Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Authentic Spelling Activity: Making a Gift Giving List


Christmas will be here before we know it!

I love Christmas time!  I especially love watching the joy of Christmas through my children's eyes.  In an effort to curb what can easily become "I want this..." and "Get me this..." time of year, I wanted to find a way for my older two kids to plan what they would make or buy for others.  In addition to fostering thoughtfulness, this activity will provide children with an opportunity to use writing in an authentic, purposeful way.  My second grade daughter and kindergarten son have spelling tests each week; however, this list gave them a chance to write for a purpose.

Print your own copy of the Christmas Gift List here.

I made two types of lists.  The first list I gave the kids had pictures of their three cousins in the boxes.  They were excited to get started.

I didn't have to give them much direction before they dove into the task.  Kinsley wrote what she wants to get each cousin in the large boxes.  Zaven first drew pictures of the items he wants to give each of them.  I told Zaven that we should write the words beside the pictures.  He asked me to spell it for him, but I would not.  Instead, I had him use invented spelling.  This type of spelling is sometimes referred to by teachers as "kindergarten spelling."

What is invented spelling?

Children experiment with words and letters by writing the sounds that they hear.  Invented spelling follows a developmental continuum. Eventually, the writer is able to spell conventionally. You can see the stages in this chart compiled by Community of Inclusion.

When children first begin to use invented spelling, they may be able to distinguish and write the first sound or consonant in a word. As they progress, children will typically be able to distinguish and record the final consonant sound. Medial sounds will come next.
If you look at Zaven's list, he is mostly using first and final consonant sounds with some medial sounds.

In case you need it deciphered:
Justus: gun
Reese: Barbie
Elena: purse, shoes, balloon
Tarek: balloon

Kinsley is using mostly conventional spelling.
Kinsley's List:
Justus: writing notebook and pens
Reese: ninja turtle, coloring books
Elena: purse
Santa: a new Santa hat

How do you promote invented spelling?

Ask the child what word they want to write. Tell them to listen for sounds that they know.
Say the word.
Repeat the word, exaggerating the articulation.
Say the word again, normally.
Have the child write the sounds.

Some additional prompts I give when a child gets stuck:
What sound do you hear at the beginning? Right! What letter makes the /b/ sound?
Do you hear any other sounds in the word?

How do you provide feedback to the child?

This definitely should not be a discouraging process. You do NOT want to provide the correct spelling for each word that your child writes. In fact, you shouldn't be "fixing" any of the words. 
Praise your child for the sounds that were heard. Even if they did not write any of the correct letters that are in the word, praise the child for making a wonderful "k."

Choose one or two of the words that you can provide feedback.  Then you will only want to move the child to the next level of sophistication.  You may call attention to the final sound or the medial sound.  You might provide information about how to make a blended sound. 

Zaven drew a balloon and wrote B.  This was our conversation:
Me: Yes! I hear a /b/ sound at the beginning of balloon, too.  You are right, the B makes the /b/ sound.
Zaven: Yes, I knew that.
Me: Can I show you another trick about the word balloon?
Zaven: Sure.
Me: It has an ending sound.  Listen for it...balloon.
Zaven: It's an N!
Me: Yep.  Do you remember how to make an N?  It is in your name.

Kinsley wrote "writeing notebook." This was a good opportunity to talk about dropping the e to add an -ing ending.

Kinsley also used the form without pictures to finish her Christmas planning. <<Spoiler alert!>>

What does the research say about invented spelling?

Invented spelling is important to later reading success!

Charles Read was one of the first researchers to bring invented spelling to the forefront in educational literature. He was able to show that as children experimented with putting words into print, they became more skilled at linking sounds to letters. 

Read, C. (1975). Children’s categorizations of speech sounds in English. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

This study separated 145 kindergarten children into three intervention groups: invented spelling, phonological awareness, and picture drawing.  The invented spelling group was told to write words as best as they could and then the teacher provided feedback. At the end of four weeks, the group of children in the invented spelling group were able to spell using more sophisticated approximations and read more words compared to the comparison groups.  This study showed that invented spelling helps with reading skills.

 Oulette, G. & Senechal, M. (2008).  Pathways to literacy: A study of invented spelling and its role in learning to read. Child Development, 79(4), 899-913.

 In a follow up study, 40 kindergarteners were separated into an invented spelling group and a phonological awareness group.  During the invented spelling group, children were asked to write words as best as they could.  The teacher then provided feedback by praising the child and showing another way to write the word with one additional correct letter.  In the phonological awareness group, children were asked to match pictures of the words to beginning letters.  They also segmented out the sounds using Elkonin boxes.  At the end of the 8 week period, both groups saw an increase in alphabetic knowledge and phonological awareness.  The invented spelling group saw more growth in the sophistication of their invented spelling and were able to read more words compared to the children in the comparison group.  Follow-up testing in the first grade showed that invented spelling had positive lasting effects on reading skills.  

Oulette, G., Senechal, M., & Haley, A.  (2013).  Guiding children’s invented spellings: A gateway into literacy learning. The Journal of Experimental Education, 81(2), 261-279.

See where I link up each week, here!

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