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Learning From Our Mistakes: Improvements in Spelling Lead to Gains in Reading Speed



The present study tested the hypothesis that underlying orthographic representations vary in completeness within the individual, which is manifested in both spelling accuracy and reading speed. Undergraduate students were trained to improve their spelling of difficult words. Word reading speed was then measured for these same words, allowing for a direct evaluation of whether improvements in spelling would bring about faster reading speeds. Results were clear: Spelling accuracy and reading speed were strongly related across and within participants. Most important, words that improved in spelling accuracy were read more rapidly at posttest than words that did not show improvement in spelling. These results provide direct evidence showing that the quality of orthographic representations, as indexed by spelling accuracy, directly relates to reading speed. This is consistent with the lexical quality hypothesis and highlights the relevance of spelling in literacy acquisition.
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Scientific Studies of Reading
ISSN: 1088-8438 (Print) 1532-799X (Online) Journal homepage:
Learning From Our Mistakes: Improvements in
Spelling Lead to Gains in Reading Speed
Gene Ouellette, Sandra Martin-Chang & Maya Rossi
To cite this article: Gene Ouellette, Sandra Martin-Chang & Maya Rossi (2017) Learning From
Our Mistakes: Improvements in Spelling Lead to Gains in Reading Speed, Scientific Studies of
Reading, 21:4, 350-357, DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2017.1306064
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Published online: 27 Apr 2017.
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Learning From Our Mistakes: Improvements in Spelling Lead to
Gains in Reading Speed
Gene Ouellette
, Sandra Martin-Chang
, and Maya Rossi
Mount Allison University;
Concordia University
The present study tested the hypothesis that underlying orthographic
representations vary in completeness within the individual, which is man-
ifested in both spelling accuracy and reading speed. Undergraduate stu-
dents were trained to improve their spelling of difficult words. Word
reading speed was then measured for these same words, allowing for a
direct evaluation of whether improvements in spelling would bring about
faster reading speeds. Results were clear: Spelling accuracy and reading
speed were strongly related across and within participants. Most important,
words that improved in spelling accuracy were read more rapidly at post-
test than words that did not show improvement in spelling. These results
provide direct evidence showing that the quality of orthographic represen-
tations, as indexed by spelling accuracy, directly relates to reading speed.
This is consistent with the lexical quality hypothesis and highlights the
relevance of spelling in literacy acquisition.
Sadly, proficient reading is not always associated with equally proficient spelling (Martin-Chang,
Ouellette, & Madden, 2014). This fits anecdotal experience; many strong readers struggle with
spelling, even into adulthood (Holmes & Castles, 2001; Moll & Landerl, 2009). The dissociation
between reading and spelling has been explained with reference to how words are stored in memory;
when orthographic representations are incomplete or unstable, their degree of specification may
suffice for reading (where the visual word is present) but not spelling (where the word must be
generated; Conrad, 2008). An intriguing extension of this argument is that even within good spellers,
some words will have orthographic representations that are fully and accurately stored in memory
(high quality), whereas other words will have representations that are incomplete or inaccurate
(poor quality; Perfetti, 2007). Viewed through the lens of lexical access, incomplete representations
should take longer to activate because of the mismatch between the internal representation and the
visual stimuli (Martin-Chang et al., 2014). In the present study we conducted a novel, stringent test
of this assertion by employing an experimental design in which we taught university students to spell
words they found difficult and subsequently measured their reading times for those same words.
Developmental theories (e.g., Ehri, 2005; Frith, 1985), cognitive explanations (e.g., Perfetti &
Hart, 2002), and connectionist models (e.g., Plaut, McClelland, Seidenberg, & Patterson, 1996) alike
have attributed the dissociation between reading and spelling to variations in stored orthographic
representations. For example, as illustrated by Conrad (2008) and Martin-Chang et al. (2014), the
word occasion may still be read when encountered in print, even if some information is missing from
the stored orthographic representation (e.g., oc?as?on). In contrast, this lack of orthographic
completeness will render accurate spelling difficult. Similarly, a word that is stored completely but
inaccurately (e.g., ocassion) would also prevent correct spelling but allow for a partial match to the
CONTACT Gene Ouellette Department of Psychology, Mount Allison University, 49A York Street,
Sackville, New Brunswick, E4L 1C7, Canada.
