Thursday, September 10, 2009

“Kid Writing” Encourages Kids to Learn to Write and be Creative: It’s Not about Perfect Spelling

I listened to Eileen Feldgus, Ed.D. talk about her unique method of teaching young children how to write. Feldgus recognizes that even at four years old, children can imagine creative informational stories and write them down. She stresses the joy in writing and encourages broad topics, including earthquakes and dinosaurs. Heady stuff for a preschooler!

Her teaching process has kids writing with just a letter or two at first per word. For example, ‘colors’ may be written as ‘klrz’ initially by a young child, because that is how the child sounds out that word. Feldgus’s focus is on the phonetic sounds, not the actual spelling.

It was fascinating to me as a teacher and writer to discover a way to encourage young kids to write. What’s so important in her process is that while spelling doesn’t matter initially, her process leads the students toward proper spelling down the road.

Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that concept is very difficult for some parents to grasp. In my school we have artwork hanging in the hall that the children have created on their own, mistakes and all. Too often, a parent is embarrassed by her child’s mistakes, and in some cases, she insists that either the teacher or her child correct them.

The national expectation is that children should leave Kindergarten reading and writing. Kids certainly can accomplish this goal, but learning correct spelling takes more time. The danger in focusing on your child’s spelling errors is that his focus will shift from creativity in his topics to a narrow approach about something he knows how to spell. It’s easier to spell “I love Mom” than “earthquakes make loud booms.” It’s more about the substance of the writing than whether or not the words are spelled correctly.

Feldgus compared learning to write to a baby wanting a bottle. When your baby cries, you ask him if he wants his bottle. You model the word bottle for him, and that’s how he learns. Of course, you would never say, “Get the word right by Thursday if you want me to give you your bottle.” The same goes for learning how to write. Once we encourage the child’s creativity, we can help teach him how to properly spell the words. But that’s a time consuming process and we don’t want to discourage that creative thinking along the way.

If you do want to help your child learn his letters, start with lower case letters. Most of his writing will involve lower case letters, and the upper case ones will come in time. And remember, use praise, and be sure to totally accept and encourage your child’s creative writing. Don’t concentrate on misspelled words and don’t compare your child’s work to his peers. Give him the unconditional support to express himself in his way. The spelling will come.

For more information on Kid Writing, visit

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