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Why Spelling Is Important and How To Teach It Effectively

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Berninger, V., and Fayol, M.
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Why Spelling Is Important and How To Teach It Effectively
Written by: Virginia W. Berninger, University of Washington, Seattle, USA and Michel
Fayol, Université Blaise Pascal & CNRS, Clermont-Ferrand, France
Introduction
Spelling is a code that uses letter sequences to represent specific words that have an
associated pronunciation and meaning within the mental dictionary. Three kinds of
codes contribute to spelling: a phonological code (coding and awareness of sounds in
spoken words), an orthographic code (coding and awareness of letters in written
words), and a morphological code (word parts at the beginning of words that modify
shade of meaning and at end of words that mark tense, number, or part of speech). For
example, the word “jumped” has five small sounds in it: /j/, /u/, /m/, /p/, and /t/ (these
sounds are called phonemes). However, it has six letters. That is because the last two
letters correspond to a word part (morpheme) that marks the past tense but
corresponds to a single sound. In other words, that sound might be /d/ as in “named” or
/ed/ as in “wanted.”
Other sources of knowledge also contribute to spelling. These include vocabulary
knowledge (semantic features or meaning clues), phonotactics (permissible and
probable sound sequences, patterns, and positions in spoken words), and orthotactics
(permissible and probable letter sequences, patterns, and positions in written words).
For example, in English, words do not begin with the /m/ sound followed by the /l/ sound
or generally end with /h/. Also, u not a follows q and the letter x does not double at the
end of words but l, f, and s may. Further complicating matters is that the same word
pronunciation may be associated with multiple meanings, which linguists call polysemy.
Syntax (part of speech for a particular word and the permissible word order of the
language) provides the clues that help the writer clarify which of the multiple meanings
for that pronunciation is intended (e.g., He wound the clock. The wound did not heal.
The boy read the red book. )
Spelling knowledge may be expressed as rules, statistical patterns, or procedures and
these different kinds of knowledge have various implications for instruction. Examples of
English spelling rules include generalization about (a) when to double final consonants
in syllables as a function of accent patterns (e.g., when the accent is on the second
syllable, double the last consonant in the second syllable, but when the accent is on the
first syllable, do not double the last consonant). This rule is shown when “refer”
becomes “referring” but not when the accent is on the first syllable as in “secret” which
becomes “secretive” not “secrettive”) or (b) when to drop or add letter(s) to the end of a
base word when a derivational suffix beginning with i is added (e.g., final silent e is
dropped when adding “ing” as in “tame” becomes “taming”) (Dixon & Englemann, 2001).
French spelling rules specify that certain consonants double in certain positions but
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vowels do not double (Pacton, Perruchet, Fayol, & Cleeremans, 2001). Phonotactics
and orthotactics are based on abstracted statistical patterns that capture the sound
sequences in spoken words or letter sequences in written words. The abstraction takes
place through self-teaching (Share, 2004) in implicit memory outside conscious
awareness as children repeatedly encounter words in different codes (Pacton et al.,
2005b; Pacton et al., 2001). Although some of these statistical patterns can be
articulated like doubling f, l, and s at the end of words, many cannot be but yet influence
spelling knowledge. Mapping across different units of spoken and written words is
procedural knowledge learned best in conscious memory as children apply knowledge
of procedures for spelling single words from dictation.
The contrasting instructional implications of these different kinds of knowledge will now
be considered. Rules are articulated declarative knowledge, applied at the
metacognitive level in guiding, self-checking, or revising spelling. Teachers verbalize
these rules and ask children to verbalize them too. Linguistic awareness is not acquired
by verbalizing rules but rather by conscious reflections and operations on phonological,
orthographic, and morphological word-forms and their parts in conscious memory. For
example, children may engage in word sorts in which they have to reflect about
common and unique sounds or morpheme patterns in written words as they classify
them into categories. Little is known about how to teach children to abstract statistical
patterns related to sound sequencing or letter sequencing, however, it may help to draw
their attention to these patterns by playing games in which children judge whether
scrambled sequences of sounds in spoken words sound like words in their language or
scrambled sequences of letters look like written words in their language. Using
anagrams in which they unscramble the letters to spell a real word may also benefit
their spelling. Research reported later shows how specific procedures can be taught
through modeling for helping children generate word spellings at the levels of phoneme-
grapheme correspondences, onset-rimes, and whole words. Not all of the necessary
spelling knowledge can be taught as declarative knowledge or rules.