© 2017 Society for the Scientific Study of Reading
2017, VOL. 21, NO. 4, 350357
word when encountered in print. Thus, according to such theory, having complete representations is
not mandatory for reading, yet it should still prove advantageous. Indeed, Perfetti and colleagues
proposed that words with higher quality representations would both be less dependent upon top-
down cues (Perfetti, 2007; Perfetti, Liu, & Tan, 2005) and read faster than words with lower lexical
Holmes and Carruthers (1998) were among the first to examine whether words with higher
quality representations (as reflected by spelling accuracy) were activated more rapidly than words
with lower quality representations. They asked adult readers to complete two tasks (silent reading
and spelling to dictation) using the same words. After individualizing the data, Holmes and
Carruthers reported that participants read words equally quickly regardless of whether they could
spell those words accurately. In contrast, Burt and Tate (2002) employed a similar paradigm but used
a lexical decision task instead of a silent reading task. When their data were individualized,
participants could recognize words that they could spell accurately more quickly than words they
had difficulty spelling.
Moll and Landerl (2009) recently studied children with discrepant reading and spelling abilities.
They reported that good readers/poor spellers read words they could spell faster than poor readers/
good spellers. Perhaps even more surprising, they also found that the words that good readers/poor
spellers could not spell accurately were read as quickly as words that good readers/good spellers could
spell accurately. Although these data imply that it is reading ability rather than spelling ability that is
driving reading speed, there were no direct comparisons between how quickly the same children
could read words they could or could not spell.
Martin-Chang et al. (2014) addressed this question by directly measuring the reading speed of
correctly and incorrectly spelled words within the same participants. They noted that words spelled
accurately over multiple trials were read faster than words that were spelled incorrectly over the
same number of attempts. In short, each participant read the words he or she could spell faster than
those he or she could not. These results, together with those of Burt and Tate (2002), provide
correlational support for two hypotheses: first, that orthographic representations vary in terms of
accuracy within each individual person, and second, that higher quality representations allow for
more rapid recognition/retrieval of words (Perfetti, 2007; Share, 2008). However, the data just
reported are limited by their correlational nature. Here, we directly test the hypothesis that
improvements in orthographic quality cause reductions in reading times by employing a tightly
controlled experimental design.
In the present study we trained undergraduate students to accurately spell words that were
initially difficult for them and then assessed the impact of improved spelling accuracy on the reading
speed for these same words. Difficult words were determined for each participant based on their
performance on an initial spelling assessment. These words were then assigned to one of two
conditions: a training condition designed to improve spelling accuracy, and a control condition
designed to equate the number of auditory and visual word exposures over training. The control
condition was included to alleviate concerns over priming/practice effects given that the words in the
training condition were heard and read multiple times. This design allowed us to directly compare
reading access speed for words that participants learned how to spell relative to words that they were
still unable to spell after training.
Fifty-six students (41 female), with a mean chronological age of 18.68 years (SD =1
.13 years)
participated in the first session; of these, 45 (34 female) completed the second session. The mean
age of this group was 18.64 years (SD = 1.21 years). All students were native English speakers
(five reported being bilingual with multilanguage exposure from birth), recruited from a
Canadian undergraduate university. They received course credit in an introductory psychology
course for participating.
Screening measures
The Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE; Wagner, Torgesen, & Rashotte, 1999)determined
participantsgeneral word reading and phonemic decoding ability. The TOWRE has excellent
reported reliability, above .90. Participants were asked to read as many words as possible out loud
(from a list of 104 real words) in 45 s. Subsequently, they were asked to read as many nonwords as
possible (from a list of 63 nonwords) in 45 s.
