Implications for practice of current research on spelling.

By Dr Kerry Hempenstall, RMIT

Underlying principles from research:

Fluency in lower order processes is necessary for success in higher order processes (e.g., decoding for comprehension, spelling for writing, tables for problem solving).

Practice is the key to fluency. e.g., knitting, topspin backhand, reading, spelling, writing.

Using skill is fun; acquiring skill (learning) may not be fun!


Old belief: Naturally unfolding development.

Children learn spelling without direct instruction if they read and write (Goodman, 1989).

Old belief: If you don’t get it, you won’t get it!

“If your daughter struggles with spelling, she should simply make sure she marries a good speller” (Donald Graves, 1983).

Old belief: Is it really that important anyway, as long as communication takes place?

It’s important because spelling is a lower order skill that drives writing quality.

When spelling is effortful, writing quality becomes limited by the need to concentrate on intra-word structure rather than meaning. Similarly, dysfluent handwriting slows the creative process, and interferes with real time planning. Additionally, a lack of facility with grammar hinders sentence construction, and hence expressive writing. The quality of handwriting and spelling have been found to be the best predictors of the amount and quality of written composition

Current educational practice minimizes explicit instruction and practice of such skills (British Primary Framework for Literacy, 2006)

Can’t Spellcheck replace spelling knowledge?

Spell Checkers usually only catch between 30% to 80% of misspellings overall (Moats, 2005)

Prays the Lord for the spelling chequer

That came with our pea sea!

Mecca mistake and it puts you rite

Its so easy to ewes, you sea.

I never used to no was it e before eye?

(Four sometimes its eye before e.)

But now I've discovered the quay to success

It's as simple as won, too, free!

Sew watt if you lose a letter or two,

The whirled won't come two an end!

Can't you sea? It's as plane as the knows on yore face

S. Chequer's my very best friend

I've always had trubble with letters that double

"Is it one or to S's?" I'd wine

But now, as I've tolled you this chequer is grate

And its hi thyme you got won, like mine (Janet E. Byford)


Won’t students grow into good spelling?

No, the errors of older poor spellers are similar to those of younger normal children


Poor spelling can impede careers

  • 75% of employers are put off a job candidate by poor spelling or grammar
  • Poor English expression alienated 77% of the 515 companies surveyed (BBC News, 2006).

We don’t teach spelling adequately

  • Australian children don't spell English as well as do Mandarin-speaking children in Singapore
  • Nine times more students in Singapore (50% ESL) can spell less-common words or those with unusual spelling patterns (Educational Assessment Australia, UNSW, 2006)
  • We stopped structured teaching of spelling decades ago -the wallpaper method predominates (teacher writes many words on paper on classroom walls)
  • Between 1978 and 1993, the scores of South Australian 7.5 yr old students fell about 14% (Westwood & Bissaker, 2006)
  • Many teachers have not been taught to analyse errors in writing (Wheeldon, 2006).
  • Beginning primary teachers are not confident about teaching specific aspects of literacy such as spelling, grammar, and phonics (Louden et al., 2005)
  • On average, less than 10% of teacher training is devoted to literacy, and in some universities it is 5% (Louden et al., An investigation into the preparation of teachers to teach literacy and numeracy, 2005).

Fred came home from his first day at school. "Nothing exciting happened", he told his mother, "Except the teacher didn’t know how to spell cat so I told her"


What does the research say about invented spelling?

Invented spellings should never replace the organized instruction that should begin about the middle of first grade (Moats, 1994). The message to students should be clear from the beginning that accurate conventional spelling is the goal.


Complications in English spelling:

The 26 letters of the alphabet form 44 phonemes for which there are 251 different spellings.

1800 English homonyms (bank-bank), and numerous words with irregular spelling patterns

English: 1,120 ways to write the 44 sounds (mint/pint, cough/bough, clove/love)

Italian: only 33 ways to write the 25 sounds (Science, 2001)

In 15th century England – there was a range of English dialects (none official) so spelling only became conventional as writing became a major form of communication across England.

CHURCH was spelled in the north as: Kirk, Kyrk, Kyrke, Kirke, Kerk, Kirc, Kerke

CHURCH was spelled in the south as: Churche, Cherche, Chirche, Church, Chyrch, Charge, Schyrche

Some letter-groups are inconsistent:

ea has 6 different sounds - cream, head, early, bear, heart, steak

ough has 7 sounds - cough, bough, through, though, tough, thorough, thought

English words from other languages

The truth is that if borrowing foreign words could destroy a language, English would be:

  • dead (Old Norse),
  • deceased (French),
  • defunct (Latin),
  • kaput (German).

When it comes to borrowing from other languages, English

  • excels (Latin),
  • surpasses (French), and
  • eclipses (Greek) any other tongue past or present (Claiborne, 1983).

Ch is used to spell /ch/ in Anglo-Saxon words such as chair;

It is used to spell /k/ in Greek-derived words such as chorus; and

It spells /sh/ in French-derived words such as charade and Charlotte

However, it’s not as grim as it sounds

  • English has 200,000 commonly used words (Bryson, 1990)
  • A mere 100 words make up 60% of the words primary school children write.
  • 300 words account for 75% of the words children write (Croft, 1997).
  • English consonants are highly regular (initial 96%, final 91%)
  • Vowels are highly irregular (isolated 52%, vowels linked to consonants in rimes 77%) (Treiman, Mullenix, Bijejac-Babic, & Richmond-Welty, 1995).
  • About 60 percent of the words in English running text are of Latin or Greek origin (Henry, 1997).
  • Only 4% of English words are truly irregular(Kelssler and Treiman, 2001).

What does the research say about skills underlying good spelling?

  • A faulty assumption is that English spelling is too irregular for rules and patterns
  • Spelling acquisition was once thought best achieved through rote memorization (visual memory).

Child: I’ll never learn to spell.

Mother: Why not?

Child: The teacher keeps changing the words.

Now, a recognised strong association between early spelling ability, phonological awareness, and beginning reading leads to a different conclusion.


What does the research say about spelling and phonemic awareness?

  • Success in spelling requires accurate perception of speech before the link between speech sounds and letter patterns can be learned
  • It is distinctive from that involved in ordinary oral competence - for example, the duration of the vowel in bad is almost twice as long as in bat - this can confuse the phonemically insensitive

So, some poor spellers may have inaccurate perception of speech sounds

Spelling deficits are preceded by phonological deficits (Wimmer & Mayringer, 2002).

Phonemic analysis training will improve spelling for all spellers even without drill on conventional spellings

National Reading Panel Report (2000): Phonological training (explicitly and systematically teaching children to manipulate phonemes) builds spelling in normally achieving children – though alone it is not sufficient for disabled readers.

Explicitly and systematically means

  • teach children to manipulate phonemes using letters,
  • focus the instruction on segmenting & blending, rather than multiple activities
  • teach children in small groups.
  • Incorporate feedback, and massed and spaced practice

How do you spell wrong?

R – o – n - g.

That’s wrong.

That’s what you asked for, isn’t it?


Results of 2006 meta-analytic research review:

Spelling outcomes were consistently improved when interventions included:

  • explicit instruction, with
  • multiple practice opportunities, and
  • immediate corrective feedback after the word was misspelled (Wanzek et al., 2006).

So, the research says the relationship between spelling and phonemic awareness is reciprocal?

  • Learning to spell improves children’s conscious awareness of the phonemic structure of spoken words, and
  • learning to segment spoken words provides insights in how to use these phonemic elements in spelling(British Primary Framework for Literacy, 2006; Hecht & Close, 2002)

However, spelling is not a direct inverse of reading

If you can spell a word - you can usually read the word (Singh, Deitz, & Singh, 1992). But, the ability to read a word does not necessarily predict accurate spelling.

For example, seek is regular for reading but not for spelling. The individual sounds in the word have multiple spellings!

/s/ = s, c, sc,

/ee/ = ea, ee, ie, y

/k/ = k, c, q

Seeque, seeck, seak, seke, seack etc

To choose which is correct, you need to know how to spell seek!


Little Johnny wasn’t very good at spelling. During an oral spelling exam, the teacher wrote the word "new" on the blackboard. "Now," she asked Johnny, "what word would we have if we placed a "K" in the front?" After a moments reflection, Johnny said, "Canoe?"


Phonics instruction & spelling (National Reading Panel, 2000)

Systematic synthetic phonics instruction benefits students’ spelling from P-6 , and

  • especially for children having difficulty learning to read
  • Includes low socio-economic status and ESL children
  • Across all grade levels, systematic phonics instruction improved the ability of good readers to spell.
  • By age 8, the correlation between spelling and reading is about .9, a very close association (Westwood, 2005).
  • The impact of systematic synthetic phonics was strongest for preps and decreased in later grades. For poor readers, the impact of phonics instruction (alone) on spelling was small. Strugglers are very reliant on dedicated spelling instruction.

Westwood, P. (2005). Spelling: Approaches to teaching and assessment (2nd. ed.). Melbourne: ACER.