Past views that spelling goes through sequential stages from phonological to
orthographic to morphological (e.g., Templeton & Bear, 1992) are being reconsidered
based on research showing that first graders have not only phonological but also
orthographic (Cassar & Treiman, 1993; Pacton et al., 2001; Treiman, 1993) and
morphological (Carlisle, & Nomanbhoy,1993; Pacton et al., 2005b; Treiman & Cassar,
1996) knowledge that they apply to spelling. Both beginning spelling and developing
spelling, when words are longer and morphologically more complex (Carlisle & Fleming,
2003), draw on phonology, orthography, and morphology (Berninger, Garcia, & Abbott,
2009; Silliman, Barr, & Peters, 2006; Walker & Hauerwas, 2006). Woodcock Johnson
Third Edition (WJ III) Spell Sounds Subtest (Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001)
assesses phonological spelling with pseudowords. Process Assessment of the Learner,
Second Edition (PAL II) Word Choice subtest (Berninger, 2007) uses real words and
pseudohomophones to assess orthographic spelling. PAL II Find the Fixes (Berninger,
2007) uses real words with common spelling units that are true affixes (e.g. reread) and
foils (e.g., ready) that are spelled like a real prefix or suffix but are not morphemes to
assess morphological spelling.
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Spelling instruction is still important in the computer age, even with spell checks for self-
monitoring and revising spelling. Most spelling instruction research has focused on word
frequency and words children use frequently in their writing at specific grade levels and
the role of alphabetic principle taught in the phoneme-to-grapheme direction. However,
the role of specific words (Largy, Cousin, Bryant, & Fayol, 2007) and rules (Fayol,
Thévenin, Totereau & Jarousse, 1999) in learning to spell continues to be debated.
During spelling instruction children have to coordinate phonological, orthographic, and
morphological codes in working memory; through instruction and practice, children
create a mental dictionary with spellings of written words in long-term memory.
Instruction should teach spelling strategies and provide practice in applying them to
develop automatic spelling, which is fast, effortless retrieval of word-specific spelling
(Steffler, Varnhaggen, Friesen, & Treiman, 1998).
Different modes of spelling instruction can be differentially beneficial, for example,
keyboarding is better for writing letters and sometimes words in sentences; but pen is
better for composing essays (Berninger, Richards, Stock, Abbott, Trivedi, Altemeier et
al., 2007). Spelling is not the inverse of reading (Read, 1981), but word reading and
spelling share reciprocal relationships (Ehri, 1992, 2000; Holmes, & Carruthers, 1998)
and teaching spelling may transfer to reading (Treiman, 1998). Although good spellers
tend to be good readers and poor spellers tend to be poor readers, about four percent
of French children have good reading and poor spelling and about four percent of
French children have good spelling and poor reading (fluency) (Fayol, Zorman, & Lété,
2008).
Key Research Questions and Findings
1) Is explicit instruction in mapping spoken words onto written words at specific
unit sizes or rules effective in teaching spelling?
In large, randomized controlled studies different instructional approaches to teaching
conscious procedural knowledge for mapping units of spoken words onto units of written
words were compared. Both lexical mapping (naming each letter in a written word in
sequential order and then pronouncing it) and onset-rime mapping (naming the onset
grapheme[s], making the corresponding sounds for phoneme[s], naming the letters in
the rime unit and finally, pronouncing the remaining part of the syllable) were effective in
learning to spell taught and new one-syllable words. However, alphabetic principle
mapping (naming each one- or two- letter unit and then saying the corresponding
phoneme) resulted in more accurate spelling during composing (Berninger, Vaughan,
Abbott, Brooks, Abbott, Reed et al., 1998). The results supported teaching mapping
procedures for the whole word, onset-rime, and alphabet principle to at-risk second
grade spellers.
Half the children reached grade level and maintained gains at beginning and end of
third grade. The other half received additional spelling instruction in third grade that
included the three mapping procedures for spelling two-syllable words with and without
syllable awareness training; they also wrote sentences from dictation. All reached
average range for grade and maintained gains at end of third grade; syllable awareness
training showed an advantage for silent-e words (e.g., became) (Berninger, Vaughan,
Abbott, Brooks, Begay, Curtin et al., 2000). Spelling mastery of practiced words was
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achieved only when specific words were spelled in dictated sentences in each of the 24
lessons during the study (see Dreyer et al., 1995, for role of practice in improving long-
term spelling retention).
