Stages of Spelling Development (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 22, 2013

Stage 3: Within-Word Pattern Spelling

Students begin the within-word pattern stage when they can spell most one-syllable short-vowel words, and during this stage, they learn to spell long-vowel patterns and r-controlled vowels. They experiment with long-vowel patterns and learn that words such as come and bread are exceptions that don’t fit the vowel patterns. Students may confuse spelling patterns and spell meet as mete, and they reverse the order of letters, such as form for from and gril for girl. They also learn about complex consonant sounds, including -tch (match) and -dge (judge), and less frequent vowel patterns, such as oi/oy (boy), au (caught), aw (saw), ew (sew, few), ou (house), and ow (cow). Students also become aware of homophones and compare long-and short-vowel combinations (hope–hop) as they experiment with vowel patterns. Students at this stage are 7- to 9-year-olds, and they learn these spelling concepts:

  • Long-vowel spelling patterns
  • r-controlled vowels
  • More-complex consonant patterns
  • Diphthongs and other less common vowel patterns

Stage 4: Syllables and Affixes Spelling

Students focus on syllables in this stage and apply what they’ve learned about one-syllable words to longer, multisyllabic words. They learn about inflectional endings (-s, -es, -ed, and -ing) and rules about consonant doubling, changing the final y to i, or dropping the final e before adding an inflectional suffix. They also learn about homophones and compound words and are introduced to some of the more-common prefixes and suffixes. Spellers in this stage are generally 9- to 11-year-olds. Students learn these concepts during the syllables and affixes stage of spelling development:

  • Inflectional endings (-s, -es, -ed, -ing)
  • Rules for adding inflectional endings
  • Syllabication
  • Homophones

Stage 5: Derivational Relations Spelling

Students explore the relationship between spelling and meaning during the derivational relations stage, and they learn that words with related meanings are often related in spelling despite changes in vowel and consonant sounds (e.g., wise–wisdom, sign–signal, nation–national). The focus in this stage is on morphemes, and students learn about Greek and Latin root words and affixes. They also begin to examine etymologies and the role of history in shaping how words are spelled. They learn about eponyms (words from people’s names), such as maverick and sandwich. Spellers at this stage are 11- to 14-year-olds. Students learn these concepts at this stage of spelling development:

  • Consonant alternations (e.g., soft–soften, magic–magician)
  • Vowel alternations (e.g., please–pleasant, define–definition, explain–explanation)
  • Greek and Latin affixes and root words
  • Etymologies

Children’s spelling provides evidence of their growing understanding of English orthography. The words they spell correctly show which phonics concepts, spelling patterns, and other language features they’ve learned to apply, and the words they invent and misspell show what they’re still learning to use and those features of spelling that they haven’t noticed or learned about. Invented spelling is sometimes criticized because it appears that students are learning bad habits by misspelling words, but researchers have confirmed that students grow more quickly in phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling when they use invented spelling as long as they are also receiving spelling instruction (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). As students learn more about spelling, their invented spellings become more sophisticated to reflect their new knowledge, even if the words are still spelled incorrectly, and increasingly students spell more and more words correctly as they move through the stages of spelling development.

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