Explicit (or Synthetic) phonics:

  • All of the letter sounds are taught initially and the emphasis is on how words are built up
  • For most students, it can be taught in a few months.
  • It starts before children are introduced either to whole words in print, or to literature for reading
  • Books initially rely on decodable text - words use the sound-spelling correspondences taught to that point.

Implicit (or Analytic) phonics:

Taught after an initial sight vocabulary has been established, alongside reading-scheme or big book

  • s
  • Phonic cues only employed within story context, the whole word is emphasized, but children may have their attention drawn to certain letters and their sounds

Implicit phonics is shown to be ineffective for struggling readers –

  • insufficient intensity,
  • insufficiently systematic,
  • insufficient practice.

What else does the research say about spelling?

Phonological decoding skill (sounding out) has the largest influence on spelling ability

Pseudo-word reading is the best predictor of spelling in primary grade children e.g., monglustamer

Australian National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (2005)

Where there is unsystematic or no phonics instruction, literacy progress is significantly impeded, inhibiting initial and subsequent growth in reading accuracy, fluency, writing, spelling, and comprehension.

Beneficial effects are larger when phonics instruction begins early rather than after first grade.

The physical act of writing may enhance spelling

'Writing helps in many ways. First, the physical act of forming the letters forces the child to look closely at the features that make one letter different from another...Second, writing letters (left to right) trains the ability to read left to right. Third, saying each sound as the letter is written helps anchor the sound-to-letter connection in the memory' (p. 239 (McGuinness, 2004).


The Clackmannanshire study

300 children for 16 weeks for 20 minutes per day

(a) synthetic phonics program, or (b) analytic phonics program, or (c) analytic phonics plus PA training.

The synthetic phonics taught group were:

(a) reading words around 7 months ahead of the other two groups (7 months > CA)

(b) spelling around 8 to 9 months ahead of the other groups (7 months > CA)

By end of primary school

  • Gains made in reading increased from 7 months to 3.6 years ahead of chronological age.
  • Gains in spelling increased from 7 months to 1.9 years ahead of chronological age.
  • Synthetic phonics led to children from lower SES being at a similar level to those from advantaged backgrounds
  • Boys performed as well as girls (National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, 2005)

And the research says a spelling problem is not primarily a visual problem

Spelling difficulty is not a general "visual memory" problem

It is a specific problem with awareness of (and memory for) language structure, including the letters in words.


What does the research say about relying on spelling lists?

The adult writer spells 10,000 to 20,000 words.

Weekly spelling lists enable at most 3,800 words during the primary years.

Over emphasis on lists promotes strategy of rote visual memorisation – a system bound to collapse (Scott, 2000).

Scott, C.M. (2000). Principles and methods of spelling instruction: Applications for poor spellers. Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 66- 79.


So how does the brain develop skilled spelling?

  • If alertness to phonemes has begun 
  • and letters of the alphabet are learned
  • and you are able to blend sounds that those letters represent to build words,
  • then left brain’s parieto-temporal region will be used in encoding
  • see/spell the word often - builds a neural model of that word – creating synaptic connections.
  • clarify this neural model in the occipito-temporal region
  • After decoding/encoding the word correctly a number of times, the neural model is an exact replica of the printed word.
  • It reflects the way the word is pronounced, the way it's spelled, and what it means. All these features become bonded together.
  • Spelling and reading build and rely on the same mental representation of a word. Knowing the spelling of a word makes the representation of it sturdy and accessible for fluent reading (Snow et al., 2005)
  • That word is represented in the occipito-temporal region, and its recognition becomes instant & automatic - less than 150 milliseconds (less than a heartbeat)
  • You can’t go straight to the occipito-temporal region without building up the parieto-temporal region (Shaywitz, 2004)

 For dyslexic students, irregularity of axonal connectivity between temporo parietal and occipito-temporal regions may be causal in spelling difficulty (Steinbrink et al., 2008).


Important recent findings

Students who see the spellings of words actually learn the meanings of the words more easily - orthographic knowledge benefits vocabulary learning (Rosenthal & Ehri, 2008).

Implies that we should teach spelling at same time as vocabulary instruction (Ehri & Rosenthal, 2007).

Results indicate that orthographic knowledge benefited vocabulary learning and diminished dependence on phonological memory. Instructional implications are that teachers should include written words as part of vocabulary instruction and that students should pronounce spellings as well as determine meanings when they encounter new vocabulary words....Students who see the spellings of words actually learn the meanings of the words more easily. ...Orthographic knowledge benefited vocabulary learning and diminished dependence on phonological memory. ...Teachers should include written words as part of vocabulary instruction and that students should pronounce spellings as well as determine meanings when they encounter new vocabulary words.

Rosenthal, J., & Ehri, L.C. (2008). The mnemonic value of orthography for vocabulary learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(1), 175–191.

Traditional vocabulary instruction involves the sequence: Story – spoken word – meaning.

Research suggests: Story – spoken word – meaning – pronounce - spell. Promote the same strategy for silent reading


What does the research say about the spelling instruction sequence?

So, start with the words with 1:1 correspondence i.e., phonemic approach. Creates confidence

Enables spelling nearly half of the words they'll encounter in English.

Then, more complex sound-symbol correspondences from that 37% for which we learn rules and patterns.

The remaining 13% of words are sight words that must be memorized, and can be sprinkled throughout the program.


Three layers of information that spelling represents:

1. The alphabetic layer matches letters and sounds in a left-to-right fashion. In tap, the letter-sound match up is obvious

2. The pattern layer operates within syllables, as with the VCe pattern (vowel-consonant-silent e) signaling a long vowel (e.g., tape in contrast to tap).

3. The meaning (morphographic) layer - word parts that are related in meaning are usually spelled consistently, despite changes in pronunciation

  • crumb/crumble,
  • column/columnist,
  • paradigm/paradigmatic,
  • Newton/Newtonian.

Also words sharing a common etymology impugn and pugnacious.

Spelling programs should employ each of these three layers of information over time as students become capable at each level (Richards et al., 2006).

 

 

Change in brain function after 14 one-hour sessions based on Spelling through Morphographs.



Effective spelling instructions should emphasize these principles:

  • knowledge of sounds,
  • letter-sound association, patterns, syllables, and meaningful parts;
  • multisensory practice;
  • systematic, cumulative study of patterns;
  • memorizing a few "sight" words at a time;
  • writing those words correctly many times;
  • using the words in personal writing.(Moats, 2000).


Effective spelling instructions should also aim for fluency

Learning to the level of automaticity (where they don't have to think about it) requires a higher level of learning than simple accuracy (eventually being able to get it correct).

Write words from dictation (hear/write) 15 – 10 words /min

Write words in a category (free/write) 15 – 10 words / min (Binder, Haughton, & Bateman, 2002).


The poorest spellers, even older ones, need basic work in phonological awareness and the alphabetic principle

as well as instruction in the regularities of spelling at the level of morphology


Good readers - bad spellers theories:

Underlying pronunciation weakness (Carver, 2000)?

Good spellers pay more attention to detailed letter sequences (Holmes, 2004)

Poorer spellers use partial cues in reading, and are inferior at rapid orthographic analysis (Holmes & Castles, 2001)


The RMIT Psychology Clinic uses the Direct Instruction spelling programs (Dixon & Engelmann):

  • Spelling Mastery (publisher McGraw Hill):

A six level developmental program – initial level determined by a placement test.

Differs from other spelling approaches in:

  • the approach to content,
  •  the organization of lessons, and
  • the method of lesson delivery.

Employs three approaches to spelling: phonemic, whole‑word, and morphemic.


  • Spelling through Morphographs also known as Morphographic Spelling (publisher McGraw Hill):

A 140 lesson remedial program designed to teach students a generative spelling strategy. It emphasises morphographic word analysis, that is, an analysis of prefixes, suffixes and roots – and the ways in which they are combined in words. Suitable for students from Year 4 to adult. Excellent for secondary schools.


Morphographs

For example, if you teach these elements: Prefixes: re un dis Bases: cover pute Suffixes: ed able – and a few rules for combining them - the following words can be spelled: recover, recoverable, recovered, unrecoverable, unrecovered, repute, reputable, reputed, disreputable, disrepute, covetable, covered, uncover, uncoverable, uncovered, discover, discoverable, discovered, undiscoverable, undiscovered, dispute, disputable, disputed, undisputable, undisputed, etc.

80% of all words readers encounter have one or more affixes (Cunningham, 1998).


Some interesting spelling rules

The sound /ik/ will be spelled "ick" as in trick, thick, flick, sick, Rick, brick as long as it is a one syllable word. If it is at the end of the second syllable or more, it is spelled "ic" as in panic, magic, fantastic, Titanic, etc.

The ending that sounds like /us/ is spelled "us" or "ous" at the end of a word. As in famous, abacus, mountainous, fungus, rebus, tremendous

How does one know when to use which spelling?

If it is a noun, use "us" if it is an adjective use "ous"

Exploration of word families is valuable to evoke reading and spelling by analogy. Rules are useful to explain our writing system but don’t explain what good readers actually do when they come across an unfamiliar word. Rules can be a scaffold until familiarity takes over.

For older children

About 60% of the words in English running text are of Latin or Greek origin,

So, employ a systematic study of

  • prefixes,
  • suffixes and
  • root words (Henry, 1997).

