Ayelet "Ellie" Lichtash

07 May 2020

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Is Spelling Important? If so, at what age?

Is Spelling Important? If so, at what age?

A parent shared with us a critical observation she made. She noticed that the teacher is having her child spell the words based on how they sound versus how they are actually spelled. 
Is that something we should be doing too? She asked.  Do you have any information on that style that we can read/learn from to help us teach him at home too?
Montessori teaches writing in a phonetic format. We think that understanding comes before memorization. It’s more important to help children understand letter sounds, rather than letter names, i.e.: to “hear” the letters, before “seeing” the letters.  
We teach writing as early as 3.5 to 5 years of age. At this stage of development, it’s most important that a child is gaining an understanding of the letter sounds. For example, we sound the letter “Buh” rather than “B”. This is how children actually hear the letters, and the words they comprise, as opposed to trying to remember the letter names and how they are spelled.
Your 4 or 5 years old understands the letter sounds  and now he will practice building words so that he writes faster and more easily with more and more practice.  Longer words are harder to sound out. Yet, longer words catch all the sounds and this is what we can practice at this stage of development.  We believe that to introduce the tedious difference in correctly spelled words now would be limiting and halting to his flow of writing.
The goal at ages 4 and 5 is to give the child the confidence to express his thoughts so that he writes a lot.  In Kindergarten, when the child writes sentences freely we go over kindergarten spelling (frequently used ) words that the child must learn how to spell.  Also as at Kindergarten level, children write sentences/stories, as we learn to correctly spell words that are misspelled. It should be noted that we do not mark them as wrongly spelled, we simply teach them the correct spelling on another day.
This is part of a Positive Learning. No bad marks. No grading. 

Slowly, our teacher will introduce the sounds  ee, oo ch and sh when they are at child’s  stage of writing lists, as they seem to be able to remember /incorporate them into words , like “pool” easily.   For words like “lion” the teacher will simply tell the child the spelling, since it is tricky or she can suggest to choose another word to write.

We highly recommend parents should encourage their child age 4 and 5 to write. Try to get all the phonetic sounds in the words for now, and correct spelling will come later in few years. 
We begin with writing in the Montessori classroom for 3 to 6 years old, rather than reading because writing is a more natural, simple process. It’s an extension of how we come to learn the world.   Spelling isn’t important at this early, formative stage (ages 3 – 6).   

Later in the Elementary level (ages 6 – 9), children learn to reinforce spelling through extensive reading.
The more a child reads, the more they will be exposed to spelling patterns. As a result, children are able to spell and self-correct. They learn to edit their work to identify words that don’t “look” right in context and begin to self-correct. In addition, children use a variety of strategies to determine the correct spelling of a word. Things like “have a go,” where the child will write a word that is misspelled, then write it again to see if it is correctly spelled and if not try again until they get it right. Another strategy children may use to spell longer words is to “chunk” the word into a single syllable piece. As they move to Upper Elementary, children are exposed to Latin roots, which help them understand the spellings of many English words.  

Keep in mind that even with more emphasis on spelling in Elementary, teachers will not correct students’ spelling while writing rough drafts of reports or stories. We allow the children to focus on developing their skills of self-expression. The expression of the idea and the flow of creativity is more important than the limiting, halting prospect of getting every word right. Corrections are made during the editing stage of the writing process – whether individually, with a peer, or with the assistance of a guide. As children begin to create more polished work to share with others, such as with letters to pen pals, they are more internally motivated to edit and correct their spelling.  

Lower Elementary students (6 – 9 years old) keep their own personal spelling dictionaries, in which they can write words they want to remember how to spell. It allows the children to help themselves! It also teaches the very basic and beginning steps of learning how to use a dictionary. But most importantly, the words the students put into their personal dictionaries have meaning to them.

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