In terms of literacy we refer to spelling as orthography, the study of the relationship between grapheme arrangements, sounds, and meaning.
Spelling often refers to the encoding of graphemes to the correct order while phonics refers more to the mapping of graphemes to sound. Yet many people spell by, “Sounding it out.” Ehri's (1992) integrative theory postulates that we developing spelling like phonics systematically through letter-sound knowledge and partial phonological cu es form the basis for visual word-recognition skills.
Ehri noted that children who do not know the English spelling system, “are left with rote memorization which takes longer and is more easily forgotten.”
Thus you can not differentiate from phonics and spelling beyond possibly the difference between decoding and encoding or mapping graphemes to sound and meaning rather than just sound.
Explicit instruction in spelling works. In a meta-analysis of 53 studies that comprised over 6,000 students Graham & Santagelo (2014) found that explicit instruction had a strong effect over and above studies that relied on informal/incidental approaches or control groups to improving spelling performance such as relying on writing instruction or doing “word work” during interactive read alouds.
Increasing the amount of formal spelling instruction also proved beneficial, This too had a strong effect on learners. More importantly gains in spelling were maintained over time and transferred over to correct spelling when writing. Very few instructional routines are this resistant to decay, losing gains from an intervention, or transfer, lessons showing up in other domains or subjects like explicit spelling instruction in incidental student writing.
In other words stop weighting mechanics so hard in writing rubrics and teach more explicit spelling if you want to see improvements in the spelling of student writing. Teach writing when assessing writing and assess spelling when teaching spelling. Put the red pen away when providing feedback on papers.
Explicit instruction in spelling also had effects on reading overall. Spelling had a strong effect on phonological awareness. Mapping graphemes to sounds improves our ability to recognize and manipulate phonemes. In fact explicit spelling instruction had a moderate effect on reading skills overall. If you want to know a students level of phonics understanding, basically check their spelling.
Much of the research in teaching early-childhood and elementary spelling involves the analysis of invented spelling. Charles Read (1971) first mapped inventive spelling to students understanding of phonemes. Inventive spelling then became a diagnostic tool to measure a students understanding of word knowledge (Invernizzi, Abouzeid, & Gill, 1994).
Given the research around spelling and the diagnostic assessments that are reliable and feasible for teachers to administer more schools should place an emphasis on explicit spelling instruction through word study.
Learning to recognize spelling and its influence on meaning is developmental (Ehri, 1992). Students move from first mapping sounds to the alphabet, recognizing patterns in how those mapping works, and then understanding how grapheme to morpheme mapping influences spelling.
The stages refer more to the key capabilities a student can perform more than to a developmental milestone such as grade level or age.
Pre-K to Middle of 1st Grade
Emergent Spelling aligns with emergent reading practices in the Stages of Reading Development and the learners usually range in age from zero to five years old.
Often students make random markings or write letters from memory that have no bearing on sound. Students can write on paper, hold a utensil correctly, know the print carries meaning, can tell the difference between print and pictures, write inthe correct direction of their language, and draw letter like forms. The students may make some letter to sound correspondence.
Young spellers will still confuse drawing for scribbling or writing. They will need help in mapping specific letters to sound. Phonemes that sound and look alike such as /B/ and /P/ add difficulty.Students need explicit instruction in phoneme and grapheme correspondence and spacing of letters and words.
This spelling stage aligns with the beginning reading stage. Students usually ranging from Kindergarten to second grade begin the early phases and represent the beginning and ending sounds. The may spell “bed” as BD, B, or D. They know most letters of the alphabet and make clear letter sound correspondence. They will struggle with consonant blends and digraphs and may only use a letter name to express long vowel sounds.
In the middle phase of this stage learners start to map and include vowels in their spelling. They may still spend “bed” as “bad.” The articulation of the sound often influences the invented spelling. This is a key time to look for atypical hearing development. In the later phases of this stage students begin to understand regular short vowel patterns and may recognize common long vowel sounds.
This spelling stage usually last from grade oen to the middle of fourth grade. In this stage students master regular and irregular within word spelling patterns around vowels. They know consonant digraphs and blends, Regular short vowel patterns, and r controlled vowels. Students struggle with long vowel sound digraphs and dipthongs.
Toward the end of the stage students may start to use bounded morphemes such as -ed correctly but struggle with common Latin suffixes. Consonant doubling or knwoing to drop an e when adding a suffix will be problematic.
This stage aligns to the intermediate reading stage and is usually reached by students from third grade to eighth grade. Many adults will never advance passed this stage.
Students during the early phase of this stage handle consonant blends and digraphs. They also spell most short and long vowel patterns correctly and can properly use -ed and other inflections. Consonant doubling still is strick as are consonant-le words.
In the middle phase of this stage students understand how to attach suffiixes but may struglle with dropped vowels and hidden sounds such as in the word hockey.They will also make mistakes at the juncture of syllables in multi-syllabic words. As they progress into the late stage they will use more suffixes and prefixes.
This stage begins around fourth grade and last through adulthood. Word study now builds both spelling and vocabulary as the way words get spelled influence meaning. At this stage we expand vcabulary by focusing on the spelling of Latin and Greek roots, suffixes, and prefixes. These roots make up much of academic language.
In the early phases of this stage spellers get most words correct. Schwa or unaccented spellings may provide some trickiness. Students will miss silent consonants and will make common mistakes suffixes and prefixes. As students progress they will learn how to handle unknown words they encounter.
Word study utilizes inventive spelling as a diagnostic tool. You look for common errors in spelling and then provide differentiated, active learning based activities to develop an understanding of spelling rules.
You begin by giving students a spelling inventory. This identifies their level and you utilize this data to inform your instruction. You then organiuze groups of students by their spelling levels.
Instructional routines around word study rely on Word Sorts. Instead of giving lists of words for students to memorize we have them categorize words for common patterns. So students may be given a list of words containing long a vowel sounds spelled with “ai” like rain, and a spilt digraph like the “magic e” in race. The students make groups of words and then formulate a hypothesis about the spelling rule.
During the emergent spelling stage you may have students sort sounds. This could be by simply standing up when they hear the correct sound. You then rely on pictures and have students map by initial phoneme sound before working on grapheme to phoneme mapping. Students can the sort words by spelling patterns or even meaning in later stages. In the last two stages students will often sort words by meaning as they sort for spelling.