Teaching mapping procedures for alphabetic principle improved children’s spelling of
function words (conjunctions, prepositions, articles, and pronouns that glue words
together in sentences but have no meaning of their own) (Berninger, Vaughan, Abbott,
Begay, Byrd, Curtin, et al., 2002). Teaching orthographic strategies for imaging words in
the mind’s eye improved spelling (Berninger, Abbott, Rogan, Reed, Abbott, Brooks, et
al., 1998; Berninger, Winn, Stock, Abbott, Eschen, Lin et al., 2008, Study 1) and
normalized brain activation during an fMRI spelling task (Richards, Aylward, Berninger,
Field, Parsons, Richards, et al., 2006). Explicit instruction in phonological (Nunes,
Bryant, &Olson, 2003) and morphological spelling rules is also effective (Fayol,
Thévenin, Jarousse, & Totereau, 1995; Nunes & Bryant, 1995; Nunes et al., 2003).
For evidence-based instructional tools and strategies for explicit spelling instruction, see
Berninger and Abbott (2003, Lesson Sets 4, 5, 7, and 10); Dixon and Engelmann (2001;
Fry (1996); Graham, Harris, and Loynachan (1996); Henry (2003); Masterson, Apel, and
Wasowicz (2002); Nunes and Bryant (2006); and Schalagar (2001). Also see readings
at end for teachers to expand their knowledge of the role of phonology, orthography,
morphology, vocabulary knowledge, phonotactics and orthotactics, and syntax in
spelling. Research has shown that teachers’ knowledge of language processes is as
important as the instructional tools they use in increasing their students’ literacy skills
including spelling.
2) Are reflective activities for developing phonological, orthographic, and
morphological awareness effective in teaching spelling?
Children acquire much spelling knowledge in implicit memory outside conscious
awareness (e.g., Nation, Angell, & Castles, 2007; Pacton, Perruchet, Fayol, &
Cleeremans, 2001; Share, 2004). Explicit instruction that brings those knowledge
sources into conscious awareness also improves spelling (e.g., Dreyer et al., 1995;
Berninger et al., 1998, 2000, 2002, 2007; Graham, Harris, & Chorzempa, 2002). Explicit
instruction does not have to be knowledge telling or direct instruction. It can include
activities such as word sorts that help children discover, through insight, awareness of
(a) alternations in English alphabet principle (Venezky, 1970, 1999) such that different
one- (e.g., c and k) and two-letter (e.g., ck or ch) graphemes spell the same phoneme
(e.g., /k/) (Berninger et al., 2002), (b) morphological awareness (Arnbach & Elbro,
2000), and (c)interrelationships among phonology, orthography, and morphology
(Berninger, Nagy, Carlisle, Thomson, Hoffer, Abbott, et al., 2003).
In languages such as French or English in which the same letter or letter group is not
always pronounced the same and semantic access is not direct: spelling, decoding, and
semantic access (to word meaning) are mediated by morphology (Pacton, & Fayol,
2005a). For French and English spelling, it is necessary to learn orthographic and
morphological regularities (Pacton et al: 2001, 2005b) and some lexical items (see
Martinet, Valdois, & Fayol, 2004). For example, in French it helps to find most silent
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letters placed at end of words (bavard has a final d because we can produce bavarde;
Pacton & Deacon, 2008). For French, morphology for marking singular and plural forms
must be taught because most of the marks (-s for plural nouns and adjectives; -nt for
plural verbs) have no phonological counterparts (Fayol, Largy, & Lemaire, 1994; Fayol,
Hupet, & Largy, 1999; Fayol, Thévenin, Jarousse, & Totereau, 1995). In English,
correspondences between sounds and letters alone do not assure access to
morphological structure, which must be parsed and coordinated with phonological
encoding (e.g., the vowel in nation is transformed when the suffix –al is added to
transform a noun into an adjective).
3) Does explicit instruction in spelling transfer to improved composing skills?
Training mapping procedures at three unit sizes (whole word, onset-rimes, and
phoneme-grapheme correspondences) improved word-spelling and transferred to
longer compositions (Berninger et al., 1998). Composing activities using grade-
appropriate high frequency words (Graham, Harris, & Loynachan, 1993, 1994) improved
spelling and composing (Berninger et al., 2000). Graham et al.’s (2002) spelling
instruction also transferred to improved composition. Therefore, evidence is growing for
the benefits of teaching spelling on another writing skill, namely, composition.
