Spelling Trauma: An Anecdote of Frustration

Reading in the Borderlands

This summer, students in READ 6313 Literacy Development and Language Study were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By M.R. Graham

Young writers go through a period during which they want to use words they do not know how to spell. They cope by inventing a spelling, just like very small children invent or mispronounce words. The standard teacher response to these attempts seems to be not praise for an expanding vocabulary, but criticism for nonstandard spelling. This is a problem.

Let me take you back a decade and a half to a fifth-grade classroom in a sizeable public elementary school somewhere in the bowels of Houston, Texas. The pudgy, bookish child at the end of the middle row is looking over the comments on her most recent Writer’s Notebook entry. She loves this activity. She writes reflections, poetry, and short stories. She writes lists and notes to…

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