I had a big "Ah-ha" moment when I attended the Emergent Balanced Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities a few weeks back. It had to do with letting the student develop spelling and writing skills. For some students who have significant fine motor issues, I would either have them trace what they wanted to write or I would write it on a whiteboard and have them copy it onto paper or use a computer or label maker. Well no wonder why they never learned to spell! They never had to do it themselves!

Developmental spelling allows us to know what students are hearing in a word and it is easy to to test. You can simply google, "Gentry's Developmental Spelling" and you will be given a website with the PDF of the "Monster Test". This is a ten word spelling test and after the students are finished, you will then analyze their spelling and categorize which stage they are at spelling. The five stages are: pre communicative, semi-phonetic, phonetic, transitional, and conventional.

Pre-Communicative would be:  nmnewrwpapdpdmcmclmf

  • scibble, numbers, letter-like strings, letters used but no awareness of sound-symbol relationships

Semi-phonemic would be: u r mi fnd?

  • attempting to represent sounds, uses 1-2 letter/sounds in a word

Phonetic would be: I like cak

  • learning letter/sound correspondences

For those students who can not hold a pencil/fine motor difficulties you will need to find alternatives to a pencil. This could be a card with letters for them to point, say or eye gaze to. Or it could be an iPad with the letters displayed for them to move. 

So remember, all children have the power to read and write, we just need to set up our expectations and adapt time, teaching, and technology for all our students to learn! 

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