Recent Research Results
A longitudinal writing study (grades one to seven) showed that spelling at one grade
level contributes to spelling and often written composition at the next grade level
(manuscript in preparation). Orthographic, phonological, and morphological awareness
showed significant growth from grades one to two to three with continued morphological
awareness growth thereafter (submitted manuscript). At grades two, four, and six, a
second-order factor underlying these three kinds of linguistic awareness explained
unique variance in spelling and fit the model better than if each factor (code) was
considered alone (Berninger, Raskind, Richards, Abbott, & Stock, 2008). The
instructional application is that spelling benefits from instruction not only in each of the
three codes but also in their interrelationships. An example of instruction that teaches
the interrelationships is word sorting in which children sort words using suffixes to mark
number into these categories: plural pronounced /ez/ (e.g., busses), plural pronounced
/s/ (e.g., cats), plural pronounced /z/ (bees), or no suffix (e.g. miss).
Future Directions
More research is needed on phonotactic and orthotactic knowledge and their influences
on word storage and access in the mental lexicon. Fast mapping, which involves whole
spoken and written words that are learned quickly in one exposure or a few exposures,
is likely to be influenced by phonotactic and orthotactic knowledge.
With increasing globalization and immigration and more than one language spoken at
work and in the home, multi-lingualism is increasing and requires greater research
attention to spelling across languages: (a) transfer of spelling from one’s first language
to one’s second language; (b) similarities and differences in spelling related to how
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phonology and morphology/syntax are represented in the orthography; (c) dialects
within the same language (e.g. Kohler, Bahr, Silliman, Apel, & Wilkinson, 2007;
Treiman, & Barry, 2000); and (d) word-origin influences such as English words that
derive from French, Latin, or Greek origins and constitute the vast majority of words in
English texts used in schools in grades four and above (Henry, 2002).
Conclusions
Effective spelling instruction (a) facilitates abstraction of phonological, orthographic, and
morphological regularities in words (e.g., deciding which spoken or written pseudoword
resembles a real French or English word), (b) models explicit strategies for mapping
different units of spoken and written words, (c) teaches explicit spelling rules, (d)
designs reflective activities that foster phonological, orthographic, and morphological
awareness, (e) offers metacognitive guidance in self-checking and revising spelling if
necessary; (f) provides sufficient practice with specific words to develop automatic
spelling; and (g) couples spelling with vocabulary instruction aimed at fostering love of
and play with words (Stahl & Nagy, 2005).
Date Posted Online: 2008-01-22 14:57:52
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Additional Reading
To learn more about phonological codes in spelling, see Berninger, Cartwright, Yates,
Swanson, and Abbott (1994), Treiman, Berch, Tincoff, and Weatherston (1993),
Varnhagen, Varnhagen, and Das (1992), and Varnhagen, Boechler, and Steffler
(1999).
To learn more about orthographic coding in spelling, see Berninger, Yates, Cartwright,
Rutberg, Remy, and Abbott (1992), Caravolas, Kessler, Hulme, and Snowling
(2005), Holmes and Davis (2002), Jaffre and Fayol (2006), Johnson (1986), Olson,
Forsberg, and Wise (1994), Seymour (1997), Pacton, Fayol, and Perruchet
(2005b), and Varnhagen et al., (1992, 1999).
To learn more about morphological coding in spelling, see Bourassa, Treiman, and
Kessler (2006), Carlisle (1994), Derwing, Smith, and Wiebe (1995), Green,
McCutchen, Schwiebert, Quinlan, Eva-Wood, and Juelis (2003), Jaffré and Fayol
(2006), Leong, (2000); Nagy, Berninger, and Abbott (2006), Nagy, Berninger,
Abbott, Vaughan, and Vermeulen (2003), Nunes, Bryant, and Bindman (1997),
Pacton et al. (2005b), Treiman and Cassar (1996).
To learn more about the role of vocabulary knowledge in spelling, see Berninger et al.
(1992, 1994) and especially Stahl and Nagy (2005).
To learn more about the role of phonotactics in spelling, see Apel, Wolter, and
Masterson (2006), Bernstein and Treiman (2001), Kessler and Treiman (1997),
and Treiman, Kessler, Knewasser, Tincoff, and Bowman (2000),
To learn more about the role of orthotactics in spelling, see Apel et al. (2006) and
Pacton et al. (2005).
To learn more about the role of syntax in spelling, see Bryant, Nunes, and Bindman
(1997, 2000), Fayol, Totereau, and Barrouillet (2006), and Muter and Snowling
(1997).
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To cite this document:
Berninger, V., & Fayol, M. (2008). Why spelling is important and how to teach it
effectively. Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development (pp. 1-13).