Benefits

  • reading fluency,
  • comprehension,
  • spelling

What about dyslexia and spelling?

A poor grasp of the relationships between letters and sounds makes it difficult to read new words or nonwords through ‘building’ words from their elements (Eglinton, & Annett, 2008).

Eglinton, E. & Annett, M. (2008). Good phonetic errors in poor spellers are associated with right-handedness and possible weak utilisation of visuospatial abilities. Cortex, 44, 737-745.

For dyslexic students, irregularity of axonal connectivity between temporo-parietal and occipito-temporal regions may be causal in spelling difficulty (Steinbrink et al., 2008).


Spelling Assessment: Recognise student progress, even if it is slow - not solely complete correctness. Hence, partial correctness earns some points.

For example, in conventional scoring, misspelling dress as dres is as wrong as jrs, yet the first response is superior to the second, and may represent an improvement over the spelling in an earlier phase of an intervention. So, points could be scored for successively better approximations to a word, as below, providing a clearer picture of progress monitoring.

Spelling levels

1 point            2                            3                                4                    5 points

s                       js                       jrs                                dres                  dress

y                      yl                         yel                               wil                     will

t                       bt                        bot                               baot                 boat


 Some interesting advice on error correction and practice

If he just needs more practice, then don't have him copy words. Instead dictate them.

Working on a small whiteboard makes it fun, and eliminates copying from elsewhere on the paper. As soon as he makes a mistake, do the following correction procedure.

1.         Show him his error (you wrote it like this) and show the correct way to spell the word instead right next to it (and it is spelled like this). This is called error imitation and it has strong research support. You could even have him articulate where he differed from correct.

2.         Have him spell it to you while looking at the correct spelling.

3.         Then erase the word and have him say the sounds in the word, holding up a finger for each sound. (Making sure he is hearing all the sounds correctly).

4.         Then have him write it correctly from memory. Check and confirm that it's correct.

5.         Now have him spell the word orally from memory.

Work on a list in parts of about 4 or 5 words. And firm each part (once through those 4 or 5 words without an error) before going on.

Don Crawford (Mastering Math Facts, & Word Problems Made Easy)

Some quotes on spelling

Berninger and Richards (2002) proposed that the reading brain is initially constructed as children learn to relate existing phonological word forms to orthographic word forms, and during this process create memories of written word forms. In research on learning and teaching spelling, this stage is referred to as the phonological stage of spelling (Moats, 2000 and Templeton and Bear, 1992).

This phonological stage involves encoding of phonemes into graphemes (1- and 2-letter spelling units). In the process of repeated encodings, typical spellers begin to create precise representations of all the constituent letters in the written word spelling (whether or not the letters relate to a phoneme in a one-to-one way). With sufficient practice in spelling written words, these representations in long-term memory organize as an autonomous orthographic lexicon that can be accessed automatically without the intervening phonological encoding process.

Mental computations of the interrelationships among phonological, morphological, and orthographic words forms create mental maps of the word-specific orthographic word forms that underlie this autonomous orthographic lexicon (e.g. Berninger et al., 2001 and Nagy et al., 2003). Thus, triple word form theory (Richards et al., in press) is relevant to understanding how the autonomous orthographic lexicon underlying automatic spelling and fluent reading emerges from the earlier phonological stage—instead of relying only on phonological–orthographic mappings, children begin to rely on phonological–morphological–orthographic mappings.

When children rely on the autonomous orthographic lexicon rather than phonological encoding, they have entered the orthographic stage of spelling development (see Moats, 2000 and Templeton and Bear, 1992). However, mature spelling requires an additional stage of spelling development. Because English is a morphophonemic language (Venezky, 1970 and Venezky, 1999), English spelling relies greatly on morphological rules that require analysis of vowel and consonant patterns at the end of base words that influence whether letters are dropped or added when adding suffixes (e.g. Dixon & Engelmann, 2001).

Nagy and colleagues (e.g. Nagy et al., 1993) have conducted programmatic research for nearly two decades on the typical developmental course from simple to complex morphological processing that affects word reading and spelling and have shown that the morphological processing begins to contribute in a substantial way around grade 4 but continues to develop through the high school years and possibly even beyond” (p.3).

Richards, T., Aylward, E., Berninger, V., Field, K., Grimme, A.C., Parsons, A., Richards, A.L., Nagy, W. (2006). Individual fMRI activation in orthographic mapping and morpheme mapping after orthographic or morphological spelling treatment in child dyslexics. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 19(1), 56–86.


“Is English Predictable Enough for Explicit Spelling Instruction?

This is a question we hear often. If English spelling were completely arbitrary, one could argue that visual memorization would be the only option. However, spelling is not arbitrary. Researchers have estimated that the spellings of nearly 50 percent of English words are predictable based on sound-letter correspondences that can be taught (e.g., the spellings of the /k/ sound in back, cook, and tract are predictable to those who have learned the rules). And another 34 percent of words are predictable except for one sound (e.g., knit, boat, and two). If other information such as word origin and word meaning are considered, only 4 percent of English words are truly irregular and, as a result, may have to be learned visually (e.g., by using flashcards or by writing the words many times)”.

Malatesha, R., Joshi, M., Treiman, R., Carreker, S., & Moats, L.C. (2008). How words cast their spell. American Educator, 6-16, 42.


There is a close relationship between reading and spelling (the correlation between the two is quite strong,ranging from 0.66 to 0.90. Contrary to the perception of English as a language with arbitrary spelling, nearly 50 percent of English words are predictable on sound-letter correspondences that can be taught, and another 34 percent of words are predictable except for one sound. Knowing these patterns makes spelling predictable.

Joshi, R. M., Treiman, R., Carreker, S., & Moats, L. C. (2008). How words cast their spell. American Educator, 8-18, 42-43.


“The reciprocal relationship between spelling and reading: Initially, all of their skills were bottom up, driven by phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and some kind of mapping skill.But as they became more proficient spellers they also became more proficient decoders, and then eventually it was the decoding and the word recognition skills that started to impact on their ability to complete the orthographic representations, the spellings, according to English conventions”.

Caravolas, M. (2008). Children of the Code interview. http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/caravolas.htm


“Spelling and writing are incorporated in some reading interventions because the skills associated with successful reading—such as phonological knowledge, text structure knowledge, and reasoning—also play a role in spelling and writing (Abbott & Berninger, 1993; Graham, Harris, & Chorzempa, 2002; Wanzek et al., 2006) (p.166). … Following a pattern of findings in which studies that are more rigorous yield smaller effects than those that are less rigorous (Swanson, Hoskyn, & Lee, 1999), the small effects noted for extensive interventions were notably lower than effects reported in previous syntheses of reading interventions for adolescents (p.186).

Wanzek, J., Vaughn, S., Scammacca, N.K., Metz, K., Murray, C.S., Roberts, G., & Danielson, L. (2013). Extensive reading interventions for students with reading difficulties after Grade 3. Review of Educational Research 8(2), 163-195.


” … research is needed on whether stages of spelling development are discrete stages or overlapping, cascading phases of progression from phonological to orthographic to morphological processing and whether the progression is parallel or distinct for reading and spelling” (p.78). … Regions involved in spelling may change over development.

Both good spellers and dyslexics in this study of upper elementary grade children activated the right IFG and right parietal regions including angular gyrus, whereas adults in the studies discussed earlier tended to activate the left side of these regions (p.80). … the results show that an instructional component that emphasizes orthographic strategies may be effective in changing the orthographic mapping related to spelling at the orthographic stage of spelling development.

However, the child dyslexics also appear to need specialized instruction for the phonological processes involved in spelling to normalize their phoneme mapping. The benefits of morphological treatment for spelling may not be detected in brain response of child dyslexics in the upper elementary grade levels, at least not until they master or reach reasonable proficiency in the earlier phonological encoding and orthographic spelling stages” (p.82).

Richards, T., Aylward, E., Berninger, V., Field, K., Grimme, A.C., Parsons, A., Richards, A.L., Nagy, W. (2006). Individual fMRI activation in orthographic mapping and morpheme mapping after orthographic or morphological spelling treatment in child dyslexics. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 19(1), 56–86.


The Government notes the Committee's point on the issues with a definition of Dyslexia. The Expert Advisory Group established by Sir Jim Rose in preparation of his independent report considered many published definitions of dyslexia. They concluded that difficulties of a dyslexic nature can affect children across the range of intellectual abilities. This represents an important shift away from reliance on a discrepancy between measured IQ and measured attainment in reading and spelling once used to identify dyslexia. Evidence shows that, regardless of general level of ability, those with marked reading and spelling difficulties perform badly on tasks such as decoding, word recognition and phonological skills. Furthermore, measures of IQ do not predict how children will respond to literacy intervention or their long-term outcomes.

The Legacy Report: Government Response to the Committee's Ninth Report of Session 2009-10 - Science and Technology Committee.


