family · siblings · slice of life · writing

Don’t Make Fun of Invented Spelling!

I awoke with a migraine. Once I walked into the kitchen, I grabbed the bottle of Excedrin Migraine and downed two pills.

Both kids were speaking loudly, so I was not amused. Through the chatter I was trying to ignore, I heard that Ari had an envelope ready to be mailed to my mother-in-law.

“I hope it’s not a sticky note letter,” I said. “You know Grandma doesn’t like it when you only send a sticky note in the mail.”

“It is,” Ari replied.

“C’mon!” I replied through the pulsing in my head. I looked at Marc, “You know your mom doesn’t like it when he sends sticky notes. She wants a letter or a picture too. And I agree with her.”

Marc shrugged. (He’s on-call at the hospital this week, so I decided to go easy on him since he was probably thinking about a complicated patient rather than Ari’s too-short note to his mom.)

“Ari, you need to send Grandma a letter on a larger piece of paper or enclose a picture too.”

Ari acquiesced and handed the envelope over to Marc.

“I’m going to open the envelope so you can use it again since it already has a stamp on it,” Marc said.

He stamped that?! Keep your cool, Stacey. Keep your cool.

Once the envelope was opened, Ari removed the sticky note. I read it and was aghast.

“You wrote a sticky note to Grandma asking her to buy you something?!”

Ari nodded.

“Do you think that’s appropriate? Or do you think you should ask her how she’s doing, tell her about what’s happening in your life?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Go and get a larger piece of paper and try again.”

Ari returned with the small rectangle of white paper you see in the photo above. (I realized I had a slice-of-life story on my hands when this happened, so I snapped the picture at this point.)

“Listen, Ari. You have paper in your desk that you could use. You can draw a picture and write something to Grandma on it. If you do that, I’m happy to send it to Grandma. She’ll love to read your writing and see your picture. But I don’t think she will love getting a sticky note demanding a crane truck.”

“Okay,” he said.

Ari went into the playroom, not to his desk. Maybe I don’t have a slice-of-life story on my hands. I don’t think he’s going to write more.

A few minutes later, as I took my oatmeal off the stove, I called Ari, “Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

“No!” he called back.

“You need to tell me what you want,” I replied.


“If you don’t tell me, you’ll have to make it yourself.” (This isn’t a threat. He likes making breakfast.)

“That’s fine!”

My migraine was dissipating while I ate my oatmeal. When I was nearing the end of my solo breakfast, Isabelle walked into the kitchen. She must’ve heard the commotion over the sticky note to Grandma since she walked over to the counter to check it out.

“Oh, Ari!” she said. “You wrote now instead of new.”

“Isabelle, don’t–” I warned.

“But he spelled it wrong,” she replied.

“You knew what he meant, right?”

She nodded.

“He misspelled Grandma too. He’s using what he knows to create the spelling for words. That’s called invented spelling. It’s a thing.”

“But it’s wrong,” she replied.

“Do you always spell correctly?”

“No,” she said.

“You invent spellings too. That’s FINE.”

“But it says now, not new.”

“That’s it. Come here and let me teach you about invented spelling.”

I pulled up an article about invented spelling that I wrote for We Are Teachers when Isabelle was in Kindergarten. It contains a piece of writing she did at home in Kindergarten. It’s loaded with invented spelling. I showed her the images. When I finished reading the “Invented spelling is an analytical process” section, Isabelle realized she was wrong.

Ari came into the room while I was reading the article. Therefore, Isabelle turned to him and said in a sing-song voice, “I’m sorry baby. I didn’t know what invented spelling was.”

“Really, Iz? He’s six years old, not six months. He’s not a baby.”

Isabelle modulated her voice, so it returned to normal. “I’m sorry I made fun of your writing, Ari. I did the same thing too when I was your age.”

“That’s better,” I told her.

“Ari, do you understand you didn’t do anything wrong?” Other than trying to send Grandma a sticky note asking for a toy.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Good. Now, it’s time for me to do the dishes so we can get out of here.”

Who knows if he’ll write Grandma a proper letter later today…

Orange Slice with Slice of Life and Two Writing Teachers URL
Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice-of-life stories.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Make Fun of Invented Spelling!

  1. There’s so much going on in this slice! I can’t believe that through a migraine, you managed to teach Isabelle what invented spelling is. And Ari’s note to grandma? He’s a cheeky little monkey, isn’t he? 🙈

  2. My son is always looking for shortcuts in his writing.It’s so cute that Ari wanted to send his grandma a request, but I agree – stamps are too expensive not to include some art along with a letter.

  3. I love how you modeled how to give kind and helpful feedback to your oldest. And I love that he mails post-it’s, even if you don’t!!! It’s like a snail mail text message!!!

    1. She loves getting mail from the kids. It’s disappointing to only open it up and find a sticky note. However, this sticky note was better than what they usually are. Often they’re just smiley faces.

  4. I just love that you read your daughter the article you wrote on invented spelling that featured her! I love the independence that phonetic spelling gives my students (first graders) and how much growth I witness as they continue to build knowledge over the course of the school year. As the grandma of 3 first graders, I would be thrilled to get a sticky note letter in the mail, even if it was demanding a crane truck! (At least once anyway!). Love your slice today!

  5. I am a big fan of invented spelling. It was instrumental in getting adult literacy students to start feeling comfortable writing! I hope Ari writes a longer letter to his grandmother! 🙂

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