The Spelling subtest of the WoodcockJohnson Test of AchievementThird Edition (WJ-III;
Woodcock, McGrew, & Mathers, 2001) determined participantsgeneral spelling abilities. The WJ-
III has high split-half reliability (Mdn r = .90; Schrank, McGrew, & Woodcock, 2001). Participants
were asked to write the words dictated by the researcher in an untimed test. Participants continued
until they had made six errors, or until the task was completed. The test contains 59 items.
Experimental stimuli
Four additional items were added to 20 words taken from Martin-Chang et al. (2014). The resulting
24 words (presented in the appendix) were chosen to control for frequency, length, and number of
syllables. The items varied with regards to how difficult they were to spell.
Session 1
Participants completed six tasks in total, three of which contained the target words. Reading speed of
the target words was first measured at the beginning of the session, followed by a visual maze task
(filler) and two standardized screening measures (TOWRE, WJ-III). The spelling task and the
definitions task both included the target words and occurred at the end of the session.
Reading response time was measured with SuperLab Pro 5.0 (Cedrus Corporation, 2014). The
words were presented individually, in random order, on a standard 24-in. computer screen. A
brief fixation point preceded each word. The readers voice triggered a voice key that prompted
the word to disappear from view. The experimenter manually scored accuracy of the reading
attempt on the keyboard, which triggered the presentation of the next fixation point. Each word
was read three times (once during each randomized 24-item list). The recorded reading speed
was averaged across all accurate readings of the word. Following the recommendations of Ratcliff
(1993), the response times were not transformed. Data were trimmed by setting the maximum
valid speed at 2,500 ms and discarding data from any trial in which the reading was not accurate
or in which the voice key was incorrectly triggered. In all, these procedures involved less than 2%
of the computed data points.
Immediately after the filler task and the two standardized screening measures, the participants
completed a spelling-to-dictation test. The experimenter read the target words in a fixed random
order. The participant wrote them in a list format using pen and paper. Each word appeared only
once per list. After the full list of target words had been written down, the participant received a new
sheet of paper and the list of words was dictated again in a different random order. This was done
three times. The score per word was computed as the number of correct spellings out of three
Finally, to confirm that participants had working knowledge of the target words, they wrote a
brief definition to dictation (without including the target word). The definitions were scored on a
maximum of 3 points. A complete definition with examples was awarded 3 points. Two points were
awarded if a key part of the definition was provided. One point was awarded if the word was
appropriately used in context. Two assessors scored the definitions; in cases where there was a
discrepancy, consensus was reached via discussion.
Session 2
One week later, participants returned for the training and posttest component of the research design.
After the training practice (see next), the participants completed a visual filler-task (maze comple-
tion) and then repeated the timed reading task from Session 1; a second visual filler-task was then
completed, followed by the spelling dictation test of the target words.
This was a within-subjects design; each participant took part in both the spelling condition and
the control condition (devised to control for priming/practice effects). Half of each participants
misspelled words from Session 1 were randomly assigned to the spelling condition; the remaining
misspelled words were assigned to the control condition. To limit the variability in the number of
words practiced across participants, and to facilitate the opportunities for learning, a maximum of 10
words were assigned for each participant (i.e., five per condition). The order was counterbalanced so
that half of the participants received the spelling condition before the control condition.
During the spelling training, participants were shown the correct spelling of the target word on an
index card while hearing the experimenter read the word aloud. The card was removed from view,
and the participant was given another card and pencil and asked to spell the word. The original
index card was then shown again and the two spellings compared. This process was repeated two
more times (for a total of three spelling attempts with feedback regardless of spelling accuracy).
No spelling took place in the control condition; the experimenter read the words within an
elaborate definition. The target word was present four times within each definition. Each time the
word occurred, the researcher would show the index card of that word (for equal visual and auditory
exposure to words as in the spelling condition, to control for any priming effects of repeated stimuli).