“However, it would seem that rapid and accurate word identification is particularly crucial if the reader is to complete higher-level processing successfully. The result fits well with the idea that efficient and automatic word identification liberates resources for effective higher-level processing (Perfetti, 1985, 1992) … Recent research on younger readers has shown that the contribution of word recognition to reading comprehension can vary widely depending on the type of comprehension test used (Cutting & Scarborough, 2006; Keenan, Betjemann & Olson, 2008). … This may be because an individual’s phonological representations of words become increasingly influenced by their spelling knowledge (Ehri, 1991, 2005).

Once reading is well under way, both children and adults have great trouble deleting sounds from spoken words when the phoneme is not clearly marked in the orthography, such as deleting the /w/ sound in quack or the /k/ sound in fox (Castles, Holmes, Neath & Kinoshita, 2003). People also respond that there are more sounds in spoken words containing more letters, such as pitch than in words containing fewer letters, such as rich (Ehri & Wilce, 1980; Tunmer and Nesdale, 1985). In short, literate individuals find it difficult to disregard their knowledge of the spelling of spoken words when asked to make judgments on how they sound”.

Holmes, V.M. (2009). Bottom-up processing and reading comprehension in experienced adult readers. Journal of Research in Reading, 32(3), 309–326.


“In another longitudinal study, Lipka, Lesaux, and Siegel (2006) examined reading and reading-related abilities of children with poor wordreading skills. From a sample of 1,100 children who had been followed from kindergarten through fourth grade, 22 children were identified with word-reading deficits in fourth grade. Seven of the poor readers had persistent problems across grades, eight had late-emerging deficits (after third grade), and seven had borderline deficits at other grades. Additional results indicated that those with late-emerging word-reading problems had phonological processing deficits, especially after second grade. Such deficits were evident on tests of phonological awareness, phonological decoding, and spelling. Lipka et al. suggested that these children may have been able to compensate for their phonological deficits in the early grades, but as words became more complex, they showed reading and spelling difficulties” (p.167).

Lipka, O., Lesaux, N., & Siegel, L. (2006). Retrospective analyses of the reading development of Grade 4 students with reading disabilities: Risk status and profiles over 5 years. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 364–378.


When children start to learn to read English, they benefit from learning grapheme–phoneme correspondences. As they become more skilled, they use larger graphophonic units and morphemes in word recognition and spelling. We hypothesized that these 2 types of units in decoding make independent contributions to children’s reading comprehension and fluency and that the use of morphological units is the stronger predictor of both measures. In a longitudinal study with a large sample in the United Kingdom, we tested through multiple regressions the contributions that these different units make to the prediction of reading competence (reading comprehension and fluency).

The predictors were measured when the children were aged 8–9 years. Reading comprehension and rate were measured concurrently, and reading list fluency was measured at 12 and 13 years. After controlling for age and verbal IQ, the children’s use of larger graphophonic units and their use of morphemes in reading and spelling made independent contributions to predicting their reading comprehension and reading fluency. The use of morphemes was the stronger predictor in all analyses. Thus, teaching that promotes the development of these different ways of reading and spelling words should be included in policy and practice (p.959).

Nunes, T., Bryant, P., & Barros, R. (2012). The development of word recognition and its significance for comprehension and fluency. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(4), 959-973.


“The difficulties experienced by below-average readers in phonological decoding tasks are well documented. Recent research has suggested that additional deficits in perceptual–motor fluency, handedness, and memory may also exist among below-average readers. To evaluate these claims, average and below-average readers and spellers were compared on a range of phonological processing, verbal short-term and working memory, rapid naming, handedness, and perceptual–motor fluency tasks. Average and below-average readers were sampled in a comparable manner and were also comparable on age, gender, nonverbal ability, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. Below-average readers and spellers performed lower than average readers and spellers on rhyme detection, pseudoword decoding, and rapid digit (but not picture) naming tasks, but showed no differences in handedness tasks or on a range of other perceptual–motor tasks”.

Savage, R.S., & Frederickson, N. (2006). Beyond phonology: What else is needed to describe the problems of below-average readers and spellers? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(5), 399–413.


“Beginning primary teachers are not confident about teaching specific aspects of literacy such as spelling, grammar and phonics”.

Louden, W., Rohl, M., Gore, J., Greaves, D., Mcintosh, A., Wright, R., Siemon, D., & House, H. (2005b). Prepared to teach: An investigation into the preparation of teachers to teach literacy and numeracy. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training.


“ … the ability to read words correctly may facilitate the creation of precise, word-specific representations in long-term memory; these representations can be accessed during spelling and increase the probability of spelling words correctly especially words with silent letters or alterations in phoneme-spelling relationships that must be learned for specific word contexts (see Berninger, Abbott, et al., 1998; Berninger, Vaughn, et al., 1998).

Berninger, V.W., Abbott, R.D., Abbott, S.P., Graham, S., & Richards, T. (2002). Writing and reading: Connections between language by hand and language by eye. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 39-56.


“Spelling Mastery represents a third example of an explicit, whole-word approach to spelling instruction. For high frequency, irregular words that cannot be spelled by applying phonemic rules, Spelling Mastery uses an explicit wholeword approach to spelling instruction. A typical whole-word lesson in Spelling Mastery begins by introducing students to a sentence that contains irregular words (e.g., I thought he was through.). At first the unpredictable letters or letter combinations are provided and students must fill in the missing letters (e.g., _ _ _ ough _ _ _ _ a _ _ _ _ ough). Presenting the irregular words in this way teaches the students that even irregular words have some predictable elements. Gradually, the number of provided letters is decreased until students are able to spell all the words without visual prompts. Once the sentence is learned, variations are presented so that students can apply the spelling of irregular words to various sentence contexts (e.g., She thought about her homework throughout the night.). This explicit approach to whole-word spelling instruction leads students through gradual steps toward the ultimate goal of accurate spelling performance” (p.100).

Simonsen, F., & Gunter, L. (2001). Best practices in spelling instruction: A research summary. Journal of Direct Instruction, 1(2), 97–105.


Al Otaiba and colleagues examined the predictors of early spelling. This study involved an economically and ethnically diverse sample of nearly 300 kindergarteners. The students spelled three types of words: irregular high-frequency words, decodable real words, and decodable pseudowords. Overall, results from their three-step hierarchical regression indicated that home literacy, parental education, demographic factors, and conventional literacy skills, accounted for 66% of the variance in spelling scores. The single strongest spring predictor was a one minute letter-sound fluency test. Researchers scored the spellings to allow partial credit for invented spelling, which made the test more sensitive to differences and less susceptible to floor effects, which is important for poor spellers and potentially for students with reading disabilities.

Al Otaiba, S., Puranik, C., Rouby, D.A., Greulich, L., Sidler, J.F., & Lee, J. (2010). Predicting kindergarteners' end-of-year spelling ability based on their reading, alphabetic, vocabulary, and phonological awareness skills. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(3), 171-183.


“Overall, the group taught by synthetic phonics had better word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension. There was no evidence that the synthetic phonics approach, which early on teaches children to blend letter sounds in order to read unfamiliar words, led to any impairment in the reading of irregular words (p. 1365).

“It was found in Study 1 that, after 6 years at school, children taught by the synthetic phonics approach read words, spelt words and had reading comprehension skills significantly in advance of those taught by the analytic phonics method. This shows that despite English being an opaque orthography, children are not impaired when taught by an approach to reading that is common in transparent orthographies“(p.1378).

“The analytic phonics approach, having an early sight word element and late teaching of sounding and blending, may lead to some children reading largely by a form of sight word reading underpinned only by superficial connections between print and sounds” (p.1382).

“This present study makes an important contribution to documenting the longterm effects of synthetic phonics teaching. Maintaining the gain in word reading for age would have been noteworthy, but in fact it increased over time, leading to a high level of attainment at the age of 10” (p. 1384).

Johnston, R.S., McGeown, S., & Watson, J.E. (2012). Long-term effects of synthetic versus analytic phonics teaching on the reading and spelling ability of 10 year old boys and girls. Reading & Writing, 25(6), 1365-1384.


“By the age of 8 years the correlation between spelling ability and reading achievement is of the order of .89 to .92, suggesting a very close (but not perfect) association between the two processes (Westwood, 1973)” (p. 18).

Westwood, P.S. (2005). Spelling: Approaches to teaching and assessment (2nd ed.). Camberwell, Victoria: ACER Press.


Only 37.5 per cent of the surveyed parents believed that students were leaving school with adequate skills in literacy. 83.5 per cent of parents highlighted ‘Grammar, spelling and punctuation’ as ‘very important’. … Also, parents’ views on national consistency were similar for parents of children who attended government and non-government schools.

Department of Education, Science and Training. (2007). Parents’ attitudes to schooling. Canberra: Australian Government.http://www.dest.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/311AA3E6-412E-4FA4-AC01-541F37070529/16736/ParentsAttitudestoSchoolingreporMay073.rtf


It seems that underlying their reading and spelling problems, their word-retrieval deficits, as well as their phonemic awareness and grammatical problems, the phonemes themselves are less securely represented in the perceptual system of less skilled readers (Brady 1997; Post, Foorman & Hiscock 1997; Post et al. 1999).

