but until they do it on their own, they will never know why they are doing things the way they are doing them. That is why allowing your child to explore with writing is critical in their development and understand what inventive spelling is and being able to recognize the stages to support your child in the correct way.

In the following, I will define the stages of inventive spelling and provide real examples from students to show the progression of writing. Again, it is great to teach your child how to spell but in the beginning stages, the most important thing they need to know is how to hold the tool they are using to write. I encourage starting with a fat crayon, fat marker, or fat pencil and eventually move to a smaller writing tool. They need to master grip to support their writing but this too is a process and not an overnight task.

Stage 1: Precommunicative Stage

As you see in the examples, some are just drawings, while other have letters but doesn’t form a word.

Stage 2: Semiphonetic Stage

Stage 3: Phonetic Stage

Stage 4: Transitional Stage                                        Stage 5: Correct Stage