Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Education and Human Development


This study investigated how first grade children learn to spell. It targeted first grade students in an urban elementary school in Western New York who are learning to spell. The researcher examined the influences that affect a student's ability to learn, the characteristics of spellers, and the strategies that teachers and students use to help them with spelling, whether teaching or learning. Data was collected through the analysis of writing samples, observation checklists, and early literacy assessments, interviews with students, questionnaires for to parents, and surveys given to first grade teachers.

Children learn to spell in stages and use common strategies to spell. Writing samples of each child were analyzed to determine the stage each child was at. At the end of the study there were only three stages visible in this classroom; those included the phonetic stage, the transitional stage and the conventional stage. The most common stage was phonetic and these children were either where they were supposed to be or they were supposed to be at the transitional stage. Many of the students at the phonetic stage used sounding out to help them with spelling during writer's workshop. The children at the transitional stage used many strategies to help them spell. However, all children used invented spelling to help them with spelling unknown words. Most teachers (75%) said that invented spelling is helpful because it enables children to write ideas without worrying about the correct spelling of words.

Overall, children learn to spell in stages and a strong knowledge of phonics contributes to being able to spell well. Also, invented spelling enables children to express their ideas.