Archive for December, 2014

Thinking About Invented Spelling

Posted on: December 16th, 2014 by lschwartz No Comments

“The fastest way to teach a child to read is to teach them to write.”

-Mem Fox

This term, I led a three part series on reading called “Explicit Teaching, Joyful Reading.”  In the final session we talked about the reading/writing connection and the importance of using writing time as a way to further develop reading skills.  When we ask children to write a story, reflect on an event or share a memory, we give students a purpose for their writing.  Purposeful writing leads to written work being read over and over again.  But not only does the product inspire students to read more and develop important reading skills, the process of creating the written piece also benefits students reading, writing and problem solving skills.
At the reading session last week, we talked a lot about invented spelling.  Research tells us that students who are encouraged to use invented spelling use a greater variety of words in their writing (Gunderson & Shapiro 1987 and Stice & Bertrand 1990).  As well, young children who are encouraged to use invented spelling to communicate ideas, develop better word recognition and phonics skills sooner than those who do not use invented spelling (Stice & Bertrand 1990).
Research aside, here are some other great reasons to encourage students to use invented spelling in their daily writing:
  • Invented spelling encourages students to become familiar letters and sounds and make connections between letters and sounds.
  • Children who use invented spelling take ownership over their own work and become independent writers because they ask for less help spelling unknown words.
  • Children are able to write more interesting stories, use more powerful words and express their thoughts when using invented spelling.
  • Children are able to write more words than they know how to read and this supports their efforts to express all their thoughts and ideas, not just the simple ones that they can spell.
  • Invented spellings gives children plenty of practice time using phonics and  letter sound patterns, when they represent the sounds that they hear.
"Boot camp equipment"

“Boot camp equipment”

This is a picture my daughter made while she waited for me at my Boot Camp class.

In reading and writing, just like the other subjects in school, we want our students to be independent thinkers who have the tools to solve problems.  Invented spelling is one way to encourage these habits of mind.


Teacher Research: Thinking About Story Workshop Part 1

Posted on: December 12th, 2014 by lschwartz No Comments

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.~ ~Lloyd Alexander

This year, I have continued my work with Louesa Byrne at Thompson Elementary and Story Workshop.  Our project evolved from a visit to Opal School in Portland, Oregon, June 2013. The Opal School is a K-5 school guided by the principles of the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia. During our visit to Opal School we witnessed Story Workshop and wondered what story workshop would look like in our context.

Questions guiding our inquiry:

  • What is the role story workshop in supporting literacy development?
  • How can we integrate essential skills of reading and writing into story workshop?
  • What will be the affect on students’ knowledge of story and vocabulary development through regular participation in story workshop?

Story workshop operates under the belief that everyone has a story to tell and that stories can be communicated in many different ways.  Students build their language and literacy development by building and representing stories with a variety of objects.

In the workshop, children are given provocations in the form of materials such as blocks, paint, sand, play-dough and loose parts.  The children build, play and make the story come alive in their actions and words. As teachers, we document their stories to make their learning visible and give space for the students to be authors and communicate their many stories. We capture these stories through photographs, audio recordings and recording their stories.

During this first months of school, our focus has been on establishing some routines within story workshop, the creation stories using different materials and the ability to tell a story orally.  We record the children’s stories using photos and the program Pages.

Our big ideas for the students:

  • Everyone has a story to tell
  • Authors find ideas for stories in different places
  • Stories emerge from different materials

Some of the provocations that we have used to inspire stories:

play dough and loose parts

play dough and loose parts

Natural materials and loose parts with grass mats

Natural materials and loose parts with grass mats

gems, natural materials and ocean finger puppets

gems, natural materials and ocean finger puppets

We value the time story workshop gives students to work with materials, develop stories and share ideas.  We value the time story workshop gives us to get to know the students, make connections and watch them develop as story tellers.