Invented Spelling


Invented spelling has become a dirty word in many circles. For this reason I prefer the following terms to describe this stage in a literacy learner’s life:

  • temporary spelling
  • developmental spelling
  • sound spelling

The practice of inventing spelling leads children to consciously try to hear the sounds in words so they can match letters to the sounds. Invented spelling is an excellent way to further develop phonemic awareness (Gentry, 2000). Research shows that invented spelling can have a positive effect on helping children develop as spellers and writers but also as readers. Spelling ability fosters word recognition by enabling a letter-sound association storage of words in memory (Gentry, 1997).

“Each invented spelling is a permanent record of an individual’s journey to spelling competence. If we collect these snapshots, these invented spellings, and analyze them, we can put together a remarkable album that shows milestones along the way. Since the journey unfolds developmentally in patterns that are predictable and systematic, we can chart the journey with precision and accuracy.” (Gentry, 2000)

Caution: Be sure that parents understand what invented spelling is and that you do not have a “spell it any way you want” attitude. Explain that when children invent-spell, they are teaching themselves about phonics and that invented spellings are a wonderful diagnostic tool for discovering a child’s developmental spelling stage. Encourage students to use everything they know about sounds, letters, patterns, and meaning to “stretch out” the word and make a best attempt at spelling it (Routman, 2000).

Read more on invented spelling.

Update on invented spelling May 2017: Invented Spelling Leads to Better Reading, Study Says

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