1. Emergent (Preliterate) (Age Range: 0-5 yrs.)

Early Emergent Stage (A) – In this stage the student(s) may produce large scribbles that are basically drawings.  These movements may consist of circular motions, and the child may tell a story as they draw.  During this stage there are no designs that look like letters, and the writing is undecipherable from their drawing.

Middle of Emergent Stage (B) – In this stage children begin to produce some letters.  Pretend writing is now seen, however, it is separate from the picture.  Although there is pretend writing, there is still no relationship between letters and sounds.  The child’s writing may occur, yet, it could occur in any direction; typically it is linear.

End of Middle Emergent Stage (C) – The children begin to learn letters.  These letters are usually the letter of their names.  The children also begin to pay attention to the sounds in words.  Their writing starts to include the most prominent or salient sounds in a word.  They are able to make a few letter-sound matches.

End of Emergent Stage (D) – Students now are starting to memorize some words and write them repeatedly.  Typical words that children write over and over are Cat, Mom, love, and Dad.

Source (Words Their Way)

2. Letter Name-Alphabetic (Letter Name) (Age Range: 5-8 yrs.)

In this stage students use the names of the letters as cues to the sound they want to represent.  For example, Ellie’s used the letter y to represent the /w/ sound at the beginning of the word when, because the first sound in the pronounced letter name is Y (wie) matches the first sound in the word when.  The letter name for N includes the “en” sound to finish off the word when.  Lastly, Ellie used R and U to represent the entire words are and you.  Charles Read created the term Letter Name Spelling based upon using letter names to represent speech sounds.

Early Letter Name-Alphabetic Spelling – Students in this stage apply the alphabetic principle primarily to consonants.  They often spell the first sound and then the last sound of single-syllable words.  Typically the middle letters (vowels) are omitted.  Usually the first sound of a two-letter consonant blend is represented, as in FT for float.  In addition, in this stage the child often lacks spacing between words.  This type of writing is known as semiphonetic because only some of the phonemes are represented.  Lastly, many students use the alphabetic principle, they find matches between letters and spoken word by how the sound is made or articulated in the mouth.  For example, students may confuse the /b/ sound and /p/ sound because they are made with the lips in the same way except for one feature: In making the /b/, the vocal chords vibrate to produce a voiced sound.

Source (Words Their Way)

Middle to Late Letter Name-Alphabetic Spelling – Students in this stage show mastery of most beginning and ending consonants, and can master spelling high-frequent words correctly, such as will, love, have, and you.  Although they can master those words they still make spelling errors.  In addition, students in this stage know to use vowels, yet, they use them incorrectly.  Long vowels, which “say their name,” appear in tim for time and hop for hope, but silent letters are not represented.  Short vowels are used but confused, as in miss spelled as mes and much as mich.

Source (Words Their Way)

Middle Letter Name-Alphabetic Stage – students are learning to segment both sounds in a consonant blend and begin to represent the blends correctly, as in GRAT for great.  Students spelling in this stage is known as phonetic because middle letter name-alphabetic spellers can segment and present most of the sound sequences heard within single-syllable words.

Late  Letter Name-Alphabetic StageChildren are now able to consistently represent most regular short-vowel sounds, digraphs, and consonant blends because they have full phonemic segmentation.

3. Within Word Pattern (Within Word) (Age Range: 7-10 yrs.)

This stage begins when students can correctly spell most single-syllable, short-vowel words correctly as well as consonant blends, digraphs, and preconsonantal nasals.  In this stage children begin to include patterns or chunks of letter sequences.  In addition, spellers in this stage are able to think about words in more than one dimension.  People in this stage are known as transitional spellers because they are transition from the alphabetic layer to the meaning layer of English orthography through patterns.  In this stage students learn the common long-vowel patterns (long –o can be spelled with o-consonant-e as in joke, oa as in goal, and ow as in throw) and then less common patterns such as the VCC pattern in cold and most.  They also learn the ambiguous vowels.  Lastly, they learn about Homophones and how to interpret what word means what because they sound alike but are spelled differently, and mean different things.  Such homophones are: bear/bare   deer/dear   hire/higher.

Source (Words Their Way)

4. Syllables & Affixes (Syllable Juncture) (Age Range: 10-14 yrs.)

Early in this stage students confuse the convention for preserving vowel sounds when adding an inflected ending. Also in this stage, students are to know the affixes that change the meaning of the word.  They may misspell affixes, but they should know them: deslyal/disloyal, carefull/careful. Overall, students should be able to spell many words that are not just of one syllable.

Source (Words Their Way)

5. Derivational Relations (Derivational Constancies) (Age Range: 15+)

This stage is when students examine how words share common derivations and related base words and word roots.  They discover that the meaning and spelling of parts of words remain constant across different but derivationally related words.  In addition, word study in this stage builds on and expands knowledge of wide vocabulary in languages such as Greek, Latin, etc.  People in this stage often spell word correctly; however, the words they do misspell are due to the lack of knowledge about derivations. Often people spell favorite like FAVERITE or different like DIFFRENT. People who make these mistakes are making them in the final suffixes and are unable to see the similarities between different and differ; favorite and favor.

Source (Words Their Way)

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