Authentic Spelling Activity: Making a Gift Giving List



Christmas will be here before we know it!

I love Christmas time!  I especially love watching the joy of Christmas through my children's eyes.  In an effort to curb what can easily become "I want this..." and "Get me this..." time of year, I wanted to find a way for my older two kids to plan what they would make or buy for others.  In addition to fostering thoughtfulness, this activity will provide children with an opportunity to use writing in an authentic, purposeful way.  My second grade daughter and kindergarten son have spelling tests each week; however, this list gave them a chance to write for a purpose.

Print your own copy of the Christmas Gift List: 

I made two types of lists.  The first list I gave the kids had pictures of their three cousins in the boxes.  They were excited to get started. 
I didn't have to give them much direction before they dove into the task.  Kinsley wrote what she wants to get each cousin in the large boxes. 

 Zaven first drew pictures of the items he wants to give each of them.  I told Zaven that we should write the words beside the pictures.  He asked me to spell it for him, but I would not.  Instead, I had him use invented spelling.  This type of spelling is sometimes referred to by teachers as "kindergarten spelling." 

What is invented spelling?

Children experiment with words and letters by writing the sounds that they hear.  Invented spelling follows a developmental continuum. Eventually, the writer is able to spell conventionally. You can see the stages in this chart compiled by Community of Inclusion.

When children first begin to use invented spelling, they may be able to distinguish and write the first sound or consonant in a word. As they progress, children will typically be able to distinguish and record the final consonant sound. Medial sounds (the ones in the middle) will come next.
If you look at Zaven's list, he is mostly using first and final consonant sounds with some medial sounds. 

In case you need it deciphered:
Zaven's List
Justus: gun
Reese: Barbie
Elena: purse, shoes, balloon
Tarek: balloon

Kinsley is using mostly conventional spelling.
Kinsley's List:
Justus: writing notebook and pens
Reese: ninja turtle, coloring books
Elena: purse
Santa: a new Santa hat

How do you promote invented spelling?

Ask the child what word they want to write. Tell them to listen for sounds that they know.
Say the word.
Repeat the word, exaggerating the articulation.
Say the word again, normally.
Have the child write the sounds.

Some additional prompts I give when a child gets stuck:
What sound do you hear at the beginning? Right! What letter makes the /b/ sound?
Do you hear any other sounds in the word?

How do you provide feedback to the child?

This definitely should not be a discouraging process. You do NOT want to provide the correct spelling for each word that your child writes. In fact, you shouldn't be "fixing" any of the words. 
Praise your child for the sounds that were heard. Even if they did not write any of the correct letters that are in the word, praise the child for making a wonderful "k."

Choose one or two of the words that you can provide feedback.  Then you will only want to move the child to the next level of sophistication.  You may call attention to the final sound or the medial sound.  You might provide information about how to make a blended sound.  

Zaven drew a balloon and wrote B.  This was our conversation:
Me: Yes! I hear a /b/ sound at the beginning of balloon, too.  You are right, the B makes the /b/ sound.
Zaven: Yes, I knew that.
Me: Can I show you another trick about the word balloon?
Zaven: Sure.
Me: It has an ending sound.  Listen for it...balloon.
Zaven: It's an N!
Me: Yep.  Do you remember how to make an N?  It is in your name.

Kinsley wrote "writeing notebook." This was a good opportunity to talk about dropping the e to add an -ing ending.

Kinsley also used the form without pictures to finish her Christmas planning. <<Spoiler alert!>>

Let me know if you use the list!

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