Session 1
Descriptives and intercorrelations from the first session are presented in Table 1. Standardized tests
indicated that participants fell within the expected range of proficient reading and spelling, and the
scored definitions indicated working knowledge for the experimental word set (i.e., average score
above 1). The positive correlations between the standardized reading and spelling tests confirm the
predicted association between reading and spelling skills. Although the standardized spelling test was
not significantly correlated with our reading speed measure, the experimental spelling test
(which contained the same words as the reading speed task) was moderately correlated with the
reading task. This both supports the importance of considering word-specific measures and indicates
that higher spelling accuracy was associated with faster reading times within participants.
Table 1. Descriptives and correlation coefficients, Session 1.
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6
1. TOWRE words
2. TOWRE nonwords .59**
3. WJ-III spelling .26* .50**
4. Definitions
.32** .38** .22
5. Reading time
.19 .38** .19 .33**
6. Spelling accuracy
.23* .44** .75** .26* .37**
M95.11 57.80 51.50 1.83 831.46 1.66
SD 7.74 5.64 3.54 .39 242.71 .45
Note. N = 56. TOWRE = Test of Word Reading Efficiency; WJ-III = WoodcockJohnson Test of AchievementThird Edition.
Mean definition score per word.
Reading time averaged across all words.
Number of correct spelling attempts out of 3, averaged
across all words.
*p< .05. **p< .01.
To follow up on the positive correlation between spelling accuracy and reading speed within
participants, we performed a within-item analysis to control for lexical properties of each word
(e.g., frequency of use, regularity). This entailed reorganizing the data so that separate reading
means were calculated for each word when it was spelled correctly (i.e., three of three) versus when
it was spelled incorrectly (i.e., none of three). In line with Martin-Chang et al. (2014), we found
that when a word was spelled consistently correctly, it was read on average, 20.2% faster compared
to when it was spelled consistently incorrectly. This represented a significant difference with a
moderate to large effect size, F(1, 23) = 7.90, p<.01,η
Session 2: Training data
To directly test the hypothesis that the quality oforthographic representations manifests in both
spelling accuracy and reading access speed, we turn to the results from the second session. In all,
18 of the words were included in the training set because they were consistently misspelled
(zero out of three accuracy) in Session 1 (see appendix). Of these 18 words, participants mis-
spelled, on average, approximately eight words each (M=8.07errors;range=412). The number
of words assigned to each condition, for each participant, was dependent upon the number of
spelling errors made by that participant in Session 1 (see the Methods section). Most participants
(n= 40) had four to five words assigned to each practice condition, only two participants had just
two words assigned to each condition, and 14 participants had three words assigned to each
condition. Overall, the spelling training was found to be very effective. When comparing the
number of correct spellings (out of three attempts) at posttest, spellings for words assigned to the
experimental condition were significantly higher (M= 2.19/3) than those assigned to the control
condition (M= 1.32/3), F(1, 44) = 25.03, p<.001,η
As evident in the means just reported, not all participants learned how to spell all of the words
they practiced. In addition, some incidental learning took place in the control condition; spelling
improvement was evident for 78% of the words assigned to the spelling training, whereas 33.6% of
the words in the control condition also improved. To test the hypothesis under study, it is necessary
to consider the effect on reading speed, not of assigned condition but of improved spelling
(regardless of assignment). Further, it is important to do so while also considering possible
participant and word-level effects. To accomplish this, linear mixed-effects modeling was employed.
For the linear mixed-effects model, words were first coded separately for each participant as to
whether they improved in spelling; this was dummy coded for each word with 0 indicating no
improvement and 1 indicating improvement in spelling between Time 1 and Time 2. In the analysis,
we entered this improvement variable as a fixed-effect predictor and reading speed change across
sessions as the dependent variable (to account for any time and general practice effects). We then
added word and participant as random effects with random intercepts and slopes. The intercept of
the completed model corresponds to the mean reading speed change of the no-improvement
condition, which was 147.83 ms (SE = 20.73), indicating faster reading across time, not associated
with spelling improvement. There was a significant further improvement in reading speed, repre-
sented by the estimated fixed effect of 55.93 ms (SE = 17.42) for the improved-spelling condition,
F(1, 647) = 10.31, p= .001. Participant was not statistically significant as a source of variance for the
intercept (p= .19) or slope (p= .35). Word was also not a significant source of variance (p= .25).