London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. Retrieved from
http://www.literacyencyclopedia.ca/pdfs/topic.php?topId=234
... Other longitudinal studies focused on the linguistic awareness skills related to beginning spelling in transparent orthographies (one-to-one correspondence between letters and phonemes) and nontransparent orthographies (for which regularity may be more related to orthographic and morphological regularities than to letter-sound correspondences; e.g., Apel, Oster, & Masterson, 2006;Berninger, 1988;Berninger & Fayol, 2008;Nunes & Bryant, 2006;Pacton, Fayol, & Perruchet, 2005;Pacton, Perruchet, Fayol, & Cleeremans, 2001). These studies showed that phonological awareness plays a major role in beginning spelling in nontransparent orthographies such as French and English (e.g., Caravolas et al., 2001;Foorman et al., 1991;Sprenger-Charolles, Siegel, & Béchennec, 1997;Sprenger-Charolles et al., 2003;Treiman, 1993) and transparent orthographies such as Greek and Finnish (e.g., Lerkkanen et al., 2004;Nikolopoulos, Goulandris, Hulme, & Snowling, 2006). ...
... The observed reciprocal relationship between text-level composition and word spelling during the middle grades (from Grades 3 to 6) shows that individual differences in word-level spelling and text-level composing do not develop in isolation of each other, especially during the middle grades when writing requirements of the curriculum are increasing. Embedding explicit spelling instruction in writers' workshop may facilitate both spelling and composing not only in children with learning disabilities (e.g., Berninger et al., 2008, Study 1) but also in normally developing writers. More research is needed on this topic. ...
... Spelling is not a mechanical transcription skill best learned through visual memorization and repetitive drill. Rather, it is learned most effectively through explicit and reflective instruction in (a) abstraction of patterns and regularities in the phonological, orthographic, and morphological forms of words; (b) vocabulary meaning; and (c) syntax markers (suffixes, possessives, contractions, and function words; Berninger & Fayol, 2008). ...
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Longitudinal structural equation modeling was used to evaluate longitudinal relationships across adjacent grade levels 1 to 7 for levels of language in writing (Model 1, subword letter writing, word spelling, and text composing) or writing and reading (Model 2, subword letter writing and word spelling and reading; Model 3, word spelling and reading and text composing and comprehending). Significant longitudinal relationships were observed within and across levels of language: spelling to spelling and spelling to composing (Grades 1 to 7), Models 1 and 3, and composing to spelling (Grades 3 to 6, Model 1; Grades 4 to 6, Model 3); spelling to word reading and word reading to spelling (Grades 2 to 7), Models 2 and 3; spelling to word reading (Grade 1), Model 2, and word reading to spelling (Grade 1), Model 3; composition to comprehension (Grades 3 to 5), Model 3; comprehension to composition (Grades 2 to 6), Model 3; and comprehension to word reading (Grades 1 to 6), Model 3. Results are discussed in reference to the levels of language in translating ideas into written language and integrating writing and reading. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
... Afin de soutenir le développement de toutes ces connaissances et de permettre aux élèves de développer leur compétence orthographique, un enseignement efficace doit être mis en place dans les classes, et ce, dès le début de la scolarisation. En outre, un enseignement de l'orthographe reposant sur une pédagogie raisonnée et explicite favorise l'apprentissage des régularités du français (Berninger et Fayol, 2008). Bien que plusieurs recherches soulignent que l'enseignement explicite de l'orthographe favorise l'apprentissage des élèves (Fayol, Grimaud et Jacquier, 2013;Graham et Santangelo, 2014), d'autres chercheurs tels que Jaffré et David (1998) soutiennent que les activités qui permettent aux élèves d'écrire des mots et des phrases inconnues favorisent leur compréhension des régularités de la langue écrite. ...
... Les enseignantes questionnent également beaucoup les élèves et proposent de nombreuses explications sur la langue à partir des explications des élèves lors de la rétroaction. Ces questionnements favorisent donc l'apprentissage de l'orthographe par les élèves puisqu'il s'agit d'une pédagogie employant le doute orthographique (Jaffré, 2004) et ces explications soutiennent le développement orthographique en utilisant une pédagogie raisonnée et un enseignement explicite des régularités de la langue (Berninger et Fayol, 2008). Rappelons que les orthographes approchées au primaire, à la phase cinq, sont en lien direct avec l'enseignement explicite des régularités de la langue. ...
