The Stages of Spelling
Teachers typically get children started writing in kindergarten. If children had to concentrate on correct spelling in the early years, however, they would do very little significant writing. Spelling is the last of the teacher's concerns as a child's writing moves from scribbles and pictures to actual letters. "The bebe is hape" (the baby is happy) has to be seen as a wonderful piece of writing.
The period of transition from inventive spelling to traditional spelling is generally about two to three years. By the end of the second grade and certainly in the third grade, most children are well along in conventional spelling. But pushing them there too soon will likely diminish their enthusiasm for writing.
In the transitional period, teachers will send notes to children using correct spelling without stressing the difference. For instance, a child's entry in her writing journal might be: "I hve a cat. He ets gras. I lik him." The teacher's response would be: "It is funny to see a cat eat grass. I wish my cat would eat grass. I like my cat. He drinks milk and eats cat food. What color is your cat? What other funny things does your cat do?" Notice that the teacher's response spells have, grass, eat, and like correctly, while accepting the child's work as it was written. The teacher also invites the child to write more about her cat, with her questions serving as a structure.
Reprinted from the series 101 Educational Conversations by Vito Perrone, published by Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.