Download Developmental Spelling Stages Characteristics of Each Stage

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Spelling Stages
Preliterate or
Letter Name –
Within Word
Characteristics of Each Stage
Attempts toward writing
Marks include strings of scribbles, drawings, & letter-like symbols
Marks may be written in any direction or space across the page
Typical of 3-5 year-olds
Beginning to read & use inventive spelling
Rely on names of letters; Prominent sounds represented, along
with beginning & ending consonants and some vowels.
Many sight words memorized
Typical of 5-7 years of age
Inventive spellings, but short & long vowels honored
Blends frequently represented
Most sight words spelled correctly
Approximations represent what “looks right”
Understandings develop in regards to: vowel-consonant-e patterns,
r-controlled patterns, long & abstract vowels, & more complex
consonant patterns
An awareness of homophones & exploration with meaning
Typical of 7-9 years of age
Frequent errors in spelling unstressed vowels (the schwa) in
multisyllabic words & also in consonant doubling
Doubling and e-drop with inflectional endings (-s, -es, -ed, -ing)
Long vowel patterns (ladle, complain) and r-controlled vowels
(dreary, inspire) in the stressed syllable
Consonant assimilation (in + relevant = irrelevant)
Prefixes & suffixes (known as affixes)
Typical of 9-11 years of age
Relationships between spelling & meaning (morphology)
Morphemes are preserved even when pronunciations change
(condemn-condemnation; discuss-discussion)
Silent and sounded consonants (haste, hasten)
Consonant & vowel changes or alternations (express-expression;
Greek and Latin roots and affixes
Typical of 11 years of age through adulthood
Bear, D.R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2000). Words their way: Word study for phonics,
vocabulary, and spelling instruction (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Ganske, K. (2000). Word journeys: Assessment-guided phonics, spelling, and vocabulary instruction. New York, NY:
The Guilford Press.
Henderson, E.H. (1985). Teaching spelling. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Sheets, W. (2013). Developmental spelling stages (handout for 2014 National Reading Recovery & K-6 Classroom
Literacy Conference). Literacy Collaborative, The Ohio State University: Columbus, OH.