Invented Spelling

Ideuz Furst, Speling Sekont: The Power and Purpose of Invented Spelling in Writing Development

Recently, a 4th grader told me, “I’m not a good writer.” When I inquired why, he shared, “Well, I don’t know how to spell a lot of words.” He’s not alone. In a recent Writing with Design poll, nearly 40% of students in 2nd through 8th grade reported that they often change the words they write to ones they know how to spell because they don’t want to make a spelling mistake.

Many parents also believe that spelling (and handwriting) are synonymous to writing. While spelling is certainly a needed set of skills to write; it is by no means synonymous.

The focus of writing should be more about the cultivation, organization, and sharing of ideas than proper spelling.


With over 50 years of research (Adams, 1991; Bissex, 2004; Burns, Griffin, and Snow, 1999; Chomsky, 1976; Clay, 1985; Clarke, 1989; Clay, 1975; DiStefano and Hagerty, 1985; Gentry, 1982; Hodges, 1981; Lutz, 1986; Rasinski and Padak, 2004, Read, 1975)  showing the powerful connection between writing development and invented spelling, I am a huge supporter of this stage of spelling development. Invented spelling, the spelling of words they way the sound instead of by conventional spelling rules, strengthens sound symbol correspondence and encourages fluency and risk-taking in writing. In addition, it builds writers’ confidence and supports their experimentation with unfamiliar words.

Yet, it is not enough for teachers to solely encourage writers to use invented spelling in their independent work. Like all aspects of writing, teachers must model invented spelling, too. Nor is this stage of spelling only for our youngest writers. The 4th grader who resisted writing because he didn’t trust his spelling skills needs to be encouraged to spell inventively just like the 4 year old who is just learning the sounds of letters.

When students observe their teachers being inventive in their spelling during the brainstorming stage of a piece of writing and even in the composition of the first sentence draft of writing, they develop a strong sense of how to trust their spelling knowledge and try different spelling options to eventually discover the accurate one. As Burns, Griffin, and Snow (1999) assert, “When children use invented spelling, they are in fact exercising their growing knowledge of phonemes, the letters of the alphabet, and their confidence in the alphabetic principle. A child’s ‘iz’ for the conventional ‘is’ can be celebrated as quite a breakthrough! It is the kind of error that shows that the child is thinking independently and quite analytically about the sounds of words and the logic of spelling.” (p. 102)

Spelling is a work in progress

Spelling is a work in progress

In the picture of a teacher’s model of invented spelling, notice that blanks are incorporated to encourage students to think about what letters could possibly be a part of the words. In addition, the second ‘e’ in “tree” was written in red to highlight to students it is not a sound they will hear, but rather, a spelling pattern they are learning and can try again in the future when they hear the long e sound in a word.

In older grades, model for and with students all the spelling patterns they know that can make the sounds in each syllable to see which version of the word “looks familiar.” This will encourage them to stretch their spelling knowledge through experimentation with spelling patterns.

So, incuraje studints to trust their branes and focus on the brillient content thay want to share insted of having purfect spelling. Once the ideas are shared, thin spelling can be refind and emproovd.


Enhancing Writing Strategy #1: Highlighters Highlight!

highlighter student

When it comes to improving the quality of student writing, highlighters are a powerful tool to teach students how to enhance their own writing. How? The answer lies in the purpose of a highlighter: to emphasize something of importance and value; to bring attention to what’s most significant.

By tasking students to highlight the words and phrases they think are most sophisticated, descriptive, vivid and precise in their writing*, they learn to be mindful of the quality of their writing (instead of solely focusing on just getting DONE with it) and are able to articulate what is impressive in other pieces they read.

As they highlight, advise them to ask themselves, “What is going to cause the reader to picture what I wrote about? What is the reader going to remember most from my piece? What words and phrases am I most proud of using?”

To build this self-reflection skill, first begin by reviewing samples of writing as a whole class. Discuss and analyze the words and phrases students offer as the strongest in the sample piece. Be sure to ask for their reasoning with questions such as, “Why did you choose that particular phrase? What about the word choice makes it impressive?”

Next, have students exchange their own writings with a partner with the task of highlighting the 3-5 strongest phrases and words in the writing. In a brief peer conference, students can share why they highlighted the different words and phrases as they read their partner’s piece. Never forget peer feedback is ten times more powerful to students than teacher feedback.

