Some writers are open to sound-stretching and writing out a word using their best spelling. But then there are your perfectionists–those who only want to write words correctly. This is an admirable quality, but it can also stifle a young writer. If they limit their writing to only words they can spell, then their writers’ vocabulary will be skimpy.
Trying to meet the needs of her perfectionists and still push for bigger/better word choice, Alice Spingola (Evergreen Park School District 124 in Evergreen Park, IL) shared this idea. First she encourages her perfectionists to write weak words spelled correctly, with the notion that they will go back and replace them after they finish their thought. (Students need a chance to get their ideas down before they forget what they were going to say.) But the trick is to have them write their “weak” or simpler words lightly in pencil so that erasing isn’t difficult. For example, one student wrote: My teddy bear is a brown color.
Then during a follow-up writer conference, Alice helped the student apply his phonics’ skills to replace the weak word with the stronger one he didn’t know how to spell. (NOTE: The child knew “brown” was a weak word, thus he wrote it lightly. He really wanted the word “chocolate” but needed some support to spell it out.) This particular student revised the sentence to read: My teddy bear reminds me of a chocolate Hershey’s kiss.
The end result was a strong sentence, but to achieve it the student didn’t wait for the teacher to help him. He was able to proceed in his writing with a first-draft strategy that accommodated his perfectionist personality.
Article originally posted December 13, 2010 and updated in March 2019.