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Book Sections Year : 2024

Invented spelling for achieving literacy on one's own

Abstract

This text analyses a pedagogical dispositif promoted in France from the 1980s under the name of “écriture inventée” (literally “invented writing”, more commonly used in English under the name of “invented spelling”) for the school literacy of young children in the école maternelle (preschool and kindergarten): without any systematic prior teaching, young children are supposed to learn the alphabetic code from practicing and engaging in the reflective analysis of their spontaneous writings. This analysis reveals an elitist conception of the young child that is part of certain pedagogical norms of the French école maternelle. Assuming the existence of a young child who learns through his or her own reflexive resources, as the ideal child of the culturally dominant social classes, leads to valuing distal forms of socialization (in which the bodies of socializing agents and socialized children are distant) and regulations of activity that are not very explicit and produce vast differences. The chapter first offers a socio-history of the dispositif by tracing its genesis from the first discoveries of the “spontaneous” graphic productions of young children by English-speaking researchers in the 1960s and 1970s. It then shows the penetration of the paradigm of invented spelling, through the work of the psychologist Emilia Ferreiro promoted in the 1970s and 1980s, into the French educational field, and then its didactization and inclusion in the formal preschool and kindergarten curriculum from the 2000s. The real curriculum is then studied, based on the results of an ethnographic survey. First, the teachers’ speech analysis show that they strongly perceive the social value that the pedagogical supervisors attribute to invented spelling while they are confronted with strong difficulties in its effective implementation. Finally, the observation of a classroom session shows three children with unequal literacy resources and demonstrates in concrete terms how the dispositif is socially unequal.
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Dates and versions

hal-04296785 , version 1 (20-11-2023)

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Fabienne Montmasson-Michel. Invented spelling for achieving literacy on one's own: A persistent ideal of autonomy producing inequalities. Judith Hangartner; Héloïse Durler; Regula Fankhauser; Crispin Girinshuti. The Fabrication of the Autonomous Learner, 1, Routledge, pp.41-60, 2024, 9781003379676. ⟨10.4324/9781003379676-4⟩. ⟨hal-04296785⟩
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