The Stages of Spelling Development


I have learned a great deal of information from the reading courses I am taking at school which discuss how a child’s reading develops and all the factors that contribute to children becoming effective readers. I thought I would share a developmental skill we tend to not associate with reading although it is very important which is spelling.

The five developmental spelling levels are emergent spelling, letter name-alphabetic spelling, within word pattern spelling, syllables and affixes spelling, and derivational relations spelling.

1. At the emergent spelling level children’s spelling may consist only of a letter or letters children have learned which represent an initial or final sound. As children continue to develop phonological awareness, their spelling begins to reflect their emergent analysis of words. The grade level children associate this spelling level is kindergarten and 1st grade.

2. At the letter name-alphabetic spelling children begin to include vowels in their spelling which shows that the child understands the alphabetic principle. At this point, bear may be presented by BAR and hen may be spelled HAN. This stage usually occurs around first grade.

3. At the within word pattern setting children experience a growing knowledge about spelling patterns and basic sound-symbol spelling conventions. At this stage students begin to show sensitivity to patterns in words thus bake might be BAIK but not BAK. The grade level children achieve this spelling level is by the end of third grade or fourth grade.

4. At the syllables and affixes spelling children develop consistency in spelling word that end with -ing or -ed and are familiar with the use of -y or -le at the end of words, but they may not consistently apply them. Children achieve this spelling level between grades 3 and 8.

5. At the derivational relations spelling level a child may use the knowledge that words are derived from a common root to spell them conventionally such as fantasy and fantastic and fantasize. This stage continues through adulthood.

Knowing the children’s developmental spelling levels is important because it allows educators to know which students have successfully achieved a level and which need additional instruction. Students need to not only be effective readers but also potent writers because through writing they are able to convey messages and spelling is a fundamental component of writing. I hope you all found this information useful!


McKenna, M., & Stahl, K. (2008). Assessment for Reading Instruction (Second ed.). The Guilford Press.


Rebecca Macias

December 4, 2014

Texas A&M University ’16