Spelling Mistakes: Should they spell too much worry in me? – Part 1
Posted on: February 17, 2017.

Author: Mrs. Radhika Mohan, Educational Consultant

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My teachers used to get alarmed when I told them, “Allow kids to make mistakes in spellings initially, especially when they are just in grades 1 and 2”.

Some bold ones used to ask, “But how, Ma’am? How can we allow them at the lower grades? Will they not become poor in spellings?”

A reasonable and genuine doubt, I agree.

But I have seen the advantages of making such allowances. Even obvious spelling mistakes, if left unmarked, at the lower grades, do a lot of good in language development at that stage.

But, should parents think that teachers are careless or don’t care enough about the child’s spelling prowess?

Absolutely not. Let us look at the issue from a child’s perspective. When kids first learn how to write they have to cope up with many different skills at once. After they master letters, they have to learn to build them up into words. Then the next step is stringing these words to form sensible complete sentences/ ideas. All this will demand a lot of the child’s mental energy. There is too much work the child has to grapple with. Thus expecting the child to spell every word perfectly will be a tall one. This would actually slow down the learning process.

Hence it is always best for teachers to adopt the Inventive Spelling method in the early grades and encourage her students to go ahead. This is also termed as Temporary Spelling. The child is allowed to make his/her best guess on the spelling of the word, rather than pondering and faltering over making the perfect spelling order in his/her writing process. This could seriously hamper the child’s overall writing development skills.

Of course, this practice is grounded in a good lot of research. A number of studies demonstrate that kids who are allowed to use Inventive Spelling learn to unite more quickly, more fluently and with a richer vocabulary than those who work under more rigid spelling expectations.

These researchers suggest that we should think about Inventive Spelling the way we once looked at the way our kids’ first attempts at speech development.

“When the child said “ba-ba”, did the parent say, “No, honey, it is pronounced ‘bottle’?” Parents treasure this developmental step their child took towards conventional speaking by lavishly praising the child and also offering the bottle. The child will not call the item a “ba-ba” for the rest of his/her life. Rather, when the child is developmentally ready, he/she will be able to say “bottle”.

Of course, as the child gets promoted to higher grades, spellings will be a must but the time for it must be awaited by teachers and parents, patiently. We must make resources congenial for an organic growth in one’s language development process. What is the need for hurrying the child? Writing should develop as a process broken into small steps, one at a time.

Students should be taught to

    (1) Gather and group their ideas (pre-writing)
    (2) Put down those ideas into sentences set in paragraphs (drafting) and
    (3) Reorganize contents in order to accomplish writer’s goals (revising).

Once the piece has been revised to get a proper shape it comes close to getting finished. Here comes the next step: editing here final corrections are made to spellings, punctuation, and usage.

…continued in the next part

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