A riddle that is yet to be solved is about how little kids learn to spell better. Psychologists once believed that little children use visual memory to learn the letters of a spelling like the beads of a necklace. Now, they have gone on to discover that the process is much more complex than that. A child learns to spell in a series of steps that follow in a chronological order. First of all the child should be made familiar with the spoken and written word structure. This is the basic step of learning to spell. Visual or “orthographic” memory is the most essential aspect of learning to spell. The ability of a child to spell is dependent on orthographic memory as well as the child’s ability to recognize speech sounds or phonemes.
As the complexity rises, the ability of the kids to spell starts depending upon more advanced levels like his knowledge of word structure, words’ meaningful parts, a word’s relationship to other words, and so on. It is a never ending cycle where in a child’s knowledge of new words depends upon his previous knowledge of words, as they say, “learning begets learning.” A teacher is absolutely delighted to see her pupils nurture. Once a kid starts recognizing letters and forms, he must be taught to read words as a whole. This could be done only with the help of printed books. Reading at this stage is “logographic,” meaning that a child guesses at whole words based on their visual features (Ehri, 1994).
It is essential for the kids to realize that letters represent the sound of speech. Providing partial phonetic cues to the children at this stage might prove to be beneficial for them. A child may start to use consonants, a few letters or abbreviated words to express himself. This is a good sign of development of the kid. With time and proper guidance kids keep on learning and gain more knowledge of words and speech sounds. They might start to identify letter forms and gradually they reach the conclusion that, “one letter spells one sound.” This development is evident in kindergarten kids or kids of first grade.
Children learn to spell by matching the “sound of the letter” to the sound they can hear in a word. They solely rely upon what they hear and how the word feels in their mouth. Children use phonetic spellings and letter names to represent long or short vowels and consonants. This method is widely known as “invented spelling” or “temporary spelling”. This stage occurs in five to six year old kids who are learning to spell. As children grow and develop, they start recognizing words better and learn to spell more accurately. Like they might start by spelling “kam” but they will gradually reach down to “came”.
To move beyond temporary spellings, practice is the key. Children must master letter combinations, spelling patterns, and ending rules. They must also master the phonic elements of consonants, vowels, consonant blends, and consonant digraphs — and much more. Only then, will they master the art of spelling.