As one of the consequences of their phonological insecurity, less skilled readers could experience difficulty capturing systematic allophonic variation in speech (Chen 1970; Cutler, Norris &Williams 1987) with a letter or letter pattern in initial literacy exposure, but also possibly during their entire life span. As their erratic spelling shows, they are, apparently, not able to hold on to these “alphabetic categories” (Olson 1996).

Apart from less secure phoneme representation (Fowler 1991; McBride- Chang 1995; Kraus et al. 1996; de Gelder & Vroomen 1998), the construction of a link between phonology and orthography might also be hampered by the inconsistency of English orthography, especially with respect to vowels (Fowler, Shankweiler & Liberman 1979; Landerl, Wimmer & Frith 1997; Frith, Wimmer & Landerl 1998). In sum, less skilled readers do not easily develop automaticity in reading and spelling because automaticity requires the instantaneous transfer of letter patterns into speech sounds and vice versa (Bosman & de Groot 1996; Luo 1996)”. (p. 318).

Post, Y. V., & Carreker, S. (2002). Orthographic similarity and phonological transparency in spelling. Reading and Writing. An Interdisciplinary Journal, 15,317–340.


English Primary Framework (2006)

Word recognition: decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling)

Most children learn to:

  • read fluently and automatically by using phonic knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondences and the skills of blending as their prime approach for decoding unfamiliar words, and thereby:
  • build up a store of words that are instantly recognised and understood on sight
  • segment words into their constituent phonemes and understand that spelling is the reverse of blending phonemes into words for reading.

http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/primaryframeworks/literacy/learningobjectives/Strands/Wordreadingskillsandstrategi/


“Three-quarters of employers would be put off a job candidate by poor spelling or grammar, a survey suggests. Hertfordshire University found bad English alienated 77% of the 515 companies it spoke to - more than twice the 34% annoyed by CV exaggerations”.

BBC News. (2006). Bad spelling 'puts off employers'. BBC News. Friday, August 4. Retrieved, August 11, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5243098.stm


“Judging from the results of testing released this week by Educational Assessment Australia at the University of NSW, our schools are not doing the job. On the whole, our children don't spell English as well as Mandarin-speaking children in Singapore. … These results cannot be a surprise since we stopped serious teaching of spelling, grammar and sentence construction decades ago, with the consequence that most teachers cannot analyse errors in speech and writing”.

Wheeldon, J. (2006). Why teachers should be spellbound. The Australian, July 29. Retrieved, August 11, from http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19941621-13881,00.html


“LESS than half of all Year 7 students could identify verbs or adjectives and only 7 per cent could spell "definitely" in a literacy test sat by all NSW students entering high school this year. NSW English Language and Literacy Assessment (2006) show that a majority of students have difficulty with spelling, punctuation and grammar”.

Ferrari, J. (2006). Words failing Year 7 students. The Australian, Aug 11. Retrieved, August 11, from http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20077692-13881,00.html


“In scripts where at least some phonemes have alternative spellings, spelling accuracy indexes the strength of orthographic representations (Cunningham et al., 2002; Share, 1999, 2004). However, a spelling task is conservative in relation to reading in that it requires recall rather than recognition of orthographic information (Ehri & Saltmarsh, 1996)”.

Bowey, J.A., & Muller, D. (2005). Phonological recoding and rapid orthographic learning in third-grade children’s silent reading: a critical test of the self-teaching hypothesis, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 92, 203–219.


“Behaviorally as well, more "effort" appears to be invested in decoding at the very first encounter with a novel string. When children read aloud the text passages in this study, the letter-by-letter sounding out and blending observed on the initial encounter with a new target would typically be replaced by a smooth uninterrupted pronunciation by the second or third exposure. … Clearly, there are also practical implications of single-trial learning. If "first impressions" are indeed the most potent, a decoding (or spelling) error on the very first attempt at a new word should be more detrimental to long-term orthographic learning than should an error committed at a later point.

The common classroom practice of ignoring spelling errors in the early written products of beginning readers (when the primary focus of learning and instruction is the acquisition of the alphabetic principle and/or communicative intent) suggests that greater effort might need to be expended later to alter faulty orthographic representations created at the initial encounters with novel words”.

Share, D. (2004). Orthographic learning at a glance: On the time course and developmental onset of self-teaching.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 87(4), 267-298.


“To acquire representations of printed words, children must attend to the written form of a word and link this form with the word’s pronunciation. When words are read in context, they may be read with less attention to these features, and this can lead to poorer word form retention. Two experiments with young children (ages 5–8 years) confirmed this hypothesis. … We believe that the benefit of learning a new word form in isolation is caused by increased attention to the word’s orthographic and phonological representations that is necessary for encoding.

When beginning readers read words in context, they may fail to attend sufficiently to orthographic and phonological features of the words and instead rely on context to bolster their reading of unfamiliar words. Less skilled readers benefited from learning in the isolated condition to a greater extent than did more skilled readers. … young readers, while they are in the early stages of learning to read many new words, can benefit from reading that draws attention to word form and word decoding (e.g., the fingerpoint reading technique used by Ehri & Sweet, 1991). We do not, however, suggest that isolated word learning should replace learning words in stories; rather, we suggest that it should complement such learning, especially for less skilled and beginning readers”.

Landi, N., Perfetti, C.A., Bolger, D.G., Dunlap, S. & Foorman, B.R. (2006). The role of discourse context in developing word form representations: A paradoxical relation between reading and learning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 94(2), 114-133.


“Phonological decoding made a significant unique contribution to reading comprehension for the eighth/ninth-grade group, to spelling for the fourth/fifth- and eighth/ninth-grade groups, and to the decoding rate and accuracy measures for all three groups, with only three exceptions”.

Nagy, W., Berninger, V.W., & Abbott, R.D. (2006). Contributions of morphology beyond phonology to literacy outcomes of upper elementary and middle-school students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 134-147.


“Spelling reflects linguistic understanding of speech sounds” (p. 137).

Edwards, L. (2003). Writing instruction in kindergarten: Examining an emerging area of research for children with writing and reading difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36, 136-148.


We propose that relations between phonemic awareness and spelling skills are bidirectional: Spelling influenced growth in phonemic awareness and phonemic awareness contributed to growth in spelling skills”.

Hecht, S.A, & Close, L. (2002). Emergent literacy skills and training time uniquely predict variability in responses to phonemic awareness training in disadvantaged kindergartners. J. Experimental Child Psychology, 82, 93–115.


”Dysfluent reading in the absence of spelling difficulties was associated only with a naming speed deficit––assessed at school entrance––but not with phonological memory or phonological awareness deficits. In contrast, a specific spelling deficit was preceded by phonological deficits”.

Wimmer, H., & Mayringer, H. (2002). Dysfluent reading in the absence of spelling difficulties. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 272-277.


There are three ways to assess spelling (Masterson & Apel, 2000): dictation (someone says a word out loud and the student spells it), connected writing (from text that the student writes), and recognition (when students are asked to select the correct spelling of a word from different choices). How one performs on one type of test may not indicate how well one might perform on another type of test. Moats (1994) noted that a good spelling test provides both descriptive and diagnostic information and, therefore, must include many items in order to adequately sample the different types of spelling knowledge an individual possesses.

However, according to Moats, most spelling assessments do not adequately sample spelling knowledge, with most spelling dictation tests including only 25-50 words (Masterson & Apel, 2000). Similarly, spelling tests that ask students to write connected text cannot cover the entire gamut of spelling patterns, thereby ensuring that all types of spelling knowledge are adequately sampled (p.159). … Perhaps it is impossible for one standardized test to cover the types of orthographic skills that are needed for good spelling.

Thus, this study points to the possibility that similar to reading and mathematics, spelling cannot be adequately assessed with only one standardized test. For example, when a child is targeted for diagnostic reading tests, s/he is scheduled for multiple tests such as word recognition, decoding, and comprehension.

Similarly, researchers and teachers should be aware that a singular standardized spelling test may not provide the range of items necessary to understand the specific spelling strengths and weaknesses of students across all orthographic patterns” (p.168)

Calhoon, M.B., Greenberg, D., & Hunter, C.V. (2010). A comparison of standardized spelling assessments: Do they measure similar orthographic qualities? Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(3), 159-170.


“Spell Checkers usually catch just 30% to 80% of misspellings overall (Moats, 2005). Since the advent of word processing and spell checkers, some educators have argued that spelling instruction is unnecessary. It’s true that spell checkers work reasonably well for those of us who can spell reasonably well—but rudimentary spelling skills are insufficient to use a spell checker.

Spell checkers do not catch all errors. Students who are very poor spellers do not produce the close approximations of target words necessary for the spell checker to suggest the right word. In fact, one study (Montgomery, Karlan, and Coutinho, 2001) reported that spell checkers usually catch just 30 to 80 percent of misspellings overall (partly because they miss errors like here vs. hear), and that spell checkers identified the target word from the misspellings of students with learning disabilities only 53 percent of the time”.

Moats, L.C. (2005/06 Winter). How spelling supports reading. American Educator, 12-43.


