I am a horrible speller. Fortunately, there is a little red line that keeps me from making a fool of myself every time I write. For years I've been telling people that I couldn't spell because in kindergarten I was taught creative spelling. At some point in time, I remember being told that when my parents tried to correct my spelling, my teacher discouraged it because it might inhibit my creativity. For the longest time I thought the idea of creative spelling was ludicrous and an obscure teaching method that no one had heard of. Turns out I was wrong.....about all of it.
".....children in the primary grades are encouraged to write before they can spell correctly. "Invented spelling,".....is based, first of all, on the discovery that children go through fairly predictable stages in the way they write words. Their early attempts at spelling (like their early attempts at speaking) aren't random or sloppy but reasonable approximations that suggest a certain level of skill development. In fact, some people in the field prefer the term "developmental spelling" - if only to emphasize that children in such classrooms aren't being taught to spell incorrectly and that accurate spelling will eventually be expected.... kids are inclined to write more, to take risks, when they don't have to worry quite yet about spelling word perfectly- which, at that age, is unrealistic in any case.....Teachers who allow invented spelling aren't saying that it's always going to be OK to spell words however you feel; they're saying that in the early grades, the cost of demanding perfection are too high" (Kohn, Alfie. The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving beyond Traditional Classrooms and "tougher Standards" Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. 167-68. Print).
I can't speak on the accuracy of my memory, but I can say that finding this passage brought an entirely new perspective on why I can't spell. I don't think I ever understood that by allowing me to just write, my teacher was allowing me to be creative in that moment. She was allowing me to have a voice and express myself through words. She didn't want me to become wrapped up in the mechanics, but to just experience the world of words. I am not responsible for teaching spelling (Thank God!), so I can't speak on behalf of educators. I can say that I understand this viewpoint. Kids get told all day long how to do things, the right way to do things, and I believe that it is much better to encourage writing in any form rather than to stress the "right" way to write. The kids I teach are afraid of making mistakes, they are so eager to please, and they get frustrated when they don't succeed. Yes, I want kids to learn how to spell, but at what age does it become important to stress that as the priority? I can also say that I never learned how to spell not because no one tried to teach me. I remember endless spelling test and quite frankly I remember test after test of words I will probably never ever use. I never learned to spell because I never cared about spelling. I never saw the value in learning how to spell words correctly. The words I did learn to spell correctly were forgotten as soon as the test was over. I remember asking my parents, friends, the dictionary, and now the internet how to spell, and figured that there would always be someone nearby who could spell it out for me. I still do that, I hollar at my husband, how do you spell.......? So I guess at the end of the day, I should be questioning why do I still have no desire to learn how to spell?