Yesterday Mr. T was illustrating some of his “galaxies”. These are the newest creatures to pop forth from his imagination, based somewhat on facts he knows about real planets and galaxies, and somewhat on the fascinating flotsam that collects in his brain. I asked if he wanted me to write down the galaxies’ names for him.
“Nah, I think I’ll write it myself.”
“That’s a great idea,” I said, and tried to bite my lips shut so I wouldn’t say more and undermine the whole endeavor.
It’s so fantastic when kids are willing to write words their own way, based on the sounds they hear and the letter combinations they remember. Back in my teacher days we called it invented spelling. It’s exciting because it frees kids up to write without the help of an adult–and helps them focus on words and learn conventional spelling more organically.
Kids typically focus on consonant sounds first, and then start working with those baffling vowels. In the picture above you can see his Sombrero Galaxy, which he spelled The Sambro. (And it’s an actual galaxy name–did you know?) I was sitting beside him, and sometimes I helped him say the words slowly, so he could focus on the sounds. But mostly I tried to stay out of it.
Some kids don’t like using invented spelling. H hated it for a long time. He wanted his words to be right. And actually, thinking back, it makes sense. He’s always been a very visual learner. It probably bothered him to look at a word, and recognize that it was wrong.
I’ve also learned, through many years of eating my words, that it’s best not to push invented spelling. You know the theorem: the more you push, the less they want to do something. So I’ll keep biting my lips and only occasionally suggest that Mr. T write on his own. Maybe he’ll do it without any encouragement. But I’ll still take plenty of dictation. I made the mistake with my poor firstborn to assume that once he was proficient with writing, I was off the hook and he could do it on his own. The trouble with that notion is the writing becomes shorter and more limited because the mechanics of writing can be such a chore. Instead, if you’re occasionally willing to take dictation– years after they’re able to write on their own–kids will have the experience of writing the more developed, sophisticated work that their brains and imaginations are capable of.
But for now I’m just enjoying what Mr. T is doing. See that dark, scary creature at the bottom of the page? He’s Karpt, pronounced Corrupt.
I’m not sure which tickles me more–the name, or the spelling.