It’s been two years since I’ve taught second grade, and I had forgotten what it’s like to read a second grade sentence. In adjusting from almost-in-fourth-graders to fresh-out-of-first-graders, I had to re-activate the very creative part of my brain that can decipher six-year-old spelling. Third graders definitely still make spelling mistakes, but they’re things like using the wrong kind of your/you’re or forgetting a silent k. To read some of the second graders’ writing, on the other hand, you have to completely suppress the part of your brain that knows how to spell.
Each word on the page triggers an exhaustive mental search of any known English word that might possibly resemble the collection of letters masquerading as the intended word. When encountering the letters g-r-o-m, my brain cycles through “grom,” “groom,” “grome,” “jom,” “jorm,” “drom,” and “drama” before realizing that Diamond was trying to write “drum.” You have to take in all of the letters, and then visualize all possible arrangements of those letters until you come up with something recognizable. If that does not work, say the letters aloud phonetically in your head, and then substitute all of the sounds with other letters. Completely ignore the silent “e”s that seconde graders think terminate almoste every worde, but remember that all of those extra “e”s hav ben takn out of othr words. Any of the “d”s could really be a backwards “b,” and really all of the vowels could be filling in for another vowel.
I worked my way through all of these techniques with no luck the other day when Thomas wrote the word, “randr,” before realizing that in his free time, Thomas really likes “R and R.”
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