Does Inventive Spelling Really Help Children Learn?

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Inventive spelling is an interesting learning mechanism that young children use when they are learning to write. Inventive spelling, or phonetic spelling, sparks a child’s creativity and imaginative skills. Kids today are often encouraged to learn through inventive spelling in school and kindergarten. This is because of research that has helped us make tremendous progress in understanding the way the mind learns. The brain learns through pattern formation, and inventive spelling is designed to let the brain adapt, evolve, and devise its own interesting ways of learning.

To demonstrate what inventive spelling looks like, take a look at the following two sentences:

1. Ds vs not d ve i lrnt tu rd vn i vs a cid. Bt groing ap i no dat ds iz d ve tu go

2. This was not the way I learnt to read when I was a kid. But growing up, I know, this is the way to go.

As you can see, the first sentence is spelled by a child who uses sound to produce spellings. Essentially, she writes what she hears.

The second sentence is one that uses standard spelling patterns.

What Is Inventive or Invented Spelling?

Inventive or invented spelling has its roots in the sounds and phonetics of a language. It is a mode of spelling words through the sound created by the word when the child hears it. In this method, the child is encouraged to build or create the spelling based on how she hears a particular word. This is done before the child has been exposed to standard spelling patterns through the mechanism of rote learning.

As research progresses, and cognitive science makes headway, we are unearthing several disadvantages of memorization or rote learning. We now know that it is by the mere act of forcing spellings and solutions onto children that we manage to deeply puncture their natural abilities to see the world through their fresh perspectives. We tend to snatch away their talents of creation, imagination, and problem-solving, thereby manufacturing dull souls that shy away from design-thinking their way out of unstructured problems in the world.

Inventive spelling can thus have a far-reaching effect on how a child learns and blooms into a perceptive and receptive adult. However, every coin has two sides. Therefore, we would like to keep you informed on all sides of the story, so that you may make an informed decision when opting for inventive spelling for your child.

At What Age Is Learning Inventive Spelling Appropriate?

The primary idea behind helping children learn through the method of inventive spelling is to ease the process of eventually adopting standard spellings. Therefore, it is natural for us to incorporate inventive spellings into the learning and growth palette of a child at an early age. This essentially becomes one of the first stages of learning to read and write for a child. It is thus recommended that inventive spelling be introduced to early readers and writers, or more precisely, children in kindergarten. 

Pros of Invented Spelling for Kids

1. Boosts self-confidence early on

At an early stage, when children learn to read and write, there is simply a lot on their plate. They are exposed to tasks that don’t come very naturally to little people of their age. These different types of exposures trigger several areas in the brain to kick off activity. With so much going on, if the child is pressurized to produce correct spellings from the start, and also to recognize correct spelling patterns, she may tend to lose morale and form an early perception that she is a poor speller. On the contrary, if the child is appreciated for the initial effort she is putting into producing some form of spelling patterns and words, it results in higher self-confidence. This impacts the child’s life long journey as a writer and reader. She may even take a stronger liking to it as she grows older.

2. Fosters natural learning and pattern recognition

The brain naturally learns through pattern formation. When a child is allowed to explore learning methods during early stages of education, the mind gains the space it requires to identify patterns, connect the dots, create its own patterns, and even produce unheard-of ideas. Then, what better than to allow the child to spell words inventively? By encouraging inventive spelling, kindergarten becomes a fascinating place for the child. She can look forward to school, because the brain is allowed to learn the way it likes.

3. Fosters independent learning, creative expression, and pre-empts barriers in standard communication

With freedom and self-confidence comes independence. When the child is not badgered to produce accuracy in spellings, and is given sufficient time to reach the correct spelling stage from the early invented spelling stage, then she independently adapts and learns how to progress on the path of learning. Such freedom fosters creative expression, and you will be surprised to see the interesting ways in which children manage to spell standard words, by connecting sounds and visuals that we barely pay attention to! Besides, inventive spelling allows the child to freely communicate as a writer, even before she is inducted into standard modes of communication. This allows for early and seamless exposure to communication, and may pre-empt unforeseen challenges that children may encounter in the process.

Cons of Invented Spelling for Kids

1. Fear of becoming bad spellers

While the child gains her space to proceed in the written communication realm through inventive spelling, the fear of producing a bad speller may haunt the parents. However, parents should keep in mind that this is a myth, and one must do sufficient research on invented spelling activities to know that in no way does inventive spelling hinder a child’s ability of spelling words correctly. Take things slowly for  both your child and yourself, and see where it leads you. Burdening yourself with such a fear is not recommended.

2. Threat of the faulty process

It is important to understand that the inventive spelling mechanism is highly scientific. Just like other such learning techniques, it also has its progression, through five stages. It becomes critical for educators teaching or organizing the kindergarten levels to be well-versed in these stages, and know when and how to apply a particular stage to a child. Incorrect process and identification of a child’s learning stage may result in distress that inventive spelling actually attempts to eradicate. Listed below are the five stages of learning through inventive spelling: 1. Pre-communicated 2.Semi-phonetic 3.Phonetic 4.Transitional 5. Correct

In the first stage, children are introduced to the alphabet, and merely begin to acknowledge that letters are the building blocks of words and sentences. In the upcoming stages, such as the second and the third, they learn that letters are used to produce different sounds, and vice versa. The connection between language and sound is drawn. With gradual progress into the fourth stage, the visual aspects also come into play, as visual memory plays a critical role in identifying word patterns. This is when kids are likely to spell inventively. Through the first four stages, the child learns to spell inventively through patterns, visuals, and sounds, and by putting all of her sensory and motor skills to use. In the last stage, the child begins to spell correctly, as she is introduced to standard words.

Each stage carries its own significance, and every child has her own learning speed. Do your best not to compare your child and her learning process and stage with her peers in class. This tendency to compare hampers your child’s learning in more ways than you can imagine. It is important to value each of these stages, and to trust your child’s growth.

3. Correct spellings to be introduced when the child is ready

Remember that inventive spelling is not the ticket to incorrect spelling. Eventually and essentially, correct and standard spellings must be introduced. Inventive spelling is only meant to break down this process into fragments, which are easier for the child to understand and integrate into her learning. At no stage is it meant to tell the child that incorrect spellings are the way to go. If you notice that the child is spelling incorrectly simply out of laziness and not out of phonetic understanding, it necessitates intervention. If you identify that you are becoming a bit careless in correcting your child’s spelling mistakes, this is another red flag. Gradually and methodically, correct spellings must be introduced, by building a core vocabulary.

Parenting is not merely a privilege, but also a challenge in itself. It is not as easy as it may initially appear to be. It takes a lot to truly understand your child’s needs. Your child’s learning behavior may also be hard to decode. However, if you observe with patience and empathy, you will be able to help your child and eventually yourself in the best manner possible. This article is aimed at encouraging compassionate parenting. It is also meant for educators who believe in unconventional learning mechanisms that can make school and learning fun!

Also Read:

Basic Spelling Words to Teach Your Grade 1 Child
Basic Spelling Words to Teach Your Grade 2 Child
Basic Spelling Words to Teach Your Grade 3 Child