“Research on spelling characteristics of older poor spellers shows that, in general, spelling miscues are similar to those of younger normal children. Moats (1995) attributed these errors to the fact that the poorest poor spellers have continuing difficulty with phonemic segmentation, which in turn interferes with phonological coding for perceptually less salient sound classes (liquids and nasals) and word positions (any non-initial position)”.

Scott, C.M. (2000). Principles and methods of spelling instruction: Applications for poor spellers. Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 66- 79.


Vocabulary learning is central to reading ability and academic achievement. Vocabulary researchers and educators have viewed its essence as a process of associating the pronunciations and meanings of words in memory, and they have paid little attention to the contribution that spellings might make to vocabulary learning. We review theory and evidence showing that this is a serious oversight. Once children become literate, they retain the spellings of words bonded to their pronunciations and meanings in memory.

Several studies show that spellings of words are retained in memory and influence phonemic and syllabic segmentation of words, they enhance memory for pseudowords, and they impact the detection of oral rhyming words. Two studies show that exposing second and fifth graders to the spellings of new vocabulary words enhances their memory for pronunciations and meanings of the words. Students with better developed orthographic knowledge benefit more from spellings in learning vocabulary words than students with weaker knowledge. In fact, the detection of a Matthew effect suggests that differences in orthographic knowledge create a difference in vocabulary size that grows increasingly large over time.

Findings carry implications for enhancing vocabulary learning and instruction. Teachers need to show the spellings of new vocabulary words when they discuss their meanings. Students need to stop and pronounce unfamiliar words rather than skip them during independent reading. Researchers need to incorporate orthography into their theories explaining vocabulary acquisition, specifically phonological working memory theories, and they need to attend to its influence in studies they conduct” (p. 389).

Ehri, L.C., & Rosenthal, J. (2007). Spellings of words: A neglected facilitator of vocabulary learning. In Dorit Aram& Ofra Korat (Eds.) Literacy development and enhancement across orthographies and cultures pp.137-152.


What may be truly unusual about the older poor speller is that "primitive phonologically based errors coexist with relatively high levels of knowledge about the orthographic structure of printed words" (Treiman, 1997)” (p. 214).

Scott, C.M. (2000). Principles and methods of spelling instruction: Applications for poor spellers Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 66- 79.


“Instructional significance of triple word form theory. Early in reading development, children with dyslexia require explicit instruction in mapping existing phonological word forms in their long-term and working memory onto orthographic word forms they are constructing (Berninger & Richards, 2002). Early intervention that teaches phonological awareness and phonics (alphabetic principle) helps children construct these mental maps and results in brain changes (B. A. Shaywitz et al., 2004;Simos et al., 2002;Simos et al., this issue).

Later in reading development, children with dyslexia require explicit instruction in mapping morphological and phonological word forms in their long-term and working memory onto orthographic word forms that are increasingly longer and of Latin, French, and Greek origin (Aylward et al., 2003; Berninger & Richards, 2002; Carlisle, 1994; Henry, 2003; Nagy, Osborn, Winsor, & O’Flahaven, 1994; Richards et al., 2002).Carlisle (1994), Henry(2003), and Nagy et al. (1994) contained practical instructional recommendations for teaching children to coordinate phonological, morphological, and orthographic word forms and their parts.

As Nagy explained it to children, words live in families just like children do; to learn to read and spell, children need to learn how families of sounds, families of word parts for meaning, and families of letter units work together harmoniously. Explicit instruction in word forms and their interrelationships can be embedded in instruction that also teaches vocabulary (Stahl & Nagy, 2006) and comprehension (Carlisle & Rice, 2002), as recommended by the National Reading Panel (2000) and implemented in our instructional treatment (Berninger, 2000; Berninger & Abbott, 2003; Berninger et al., 2003)”(p. 581).

Richards, T.L., Aylward, E.H., Field, K.M., Grimme, A.C., Raskind, W., Richards, W.L., Nagy, W., Eckert, M., Leonard, C., Abbott, R.D. & Berninger, V.W. (2006). Converging evidence for triple word form theory in children with dyslexia. Developmental Neuropsychology, 30(1), 547-589.


“Few poor spellers are only poor spellers. More likely, such students are also poor readers and poor composers of written text and may have weaknesses in lexical, morphological, and syntactic domains that extend to spoken language as well (Catts & Kamhi, 1999)”.

Scott, C.M. (2000). Principles and methods of spelling instruction: Applications for poor spellers Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 66- 79.


“The theme that winds through much of the current spelling literature specific to poor spellers is the need to provide intense, systematic, and individualized instruction. Poor spellers take longer to learn the same things that good spellers learn easily; they are more likely to forget what they presumably knew, particularly in text-level writing. The poorest poor spellers, even older ones, need basic work in phonological awareness and the alphabetic principle as well as instruction in the regularities of spelling at the level of morphology and meaning”.

Scott, C.M. (2000). Principles and methods of spelling instruction: Applications for poor spellers Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 66- 79.


"Phonological decoding proved to have the largest influence on spelling ability, whereas orthographic knowledge was of minor significance."

Schulte-Korne, G., Deimel, W., & Remschmidt, H. (1997). The importance of phonological decoding and orthographical knowledge for spelling ability in adults. Zeitschrift fur Klinische Psychologie, 26, 210-217.


"A compelling interpretation of the present results is that the superior phonological coding skills of good adult spellers directly or indirectly foster the acquisition of more accurate or complete knowledge of word spellings during reading." (p.36).

Burt, J. S., & Butterworth, P. (1996). Spelling in adults: Orthographic transparency, learning new letter string and reading accuracy. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 8(1), 3-43.


"Phonological coding skills may exert a direct effect on spelling by virtue of the mnemonic utility of phonological coding in retaining the sequence of letters and syllables in a novel word." p.37.

Burt, J. S., & Butterworth, P. (1996). Spelling in adults: Orthographic transparency, learning new letter string and reading accuracy. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 8(1), 3-43.


“It is estimated that an adult writer knows how to spell between 10,000 and 20,000 words. By way of contrast, in the most conscientious spelling curriculum (i.e., weekly "spelling lists" of words to be memorized), a child is explicitly taught approximately 3,800 words during the elementary years (Graham, Harris, & Loynachan, 1996). In this discrepancy lies the crux of much of the debate on spelling instruction. How much of spelling is "taught" and how much is "caught"?”

Scott, C.M. (2000). Principles and methods of spelling instruction: Applications for poor spellers. Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 66- 79.


"Phonological skills may exert indirect effects through a facilitation of orthographic processing in reading, in the sense that converting a letter string to a phonological representation during reading acquisition, and perhaps during skilled reading, involves a detailed sequential analysis of a letter string." (p 37).

Burt, J. S., & Butterworth, P. (1996). Spelling in adults: Orthographic transparency, learning new letter string and reading accuracy. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 8(1), 3-43.


"The inclusion of a spelling measure is based on the strong association between early spelling ability, phonological awareness, and beginning reading (Ehri & Wilce, 1987). Phonological awareness training employing segmenting and spelling should, logically, cause growth in spelling as a form of phonological recoding."

Uhry, J.K., & Shepherd, M.J. (1997). Teaching phonological recoding to young children with phonological processing deficits: The effects on sight vocabulary acquisition. Learning Disability Quarterly, 20, 104-125.


" … pseudo-word reading has been shown to be among the best predictors of spelling from dictation in primary grade children (Berninger, Yates, Cartwright, Rutberg, Remy, & Abbott, 1992).

Hart, T. M., Berninger, V. M., & Abbott, R. D. (1997). Comparison of teaching single or multiple orthographic-phonological connections for word recognition and spelling: Implications for instructional consultation. School Psychology Review, 26(2), 279-297.


"Phonemic analysis training will improve spelling even without drill on conventional spellings."

Treiman, R. (1993). Beginning to spell. New York: Oxford U Press.


"I suggest this direct instruction on spelling patterns begin by mid-year first grade rather than later."

Foorman, B.R. (1995). Research on "the great debate" code-oriented versus whole language approaches to reading instruction. School Psychology Review, 24, 376-392


"Regardless of whether the spelling errors of learning disabled students result from a delay in skill acquisition or differences in the way spelling strategies are formulated and revised, the errors must be addressed through systematic and direct instruction." (p. 393).

Singh, N. N., Deitz, D. E. D., & Singh, J. (1992). Behavioural approaches. In Nirbay N, Singh & Ivan L. Beale (Eds.) Learning disabilities: Nature, theory, and treatment. NY: Springer-Verlag.


"During normal development, children will transfer their knowledge of reading to spelling." (p. 68)

Snowling, M., & Hulme, C. (1991). Speech processing and learning to spell. In All language and the creation of literacy (pp. 63-69). Baltimore, Maryland: Orton Dyslexia Society.


"Knowledge of a word’s reading informs the spelling of that word in a less predictable fashion because correct readings were accompanied by phonetic as well as correct spellings." (p. 86).

Foorman, B. R., & Francis, D. J. (1994). Exploring connections among reading, spelling, and phonemic segmentation during first grade. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 6, 65-91.