This model confirms faster reading speed consequential from improved spelling, further to any
general practice effects that may emerge over time, and regardless of any impact of participant or
word variance.
Note that there were too few instances of inconsistent spelling (10.2%) to permit a separate analysis of this category of
performance (see also Martin-Chang et al., 2014).
Here, we provide direct experimental evidence showing that the quality of orthographic representa-
tions, as indexed by spelling accuracy, directly relates to reading speed. Important to note, this
relation holds across and within participants. Initial reading and spelling assessments revealed
moderate correlations between both general reading and spelling skill, as well as word-specific
reading speed and spelling accuracy. Further, a within-word analysis indicated that when a given
word was spelled accurately, it tended to be read more rapidly. Even more convincing, words that
were spelled accurately after training were read more rapidly at posttest than words that showed no
such improvement, even when participant and word effects were included in the analysis. The
training data reported here provide the most direct support to date for the contention that improved
spelling brings about increased reading speed.
Together these results extend prior investigations (Burt & Tate, 2002; Martin-Chang et al., 2014;
Moll & Landerl, 2009) while supporting the contention by Perfetti and colleagues (Perfetti, 2007;
Perfetti & Hart, 2002) that underlying orthographic representations vary in completeness across and
within individuals and that this variation is manifested in both spelling accuracy and reading speed.
The training results showed that improvements in spelling brought about immediate improvements
in reading speed; impressively, this robust finding was in addition to any general improvement in
reading speed that occurred due to repeated oral and visual exposure to the words. Further, neither
participant nor lexical characteristics at the word level appear to account for the present findings, as
confirmed in the mixed-effects modeling.
In considering the training data, it is unclear why the spelling of only some of the words
improved over time. Certain items seemed easier to learn. For example, paraffin,despite
being very low frequency, has only one consonant doubling (20 instances of improved spelling,
seven of no improvement), compared to a higher frequency word like hemorrhagethat has
one doubling, one vowel team, more letters, and a problematic h(eight instances of
improved spelling; 14 of no improvement). Future research should tackle this question by
focussing on lexical characteristics that underlie word complexity, as well as depth of semantic
knowledge held by participants. In a similar vein, more diverse populations learning to spell
larger word sets would also contribute to the understanding of how orthographic representa-
tions, spelling accuracy, and reading intersect.
In closing, recent research has proposed mechanisms that may help explain the gradual learning
of orthographic representations in literacy acquisition. For example, Ouellette and Sénéchal (2017)
described a developmental pathway to literacy in which the analytical process of generating spellings
contributes directly to word reading; Sénéchal, Gingras, and Heureux (2016) presented a fuzzy-
representation modelthat explicitly describes incremental, partial learning of orthographic repre-
sentations as manifested in spelling. Together with the present study, and in accord with a recent
meta-analysis (Graham & Hebert, 2011), these efforts highlight the connections between ortho-
graphic representations, spelling accuracy, and reading and point to spelling instruction as a
potential valuable means of improving underlying representations, and subsequent word reading.
The authors would like to extend gratitude to Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton for her assistance with the mixed-effects
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Table A1. Words used in experimental reading and spelling tasks.