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L’objectif de cet article est de décrire la mise en oeuvre en classe de pratiques d’orthographes approchées d’enseignantes de deuxième année du primaire. Le modèle Essential Supports for Emergent Writers a été adapté afin d’analyser les pratiques d’orthographes approchées de cinq enseignantes qui ont été observées à deux reprises durant l’année scolaire. Les résultats montrent qu’en contexte de pratiques d’orthographes approchées, les élèves sont en mesure de verbaliser leurs connaissances sur la langue et que les enseignants fournissent des explications sur l’orthographe en partant de leurs conceptions. Les orthographes approchées semblent donc offrir des conditions d’efficacité adéquates pour développer la compétence en écriture en contexte d’enseignement au premier cycle du primaire.
... The spelling of the words bears importance as it affects good writing skills even if today computers provide opportunities such as spell check programs (Berninger & Fayol, 2008). Scott (2000) states that spelling problems are really disappointing for the educators, so teaching spelling is a necessity; however, due consideration is not given to its education at schools adequately. ...
... Estos datos muestran que el proceso que tiene lugar en español se asemeja al identificado en estudios realizados en otras lenguas (Devonshire et al., 2013;Kemper, Verhoeven y Bosman, 2012). En esta línea se sostiene que, al ser el conocimiento sobre las reglas de correspondencia uno de tipo declarativo, se beneficia del entrenamiento directo mediante enseñanza explícita por parte de sujetos experimentados (Berninger y Fayol, 2008;Devonshire, Morris y Fluck, 2013;Kemper, Verhoeven y Bosman, 2012). ...
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This paper analyzed the acquisition of orthographic knowledge in 3rd grade, Spanish-speaking children. Participants were 74 Argentine children; 36 were included in an experimental group while 38 were part of a control group. The experimental group was engaged in classroom activities designed to promote the acquisition of context-sensitive correspondence rules and the establishment of orthographic representations of words, syllables and morphemes. Post-test comparisons carried out between the experimental and the control groups showed that the experimental group was significantly better in the spelling of all words trained in the program. Children were also evaluated in the spelling of transfer words, that is, words not specifically presented in the intervention program but which included the same rules, syllables or morphemes as the trained words. The experimental group outperformed the control group in the spelling of transfer words including the context-sensitive correspondence rules presented in the program. However, no differences were obtained between groups in transfer words comprising the trained syllables or morphemes. These results suggest that the intervention program was effective in promoting the transfer of newly acquired rules to non trained words but that the acquisition and transfer of syllables and morphemes may require additional processes.
... Students apply this knowledge to generate unknown spellings and to remember correct spellings of words. Berninger and Fayol (2008) describe spelling as a code which uses letters that are tied to specific pronunciations and meanings in words. They identify three kinds of codes that contribute to spelling: a phonological code that is related to the sounds in spoken words, an orthographic code that is related to the letters in written words, and a morphological code that is related to word parts that impact meaning, tense, number or part of speech. ...
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The relationship between 2nd and 3rd grade teachers’ linguistic knowledge and spelling instructional practices and their students’ spelling gains from fall to spring was examined. Second grade (N = 16) and 3rd grade (N = 16) teachers were administered an instructional practices survey and a linguistic knowledge test. Total scores on the two instruments were not significantly related (r = 0.20), indicating two different constructs. Students (N = 331 2nd graders, N = 305 3rd graders) completed a 40 item spelling dictation test in the fall and spring. HLM analyses were conducted on subsamples of weaker spellers (Ns = 226 2nd graders and 50 3rd graders) who spelled fewer than 20 words correctly on the pretest. Limiting the sample to weaker spellers eliminated ceiling effects on pre- to posttest gains. Results revealed that 2nd grade teachers’ linguistic knowledge of phonemic units in words, their teaching of spelling strategies, the time they spent in weekly spelling instruction, and the greater the number of weaker spellers in their classrooms, were significant predictors of weaker spellers’ improvement in spelling. For 3rd grade teachers, HLM analyses were not significant perhaps due to lack of power. However, 3rd grade teachers’ phonemic knowledge was significantly correlated with weaker spellers’ gain scores. Results while correlational provide tentative support for the conclusion that teachers who are more knowledgeable about phonemes in words and who utilize more effective, research based spelling instruction are more successful in teaching spelling to weaker spellers.
... However when additional variables were added to the model, printing lost significance. These findings accord with those presented in the research literature (Berninger & Fayol, 2008;Christensen, 2009;Joshi, Treiman, Carreker, & Moats, 2008). ...