"Subjects with impressive gains in segmentation skill moved faster through the sequence of non-phonetic error to phonetic error to correct response in reading and spelling compared to the segmenters with low growth." (p. 85-86)

Foorman, B. R., & Francis, D. J. (1994). Exploring connections among reading, spelling, and phonemic segmentation during first grade. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 6, 65-91.


"The spelling problem of children who are good readers but poor spellers is not limited to problems in selecting the correct grapheme from a pool of plausible alternatives which correspond to the phonological representation of the word, but rather results from a more general problem in knowledge and use of sound-spelling correspondences." (p. 529).

Waters, G. S., Bruck, M., & Seidenberg, M. (1985). Do children use similar processes to read and spell words. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 39, 511-530.


“...It would appear that facilitation effects between segmentation and spelling are bidirectional. That is, learning to spell raises children’s conscious awareness of the phonemic structure of spoken words, and learning to segment spoken words provides insights in how to use these phonemic elements in spelling” (p.155).

Davidson, M., & Jenkins, J. R. (1994). Effects of phonemic processes on word reading and spelling. Journal of Educational Research, 87, 148-157.


“Spelling problems, like reading problems, originate with language learning weaknesses. Spelling disability does not reflect a general "visual memory" problem but a more specific problem with awareness of and memory for language structure, including the letters in words. People who are poor spellers typically have trouble analyzing the sounds, syllables, and meaningful parts of words in both spoken language and written language. In addition, they often have trouble learning other types of symbolic codes such as math facts and math operation signs”.

Moats, L.C. (No Date). Spelling Problems and Dyslexia. Available: http://www.interdys.org/educator.htm


“Our writing system is an amalgam of Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Greek, and to a lesser extent, includes spellings from French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Each of these languages contributed spelling conventions that within the language of origin were predictable but that violate the patterns of another. For example, ch is used to spell /ch/ in Anglo-Saxon words such as chair; is used to spell /k/ in Greek-derived words such as chorus; and spells /sh/ in French-derived words such as charade and Charlotte”.

Moats, L.C. (1998, Spring/Summer). Teaching decoding. American Educator, 1-9.


“English and French are more complex than Italian. English has 1,120 ways of representing 40 sounds, whereas there are only 25 sounds in Italian and they are represented in 33 combinations of letters. The disorder is more common in the United States than in Italy”.

In any language, dyslexia. (2001). The Washington Post 19/3/2001. [On-Line]. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A23845-2001Mar18?language=printer

Paulesu, E., Demonet, J-F., Fazio, F., McCrory, E., Chanoine, V., Brunswick, N., Cappa, S.F., Cossu, G., Habib, M., Frith, C.D., & Frith, U. (2001). Dyslexia: Cultural diversity and biological unity. Science, 291, 2165-2167.


A further factor contributing to poor spelling achievement in children is an all too common lack of depth in teacher’s knowledge about the spelling system (including basic phonology, morphology and phonics), as well as of strategies used to teach spelling (Fresch, 2007; Hammond, 2004; Johnston, 2001; Loudon & Rohl, 2006; Mehan & Hammond, 2006; Templeton & Morris, 1999; Westwood, 2005, 2008a).

Teacher preparation courses often do not include studies in the basic areas of linguistics (phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics), knowledge of which would greatly improve pre-service teachers’ understanding of how the English sound system, grammatical system, and orthographic system work (Carney, 1994; Coltheart and Prior, 2007; Mahar & Richdale, 2008; Treiman, 1998a; Westwood 2005, 2008a).

As Hammond (2004) rightly points out, ‘It is hard to teach spelling if you don’t know the rules about the English language yourself’ (p. 16). ’ It is possible that the same observation could be made of some teacher educators in universities, who were appointed mainly on the basis of their enthusiasm for whole language approach rather than knowledge of linguistics (Joshi, 2006; cited in Fielding-Barnsley, 2010).

Mullock, B. (2012). An examination of commercial spelling programs for upper primary level students. Australasian Journal of Special Education, 36(2), 172-195.

What about the relationship with writing?

“In this debate about the importance of motor conditions when learning to read and write, the results of the present study are in agreement with those showing that writing letters facilitates their memorization and their subsequent recognition (Hulme, 1979; Naka and Naoi, 1995)” (p. 75).

Longcamp, M., Zerbato-Poudou, M.T., & Velay, J.L. (2005). The influence of writing practice on letter recognition in preschool children: a comparison between handwriting and typing. Acta Psychologia, 119, 67-79.


(Traditional spelling programs) do not focus on making the spelling image of a word memorable through the use of all senses by simultaneously presenting grouped words orally, visually and through the motor movements of writing (Hulme 1981; Montgomery 1981; Moats & Farrell 1999) (p.328).

Post, Y. V., & Carreker, S. (2002). Orthographic similarity and phonological transparency in spelling. Reading and Writing. An Interdisciplinary Journal, 15,317–340.


“Writing is an immensely important and equally complex and sophisticated human skill commonly ascribed a fundamental role in children’s cognitive and language development, and a milestone on the path to literacy. Nevertheless, compared to the vast field of reading research, there has been less scientific attention devoted to the act and skill of writing. …

A large body of research in neuroscience, biopsychology and evolutionary biology demonstrates that our use of hands for purposive manipulation of tools plays a constitutive role in learning and cognitive development, and may even be a significant building block in language development. Furthermore, brain imaging studies (using fMRI, i.e., functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) show that the specific hand movements involved in handwriting support the visual recognition of letters.

Considering the fact that children today or in the near future may learn to write on the computer before they master the skill of handwriting, such findings are increasingly important. In this article we present evidence from experiments in neuroscience and experimental psychology that show how the bodily, sensorimotor – e.g., haptic – dimension might be a defining feature of not only the skill of writing but may in fact be an intrinsic factor contributing to low-level reading skills (e.g., letter recognition) as well, and we discuss what a shift from handwriting to keyboard writing might entail in this regard (p.386).

Mangen, A., & and Jean-Luc Velay, J-L. ((2010). Digitizing literacy: Reflections on the haptics of writing, Advances in Haptics, In Mehrdad Hosseini Zadeh (Ed.), InTech. DOI: 10.5772/8710. Retrieved from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/advances-in-haptics/digitizing-literacy-reflections-on-the-haptics-of-writing


“Writing helps in many ways. First the physical act of forming the letters forces the child to look closely at the features that make one letter different from another...Second, writing letters (left to right) trains the ability to read left to right. Third, saying each sound as the letter is written helps anchor the sound-to-letter connection in the memory” (p.239).

McGuinness, D. (2004). Growing a reader from birth: Your child's path from language to literacy. New York: W.W. Norton and Co.


Thus, replacing handwriting by typing during learning might have an impact on the cerebral representation of letters and thus on letter memorization. In two behavioral studies, Longcamp et al. investigated the handwriting/typing distinction, one in pre-readers (Longcamp, Zerbato-Poudou et al., 2005b) and one in adults (Longcamp, Boucard, Gilhodes, & Velay, 2006). Both studies confirmed that letters or characters learned through typing were subsequently recognized less accurately than letters or characters written by hand. In a subsequent study (Longcamp et al., 2008), fMRI data showed that processing the orientation of handwritten and typed characters did not rely on the same brain areas.

Greater activity related to handwriting learning was observed in several brain regions known to be involved in the execution, imagery, and observation of actions, in particular, the left Broca’s area and bilateral inferior parietal lobules. Writing movements may thus contribute to memorizing the shape and/or orientation of characters. However, this advantage of learning by handwriting versus typewriting was not always observed when words were considered instead of letters. In one study (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990), children spelled words which were learned by writing them by hand better than those learned by typing them on a computer.

Mangen, A., & and Jean-Luc Velay, J-L. ((2010). Digitizing literacy: Reflections on the haptics of writing, Advances in Haptics, In Mehrdad Hosseini Zadeh (Ed.), InTech. DOI: 10.5772/8710. Retrieved from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/advances-in-haptics/digitizing-literacy-reflections-on-the-haptics-of-writing


“In a series of studies, Hulme and Bradley (Bradley, 1981; Hulme & Bradley, 1984; see also Prior, Frye, & Fletcher, 1987) demonstrated the superiority of the Simultaneous Oral Spelling method, in which children learn to spell a word by pronouncing a word written and spoken for them, pronouncing the name of each letter while writing the word, and then repeating the whole word again (see Bradley, 1980, 1981).

In a test of the efficacy of the components of the Simultaneous Oral Spelling method, Hulme and Bradley (1984) found that for a normally achieving group of young children, the motoric element of the method seemed to be the important factor (children performed better when writing the words than when using letters on cards to spell them); whereas for an older group of reading-disabled children, the combination of writing and letter naming seemed to be critical. Hulme (1981; Hulme, Monk & Ives, 1987) has carried out an extensive series of studies demonstrating that the motoric activity involved in tracing or writing various stimuli can facilitate young children's memory performance (see also Endo, 1988).

These results are congruent with the work on word learning and led Hulme et al. (1987) to tentatively conclude that "It is, perhaps, not unreasonable to speculate that the motor activity involved in learning to write may be beneficial to the development of basic reading skills’” (p. 159).