No. of Letters No. of Phonemes No. of Syllables Frequency per Million
11 8 4 2.14
11 9 4 0.51
11 8 4 0.18
11 6 3 0.61
convergent 10 9 3 0.04
9 6 3 1.22
9 7 3 2.06
dividend 8 8 3 0.37
filtration 10 9 3 0.45
11 8 3 0.59
gradient 8 8 3 0.18
10 6 3 1.71
8 7 3 0.73
10 9 4 0.78
lollipop 8 7 3 1.78
8 5 2 2.10
8 7 3 0.43
8 7 3 0.43
10 8 3 0.35
9 7 3 1.53
salutation 10 10 4 0.12
10 6 3 0.57
8 7 3 0.08
8 6 3 0.96
Brysbarert and New (2009).
Words assigned in training study.
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... To illustrate the point, consider the results of Ouellette, Martin-Chang, and Rossi's (2017) study of English spelling (see also Rossi, Martin-Chang, & Ouellette, 2019 for related findings). In the study, participants took a spelling pre-test and then repeatedly read aloud written words that they did not spelled correctly in the pre-test. ...
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... In contrast, students in more practice-oriented tracks might be subject to a proportionately higher exposure to 'misspelled' word forms because their exposure to (formal) standard writing might be minimal and consequently their relative exposure to social media writing might be higher. This relation between individuals' experience with printed texts on the one hand and the quality of orthographic representation of these individuals on the other hand has been studied, for example, in experimental research on orthographic learning and spelling errors in particular (see e.g., Falkauskas & Kuperman 2015;Kuperman et al. 2021;Ouellette, Martin-Chang, & Rossi 2017;Rossi, Martin-Chang, & Ouellette 2019). Hence, the quality of our chatters' orthographic representations may be strongly correlated with ...
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We identified two causes of spelling problems for partially homophonous inflected forms (past participles): effects of (a) intraparadigmatic inflectional support and (b) interparadigmatic bigram support on the correct/incorrect spelling of the final suffix. Both causes are triggered by the morphological principle in Dutch spelling. We also found effects of social variables, which did not interact with the cognitive variables. This was predicted by a model in which a limited-capacity working memory interacts with a frequency-sensitive storage of orthographic representations.
... In the first school years, one of the paramount achievements is succeeding in the ability to write correctly, in accordance with spelling rules and conventions. This is a fundamental skill that has implications for both reading and writing since the accuracy of orthographic representations has effects not only on reading speed but also on spelling correction of what is written (Ouellette et al., 2017). The automation of writing procedures, especially in relation to orthographic representations, is a necessary condition for fluent writing since only in these circumstances are subjects able to focus completely on the ideas they wish to express in the texts. ...
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Our aim was to assess the effect of a self-correction spelling tool based on orthographic revision procedures on third-grade children’s orthographic performance. This tool consisted of grids displaying explicit contextual, phonological and morphological rules. Participants were 70 third-grade students, randomly assigned to an experimental (N = 35) and control group (N = 35). A pretest and post-test were performed a week before the training programme and two weeks after the end of it, consisting of a 76-word spelling test that referred to contextual (32 words), phonological (32 words) and morphological (12 words) rules. The experimental training programme was carried out with children in class and consisted of nine sessions in which children had to spell words dictated by an adult, who then underlined their misspellings with a specific colour (a different colour was assigned to each rule) and asked them to self-correct the misspellings using the grid. None of the words present in the pre- and post-test were used in the training programme. The same words were used in the control group, but instead of self-correcting the misspellings, children were shown the correct spelling and had to copy it three times. The post-test results showed that the experimental group decreased significantly the number of misspellings when compared with the control group, with statistically significant differences for each rule. Nevertheless, the morphological misspellings, after the intervention, were superior to the other types of misspellings. These results show the importance of inducing self-correction spelling strategies in educational contexts.
... Currently, there is little research comparing different methods of teaching morphology and other orthographic regularities (Ng et al. 2020), and accordingly, more research on the SWI tools (and other tools, see Templeton & Bear 2017) is warranted when embedded within a phonics approach. Still, there are good arguments for rejecting phonics and teaching GPCs within a morphological context from the start, including the fact that learning in general is best when information is studied in a meaningful context (Bower et al. 1969), that spelling knowledge improves word naming (Ouellette et al. 2017), that morphological instruction improves phonological awareness and word decoding (Goodwin and Ahn 2013), and that morphological instruction is effective and sometimes most effective when introduced early (Bowers and Kirby 2010; Carlisle 2010; Galuschka et al. 2020;Goodwin and Ahn 2013). ...