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This study examines the relationship of the underlying skills of printing, spelling and vocabulary choices as they influence the quality of writing at the end of Grade 2. Four classes of Grade 2 (N=85) writing in response to an expository prompt were scored holistically on a trait based rubric, and then scored for spelling accuracy and control/legibility of printing. The samples were then profiled using public domain software to glean insights into the vocabulary children can marshal and mobilize to describe 'the ideal zoo'. The findings accord well with Berninger's (1994) developmental constraint model of early literacy. The study makes a contribution in highlighting the need for explicit skills instruction (printing and spelling) and the emergent ability of 'excellent' young writers to take risks with vocabulary; to demonstrate understanding of register and genre requirements; and to effectively use pre-writing activity (sketching/drawing) as a concrete reference point for transposing thought to word to print.
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Spelling is a language problem-space, not only a school subject. Successful spelling demands going beyond letter to sound mapping and gaining access to a full representation of the orthographic structure of words. We traced bilingual Catalan/Spanish speakers’ spelling performance in Catalan across elementary school in two tasks: isolated words to dictation and text-composing. Our first goal was to tap the effect of grade level and task on the quantity and types of spelling errors children produce. Our second goal was to prove whether a more accurate spelling of orthographically ambiguous words (i.e., words with alternative phonographic spellings but only one that is orthographically correct) would explain spelling performance in text-composing. Results show that inaccurate spelling decreased significantly with grade level and was higher in dictation than in text-composing. However, lexical and, especially, orthographic errors were found in children’s production until the end of elementary school. Better spellers of orthographically ambiguous words committed fewer errors when producing texts. These findings point at an early implicit awareness of spelling difficulty but a protracted command of ruled orthographic knowledge.
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Programmatic, multidisciplinary research provided converging brain, genetic, and developmental support for evidence-based diagnoses of three specific learning disabilities based on hallmark phenotypes (behavioral expression of underlying genotypes) with treatment relevance: dysgraphia (impaired legible automatic letter writing, orthographic coding, and finger sequencing), dyslexia (impaired pseudoword reading, spelling, phonological and orthographic coding, rapid automatic naming, and executive functions; inhibition and rapid automatic switching), and oral and written language learning disability (same impairments as dyslexia plus morphological and syntactic coding and comprehension). Two case studies illustrate how these differential diagnoses can be made within a conceptual framework of a working memory architecture and generate treatment plans that transformed treatment nonresponders into treatment responders. Findings are discussed in reference to the importance of (a) considering individual differences (diagnosis of impaired hallmark phenotypes) in planning and evaluating response to instruction and modifying instruction when a student is not responding; (b) recognizing that teaching may change epigenetic gene expression at one stage of schooling, but not the underlying gene sequences that render individuals still vulnerable as curriculum requirements increase in nature, complexity, and volume in the upper grades; and (c) using evidence-based diagnoses of specific learning disabilities that are consistent across states for free and appropriate education K to 12 and for accommodations throughout higher education and professional credentialing.
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Researchers have taken two somewhat different views regarding the nature and development of orthographic and phonological knowledge in spelling and reading. A strongly integrative view holds that development in both areas depends on a common underlying knowledge base. For example, Ehri (1989, 1992) has argued that alphabetic “orthographic images” involved in both reading and spelling are amalgamated with the phonological information pertaining to the word (see also, Barron, 1986; Goswami & Bryant, 1990; Stuart & Coltheart, 1988). A more separatist view is represented in “dual-route” theories that emphasize the independence of two routes to the lexicon; an indirect phonological-decoding route operating through the reader’s knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondences, and a direct “visual” route that uses orthographic knowledge to access the lexicon without phonological mediation (Coltheart, 1978; Morton, 1969). The “dual-route” view has been very influential in attempts to account for individual differences in acquired and developmental reading disorders (Boder, 1973; Castles & Coltheart, 1993; Coltheart, Curtis, Atkins, & Haller, 1993; Mitterer, 1982; Patterson, Marshal, & Coltheart, 1985; Seymour, 1986), as well as individual differences across the normal continuum of reading ability (Baron, 1979; Baron & Strawson, 1976; Freebody & Byrne, 1988; Treiman, 1984). In this chapter we selectively review earlier research and present new behavioral-genetic evidence on the degree of developmental independence between disabled readers’ skills in the indirect (phonological) and direct (orthographic) routes for the identification of printed words.
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In R. M. Joshi & P. G. Aaron (Eds.).
