Learning to spell is a part of becoming literate. It involves much more than memorizing words (Hodges, 1991). Children learn to spell by having real and meaningful experiences involving spelling, including many opportunities to notice recurring patterns in words. The more of these experiences they have, the better they are able to recognize and use spelling patterns to help them spell words (Templeton, 1979).

Research indicates that children learn to spell in a variety of ways - by having many rich reading experiences that provide them with models of how words are spelled (Zutell, 1979), by trying out spelling using invented spellings (Read, 1971, 1986), by writing and proofreading (Personke & Knight, 1967), by selecting words for their own self-study (Wilde, 1990), and by having lessons, when needed, to focus on particular words or on a particular convention or pattern of spelling that may be causing them difficulty in their writing (Wilde, 1990). At the core of all these activities are repeated opportunities to write (Wilde, 1990).

Invented/Temporary Spellings

As children learn to spell they go through a variety of stages (Henderson & Templeton, 1986). In order to move through these stages and learn to use conventional spellings, children must be allowed and encouraged to try out spellings and make errors (Read, 1971, 1986). It is through these approximations or trials (invented spellings) that children grow into conventional spellings. Invented spellings have come to be called temporary spellings (Cooper, 1993).

Clarke (1988) conducted research with first-grade children who were encouraged to use invented/temporary spellings. Results indicated that these children scored better on tests of spelling and word recognition than did those children who were not encouraged to use invented/temporary spellings.

Writing and Proofreading

Writing and proofreading are also important in helping children learn to spell (Personke & Knight, 1967; Wilde, 1990). Children become aware of various spelling patterns as they have real and purposeful opportunities to write and spell. From their writings children can select some words for self-study.
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