Also, before students turn in writing to you, whether it’s a sentence or an essay, frequently task them to highlight their most sophisticated words and phrases.

With future writings, the question “What would a reader highlight as they read my writing?” becomes more and more a part of their composition process, encouraging them to choose sophisticated, descriptive, vivid and precise words as they write. No writer wants to finish a piece of writing and feel there is nothing worth highlighting.

By simply drawing attention to word choice through these activities, students learn how to be mindful of the quality of their writing. Who knew highlighters could reinforce writing skills so powerfully?

*Writing with Design strongly recommends not using words like “best” to describe word choice, because “best” is too vague. Strong writers strive for sophistication, descriptiveness, vividness, and preciseness of language, so use those as the search parameters for evaluating word choice in writing.

6 Ways Writing With Design Helps You ACE the Common Core Writing Standards

6 Ways Writing With Design Helps You ACE the Common Core Writing Standards

Writing with Design:

1. Aligns 100% to Common Core Standards
As Writing with Design is implemented, you can rest assured your students are mastering every writing skill. From the writing prompts to the rubrics to the skill focus activities, every aspect of Writing with Design focuses on the Core.

2. Makes Writing Accessible for Every Student
Whether students are 5 or 15, our approach lets you meet every student where they are and grow their writing skills to impressive levels. Within a year of implementation, students will be ready to articulate well their thoughts in writing on any next generation assessment.

3. Incorporates Relevant and Meaningful Writing Across the Curriculum
Since Common Core believes that every teacher is a literacy teacher, Writing with Design provides opportunities for high quality writing in every class. With lengths of writing activities spanning one sentence to essay-length, we make it practical to incorporate meaningful and doable writing into every class anytime.

4. Creates a School Culture Focused on High Quality Writing
Our approach teaches students the structures and strategies of strong writers. Since we focus on quality, students quickly learn what it takes to write with sophistication and voice. With the same rubrics used to assess writing in every class, expectations remain high every time students write.

5. Provides Relevant and Real Time Feedback from Writing Analysts
We let you know how students are performing three times per year through formal writing feedback from skilled writing analysts. Plus you will have access to students’ scores on writing assessments and assignments on our web-based software, allowing you see real progress in real time.

6. Gives You Everything You Need to Confidently Teach Writing
A comprehensive manual + a constantly growing online bank of resources = everything you need to effectively teach and incorporate writing in your content area, from introducing a writing prompt to honing specific stylistic skills. No other program supports teachers with as many ready-to-use and purposeful writing activities as Writing with Design. Plus, ongoing support via follow-up workshops, webinars, and online chats provide you with the support to make teaching writing enjoyable and purposeful. We work with schools for several years to cultivate a strong writing culture that lasts and lasts.

Ok, 7 reasons why…

7. Cultivates a Love of Writing in Students
Be prepared to be amazed as students become eager, confident writers! Teachers often comment that students ask to write about activities throughout day because they have the skills to convey their thoughts and want to showcase what they can do.


And We’re Back!

6712852The late summer and fall of 2013 was a time of tremendous work behind the scenes of The Learning Project. With the start of 2014, we are eager to start sharing all that we have created, enhanced, and designed. We are so grateful for all the teachers and students we work with across this country, because it is their enthusiasm, their questions and requests, their success that keeps us constantly thinking about how to improve our products and services. So get ready, because in 2014, the best is yet to come!

Writing skills=incredible life opportunities

As a middle school student, I had no idea just how powerful and transformative writing would become
in my life. As I began to win essay contests, the momentum began to build. Writing 2162302empowered me, gave me confidence, and helped me find my voice. By the time I graduated from high school, I had amassed over $250,000 in scholarship funds. Most of the scholarships were essay contests and every single one required written responses at some point during the process.
Why is my life’s passion to cultivate students’ thinking and writing skills? Writing transforms lives and creates incredible opportunities. As Common Core emphasizes writing across every curriculum area, the need for meaningful writing activities has grown in importance. If you are a classroom teacher, contact me for specific essay opportunities you can tie into your curriculum.
Writing is skill that opens doors to incredible life opportunities. If you are a teacher, what writing opportunities are you offering your students? If you are a student, how are you cultivating your writing skills to bring more of life’s amazing opportunities to you?

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