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Children's (Grades 1 to 5) implicit learning of French orthographic regularities were investigated through nonword judgment (Experiments 1 and 2) and completion (Experiments 3a and 3b) tasks. Children were increasingly sensitive to (a) the frequency of double consonants (Experiments 1, 2 and 3a), (b) the fact that vowels can never be doubled (Experiment 2) and (c) the legal position of double consonants (Experiments 2 and 3b). The later effect transferred to never doubled consonants, although with a decrement in performance. Moreover, this decrement persisted without any trend towards fading even after the massive amounts of experience provided by years of practice. This result runs against the idea that transfer to novel material is indicative of abstract rule-based knowledge, and suggests instead the action of mechanisms sensitive to the statistical properties of the material. A connectionist model is proposed as an instantiation of such mechanisms.
Book
The role of orthography in reading and writing is not a new topic of inquiry. For example, in 1970 Venezky made a seminal contribution with The Structure of English Orthography in which he showed how both sequential redundancy (probable and permissible letter sequences) and rules of letter-sound correspondence contribute to orthographic structure. In 1980 Ehri introduced the concept of orthographic images, that is, the representation of written words in memory, and proposed that the image is created by an amalgamation of the word's orthographic and phonological properties. In 1981 Taylor described the evolution of orthographies in writing systems-from the earliest logographies for pictorial representation of ideas to syllabaries for phonetic representation of sounds to alphabets for phonemic representation of sounds. In 1985 Frith proposed a stage model for the role of orthographic knowledge in development of word recognition: Initially in the logographic stage a few words can be recognized on the basis of partial spelling information; in the alphabetic stage words are. recognized on the basis of grapheme-phoneme correspondence; in the orthographic stage spelling units are recognized automatically without phonological mediation. For an historical overview of research on visual processing of written language spanning the earliest records of writing to the early work in experimental psychology, see Venezky (1993).
Article
Two experiments examined whether American and British university students make different kinds of spelling errors as a function of the differences between their dialects. The American students spoke a rhotic dialect, pronouncing an /r/ in such words as leper, hermit, horde, and gnarl. The British students, with their nonrhotic dialect, did not include an /r/ in such words. The dialect differences led to different spelling errors in the 2 groups. For example, the British students sometimes misspelled horde as "haud" because its vowel has the alternative spelling au in their dialect. They sometimes spelled polka as "polker" because its final vowel is often spelled as er in other words. The U.S. students were much less likely to make such errors, although they did make other errors that reflected aspects of their dialect. Phonology, far from being superseded by other strategies in the development of spelling, continues to be important for adults.
Article
With reports from several studies showing the benefits of teaching young children about morphemes, this book is essential reading for anyone concerned with helping children to read and write. By breaking words down into chunks of meaning that can be analyzed as complete units rather than as strings of individual letters, children are better able to make sense of the often contradictory spelling and reading rules of English. As a result, their enjoyment of learning about words increases, and their literacy skills improve. Written by leading researchers for trainee teachers, practising teachers and interested parents, this highly accessible and innovative book provides sound, evidence-based advice and materials that can be used to help teach children about morphemes, and highlights the beneficial effects of this approach. © 2006 editorial matter and selection, Terezinha Nunes and Peter Bryant. All rights reserved.
Chapter
Morphology plays an essential role in written French, especially since many written markers have no corresponding pronunciation (Catach, 1986; Dubois, 1965; Chervel and Manesse, 1989; Girolami-Boulinier, 1984; Jaffré, 1992; Lucci and Millet, 1994). This predominantly silent morphology has two consequences. First the learning of these markers and of their functions by children must be performed without an oral reference (e.g., the absence of phonetic realization of the nominal plural -s in “les poules”/“the hens” and of the verbal plural -nt in “elles picorent”/“they peck”). Second, the implementation and the control of these markers by adults take place only in reference to the written language (Fayol, Largy and Lemaire, 1994; Largy, Fayol and Lemaire, 1996).
Article
University students made spelling recognition judgements on conventional spellings and misspellings of words. Regardless of how confident they were of their spelling, they could distinguish reliably between the conventional spelling and misspellings when they could spell the word, but they could not distinguish between the conventional spelling and their own misspelling when they could not spell the word. Students also read words that they could not spell as rapidly and as accurately as words that they could spell in a silent reading task. Finally, subjective confidence in spelling was associated with consistency of spelling across trials. Overall, there was no evidence for the claim of a separate reading representation containing orthographic information superior to that in a spelling representation. Instead, the results support the view that a common representation underlies both reading and spelling. Some representations may be incomplete, thus preventing precise spelling, but allowing identification by partial cues.