This was the longest week of the year in my book. That's how parent teacher conferences always make me feel, regardless of how well they go. In spite of the long days and nights, one of my favorite parts of meeting with a parent is showing them the writing progression of their little person. I start with the very first piece they wrote during the first week of school before I had even begun to teach mini-lessons. Then I share the piece they chose to publish at the close of our first unit, followed by the published piece of the following one. There are varied points I enjoy making about the growth I see, both on a story level and surface level. Readability is a common surface level topic of our conversation. The way the child's spelling has evolved is typically blatantly obvious. In fact, a few parents marvel at my ability to even decipher the early pieces. It's a special talent especially bestowed upon first grade teachers.
Invented spelling gives each writer accessibility to the gift of authorship. Without it, their growth is considerably stunted. This is why I don't believe in handing out word books or personal dictionaries until spring. My writers don't even know such things exist. They have the Word Wall as a resource and personal copy of it for their writing folders, and that's plenty enough. They need to build the right risk-taking muscles and phonemic skills that will propel them towards more accurate spellings and allow them the freedom to write whatever comes to mind.
I believe too many spelling resources provide a crutch for our youngest writers and can considerably limit their word choice and content. They affect the growth, that this week, parents and I couldn't help but notice and celebrate in only three months time. I, for one, am thankful for invented spellings, even the ones that make me work a little extra hard at deciphering.