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Fletcher, Savage, and Sharon (Educational Psychology Review, 2020) have raised a number of conceptual and empirical challenges to my claim that there is little or no evidence for systematic phonics (Bowers, Educational Psychology Review, 32, 681–705, 2020). But there are many mistakes, mischaracterizations, and omissions in the Fletcher et al. response that not only obscure the important similarities and differences in our views but also perpetuate common mischaracterizations of the evidence. In this response, I attempt to clarify a number of conceptual confusions, perhaps most importantly, the conflation of phonics with teaching GPCs. I do agree that children need to learn their GPCs, but that does not entail a commitment to systematic or any other form of phonics. With regard to the evidence, I respond to Fletcher et al.’s analysis of 12 meta-analyses and briefly review the reading outcomes in England following over a decade of legally mandated phonics. I detail why their response does not identify any flaws in my critique nor alter my conclusion that there is little or no support for the claim that phonics by itself or in a richer literacy curriculum is effective. We both agree that future research needs to explore how to combine various forms of instruction most effectively, including an earlier emphasis of morphological instruction, but we disagree that phonics must be part of the mix. I illustrate this by describing an alternative approach that rejects phonics, namely, Structured Word Inquiry.
... Reading skills correlate to one another, with strong readers good at multiple literacy skills and struggling readers poor at multiple skills. Indeed, there is a large literature highlighting that morphological knowledge predicts literacy outcomes (e.g., Deacon, Kirby, & Casselman-Bell, 2009), as does vocabulary knowledge (Valentini, Ricketts, Pye, & Houston-Price, 2018), as does spelling (Ouellette, Martin-Chang, & Rossi, 2017), etc. None of these latter correlations support any given form of instruction, and neither does a correlation between decoding as measured on the PSC and reading comprehension. ...
It is widely claimed that the science of reading supports the conclusion that systematic phonics should be part of initial reading instruction. Bowers (2020) challenged this conclusion after reviewing all the main evidence, and Buckingham (2020a) provided a detailed response where she argues that the evidence does indeed support systematic phonics and criticizes an alternative form of instruction called “Structured Word Inquiry” or (SWI). Here we show that every substantive criticism Buckingham makes is factually incorrect or reflects a fundamental mischaracterization. There is nothing in her article that challenges the conclusions that Bowers (2020) draws regarding systematic phonics, and nothing that challenges the claims we have made in the past regarding SWI. This should not be used to support whole language or balanced literacy, but it should motivate researchers to consider alternative methods that are well motivated on theoretical grounds, such as SWI.
... Students who learn phonics, with a specific emphasis on the correspondence between letters and their sounds, are better at spelling and reading (Ehri, Nunes, Stahl, & Willows, 2001). The same is true for those who receive explicit instruction in spelling (Graham & Santangelo, 2014;Ouellette, Martin-Chang, & Rossi, 2017). ...