“ … spelling is usually conceived of as a task that requires a more complete and precise orthographic representation than that required by reading (see Ehri, 1987; Stanovich, 1992). Thus, it may be that reading does not expose subtle differences in the quality of the orthographic lexicon in the same way that spelling does, perhaps because the advantages of redundancy are greater in the former task and thus the existence of precise orthographic representations is less critical” (p.162).

Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1990). Early spelling acquisition: Writing beats the computer. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 159-162.


“A cursory and cross-disciplinary glance at the current state of writing research yields the impression that writing is mainly, if not exclusively, a mental (e.g., cognitive) process (MacArthur, Graham, & Fitzgerald, 2006; Torrance, van Waes, & Galbraith, 2007; Van Waes, Leijten, & Neuwirth, 2006). Cognitive approaches to the study of writing focus predominantly on the visual component of the process, and how it relates to cognitive processing.

However, as evidenced by research in neuroscience, and as phenomenologically experienced by the writer him- or herself, writing is a process that requires the integration of visual, proprioceptive (haptic/kinaesthetic), and tactile information in order to be accomplished (Fogassi & Gallese, 2004). In other words, the acquisition of writing skills involves a perceptual component (learning the shape of the letter) and a graphomotor component (learning the trajectory producing the letter’s shape) (van Galen, 1991).

Research has shown that sensory modalities involved in handwriting, e.g., vision and proprioception, are so intimately entwined that strong neural connections have been revealed between perceiving, reading, and writing letters in different languages and symbol/writing systems. (James & Gauthier, 2006; Kato et al., 1999; Longcamp, Anton, Roth, & Velay, 2003, 2005a; Matsuo et al., 2003; Vinter & Chartrel, 2008; Wolf, 2007) Current brain imaging techniques show how neural pathways can be differentially activated from handling different writing systems (p.389).

Mangen, A., & and Jean-Luc Velay, J-L. ((2010). Digitizing literacy: Reflections on the haptics of writing, Advances in Haptics, In Mehrdad Hosseini Zadeh (Ed.), InTech. DOI: 10.5772/8710. Retrieved from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/advances-in-haptics/digitizing-literacy-reflections-on-the-haptics-of-writing


Current brain imaging techniques show how neural pathways can be differentially activated from handling different writing systems: logographic writing systems seem to activate very distinctive parts of the frontal and temporal areas of the brain, particularly regions involved in what is called motor perception. For instance, experiments using fMRI have revealed how Japanese readers use different pathways – when reading kana (an efficient syllabary used mainly for foreign and/or newer words, and for names of cities and persons), the activated pathways are similar to those used by English readers. In contrast, when reading kanji – an older logographic script influenced by Chinese – Japanese readers use pathways that come close to those used by the Chinese. (Wolf, 2007) (p.389).

Mangen, A., & and Jean-Luc Velay, J-L. ((2010). Digitizing literacy: Reflections on the haptics of writing, Advances in Haptics, In Mehrdad Hosseini Zadeh (Ed.), InTech. DOI: 10.5772/8710. Retrieved from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/advances-in-haptics/digitizing-literacy-reflections-on-the-haptics-of-writing


In fact, it has been reported that learning by handwriting facilitated subjects’ memorization of graphic forms (Naka & Naoi, 1995). Visual recognition was also studied by Hulme (1979), who compared children’s learning of a series of abstract graphic forms, depending on whether they simply looked at the forms or looked at them as well as traced the forms with their index finger. The tracing movements seemed to improve the children’s memorization of the graphic items. Thus, it was suggested that the visual and motor information might undergo a common representation process.

Various data converge to indicate that the cerebral representation of letters might not be strictly visual, but might be based on a complex neural network including a sensorimotor component acquired while learning concomitantly to read and write (James & Gauthier, 2006; Kato et al., 1999; Longcamp et al., 2003; 2005a; Matsuo et al., 2003). Close functional relationships between the reading and writing processes might hence occur at a basic sensorimotor level, in addition to the interactions that have been described at a more cognitive level (e.g., Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000) (p.395-6).

Longcamp, M., Zerbato-Poudou, M.T., & Velay, J.L. (2005). The influence of writing practice on letter recognition in preschool children: a comparison between handwriting and typing. Acta Psychologia, 119, 67-79.



“The implication of the direct path finding is that instruction in word recognition skills will transfer more to handwriting than instruction in handwriting skills will transfer to word recognition. Instructional research is therefore needed to evaluate whether covariances or direct paths best characterize the relationships between handwriting and word recognition in literary instruction.

This research is especially needed because multisensory approaches to language remediation (e.g., Birsch, 1999) tend to assume that integrating handwriting with word recognition instruction facilitates the learning of word recognition. However, the results for the direct paths in both structural models yield evidence of bidirectional, reciprocal relationships between word recognition and spelling. Training spelling should influence word recognition and training word recognition should influence spelling” (p.45).

Berninger, V.W., Abbott, R.D., Abbott, S.P., Graham, S., & Richards, T. (2002). Writing and reading: Connections between language by hand and language by eye. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 39-56.


“This phenotypic study (see Berninger, Abbott, et al., 2001, for additional details about method and findings) provides additional support for the claim that reading and writing systems draw on common as well as on unique processes (cf. Berninger et al., 1994; Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000). This study also lends support to the hypothesis that strong links between the reading and writing systems exist at the word level (word recognition - spelling) and at the text level (comprehension composition)” (p.48).

Berninger, V.W., Abbott, R.D., Abbott, S.P., Graham, S., & Richards, T. (2002). Writing and reading: Connections between language by hand and language by eye. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 39-56.

Other Spelling References

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Ball, E. W., & Blachman, B. A. (1991). Does phoneme awareness training in kindergarten make a difference in early word recognition & developmental spelling. Reading Research Quarterly, 25, 49-66.

Bear, D., Invemizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2000). Words their way (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Berninger, V., Abbot, R., Rogan, L., Reed, E., Abbott, S., Brooks, A., Vaughan, K., & Graham, S. (1998a). Teaching spelling to children with specific learning disabilities: The mind's ear and eye beat the computer or pencil. Learning Disability Quarterly, 21, 106-122.

Berninger, V., Vaughan, K., Abbot, R., Brooks, A., Abbott, S., Rogan, L, Reed, E., & Graham, S. (1998b). Early intervention for spelling problems: Teaching functional spelling units of varying size with a multiple-connections framework. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 587605.

Blalock, J., & Johnson, D. (1987). Adults with learning disabilities: Clinical studies. New York: Grune & Stratton. Braten, I. (1994). Learning to spell. Oslo, Norway: Scandinavian University Press.

Bradley, L. (1990). Rhyming connections in learning to read and spell. In P.D. Pumphrey & C.D. Elliot (Eds.), Children’s difficulties in reading, spelling & writing: Challenges & responses (pp. 83-100).London: The Falmer Press.

Bruck, M. (1988). The word recognition and spelling of dyslexic children. Reading Research Quarterly. 23, 51-69.

Bruck, M. (1993). Component spelling skills of college students with childhood diagnoses of dyslexia. Learning Disability Quarterly, 76, 171-184.

Bruck, M., & Treiman, R. (1990). Phonological awareness and spelling in normal children and dyslexics: The case of initial consonant clusters. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 50, 156-178.

Bryant, P. E. (1990). Phonological development and reading. In P.D. Pumfrey & C.D. Elliot (Eds.), Children's difficulties in reading, spelling & writing: Challenges & responses (pp. 63-82). London: The Falmer Press.

Butler, R., & Orion, R. (1990). When pupils do not understand the determinants of their success and failure in schools: Relations between internal, teacher and unknown perceptions of control and school achievement. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 60, 63-75.

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Calfee, R. (1991). Decoding and spelling: What to teach; When to teach it; How to teach it. Psychological Science, 2, 83-85.

Carroll, J., Davies, P., & Richmond, B. (1971). The American heritage word frequency book. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Castle, J.M., Riach, J. & Nicholson, T., (1994). Getting off to a better start in reading and spelling: The effects of phonemic awareness instruction within a whole language program. Journal of Educational Psycology. 86, 350-359.

Catts, H., & Kamhi, A. (1999). Language and reading disabilities. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Chase, C. (1986). Essay test scoring: Interaction of relevant variables. Journal of Educational Measurement, 23, 33-41.

Cooke, N., Guzaukas, R., Pressley, J., & Kerr, K. (1993). Effects of using a ratio of new items to review items during drill and practice. Education and Treatment of Children, 16, 213-234.

Clarke-Klein, S., & Hodson, B. W. (1995). A phonologically based analysis of misspellings by third graders with disordered phonology histories. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 38, 839-849.

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Graham, S., Harris, K., & Loynachan, C. (1994). The spelling for writing list. Journal of Learning Disability, 27, 210-214.

Graham, S., Harris, K., & Loynachan, C. (1996). The Directed Spelling Thinking Activity: Application with highfrequency words. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 11, 34-40.

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Kerry Hempenstall, Ph.D.

RMIT UniversityB.Sc., Dip.Ed., Dip.Soc.Studies, Dip.Ed.Psych., Ph.D. MAPsS.

Originally posted on http://www.adihome.org/adi-blog/latest

Reposted here with the kind permission of the author.

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