Inventive spelling (also called invented spelling) is the practice of spelling unfamiliar words by making a guess as to the correct spelling based on the writer’s existing knowledge. An example of this would be spelling “is” as “iz” or “flowers” as “flawrs”. Some are touting this method as a way to foster creativity and are defending inventive spelling as part of a natural developmental process.

In a classroom where invented spelling is allowed, a teacher does not deduct points from a student’s grade or penalize for misspelled words. There are no spelling lists of words unrelated to memorize. Those employing this method say that advantages of invented spelling in the classroom may include confidence and control for the student in the learning process, creative expression and that it may allow a student to communicate in a written form long before they are actually able to spell correctly. Some experts are comparing this method to that of a child first learning to speak. A child is not usually criticized or corrected when attempting to say his or her first words.

However, experimental evidence shows that children learn to spell correctly and faster when taught to spell in a direct and systematic way. According to Dr. Patrick Groff (NRRF Board Member & Senior Advisor), “experimental research indicates that it [phonics instruction] leads to the greatest progress in students’ spelling skill that is possible. When direct and systematic instruction of phonics information is provided children, they ordinarily also are required to spell a word correctly immediately after using phonics information to recognize (decode) it.” He also points out that invented spelling puts a heavy demand on busy teachers’ time. A teacher must infer correctly what children are thinking when they invent spellings. Other potential concerns would be that this approach may reduce the incentive for children to learn to spell correctly and it could possibly lead to problems in communication down the road.

It is Reading Horizons’ position that spelling (or encoding) is a direct reflection of a student’s phonetic abilities and decoding skills. Reading Horizons teaches phonics in a simple, yet systematic and sequential way. For more information on spelling, check out this free webinar entitled: The Development of a Student’s Spelling Ability.