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The purpose of this data visualization tool is twofold. First, it serves as a resource for researchers, analysts, and practitioners to understand people’s thoughts, feelings, and responses to the coronavirus as well as the extraordinary societal measures taken against it. Such knowledge could provide pilot data for researchers, inform current policies to contain the pandemic, or help society prepare for similar events in the future. Second, it serves as a test case for how psychological scientists can use data visualization to engage the public and share results with respondents. Tens of thou-sands of respondents invested time and effort to share their experiences, and the app affords them access and agency over the data as well as an interactive experience of how data can be used. Online version:
Learning to spell in English requires the integration of general and specific word knowledge. This paper describes the ‘Word Nerds’ project, a research–practice partnership consisting of two researchers from a large public university and 17 elementary teachers in seven school districts in the United States. The collaboration was formed to study variation in instructional practice among teachers using the Words Their Way programme and address teacher‐generated questions related to how children learn to spell words. This paper describes how stakeholders worked together to understand (1) what grouping and organisational structures teachers use for spelling instruction, (2) the extent to which elementary students use analogy to spell unknown words that share spelling patterns with known words and (3) the affordances and challenges of a partnership approach to educational research. Data collection took place over one school year. Data sources included teacher focus groups, classroom observations and student formative spelling assessment data (n = 178). Analyses included descriptive statistics, t‐tests and multilevel modelling, nesting spelling items in students in classrooms. Findings indicated that classroom observation scores for grouping, teacher talk, student‐to‐student talk, reflection and student engagement during spelling lessons varied depending on format (whole group, small group or pair/individual). Students showed evidence of spelling by analogy, but this strategy was associated in part with the semantic difficulty of the target words. Instructional practices for spelling vary based on teachers' priorities, and teachers need support to implement and prioritise evidence‐based practices. Conducting research in partnership allowed the researchers to observe and understand variation in implementation of a popular spelling programme and to develop and answer research questions that mattered to teachers; however, it also limited the size, scope and location of the project. What is already known about this topic Children can read and spell words by analogising familiar spelling patterns from known to unknown words. Evidence‐based spelling instruction focuses on common orthographic and morphological patterns that help students use analogy to spell and form high‐quality lexical representations in memory. Implementation of evidence‐based spelling instruction is challenging for teachers, and there is little research examining how popular commercial spelling programmes are used in classrooms. What this paper adds Classrooms engaged in small‐group spelling instruction included more teacher talk; classrooms engaged in individual instruction were highly differentiated; and classrooms engaged in whole‐group instruction included more student‐to‐student talk and engagement. Student data showed evidence of spelling by analogy, but students were less likely to spell more semantically challenging words correctly and made more errors in spelling those words, even when orthographic difficulty was held constant. The research–practice partnership allowed researchers to document and explain variability in spelling instruction and address teachers' questions about spelling development. Implications for theory, policy or practice Teachers adapt spelling instruction to address their priorities, and different organisational models prioritise direct instruction, differentiation, standards‐based content, or peer collaboration. The ability to analogise spelling patterns from known to unknown words may depend on linking orthographic knowledge to vocabulary knowledge. Teachers need support and community to implement and iterate best practices for spelling instruction.
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There is growing interest in the role that morphological knowledge plays in literacy acquisition, but there is no research directly comparing the efficacy of different forms of morphological instruction. Here we compare two methods of teaching English morphology in the context of a memory experiment when words were organized by affix during study (e.g., a list of words was presented that all share an affix, such as , , , , etc.) or by base during study (e.g., a list of words was presented that all share a base, such as , , , ). We show that memory for morphologically complex words is better in both conditions compared to a control condition that does not highlight the morphological composition of words, and most importantly, show that studying words in a base-centric format improves memory further still. We argue that the morphological matrix that organizes words around a common base may provide an important new tool for literacy instruction.
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A recent systematic review has reported that poor reading is reliably associated with anxiety. However, we currently lack evidence-based intervention for children who have both poor reading and anxiety (PRAX). In this study, we tested a new PRAX intervention in 8- to 12-year-old children using a double-baseline intervention case series design. Analyses of both group and individual data revealed that 12 weeks of PRAX intervention significantly improved children’s reading and spelling accuracy, and significantly reduced both anxiety disorders and symptoms. These results support PRAX intervention as a treatment for comorbid reading and anxiety problems in children and pave the way to a randomised controlled trial.
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Reading is critical to students' success in and out of school. One potential means for improving students' reading is writing. In this meta-analysis of true and quasiexperiments, Graham and Herbert present evidence that writing about material read improves students' comprehension of it; that teaching students how to write improves their reading comprehension, reading fluency, and word reading; and that increasing how much students write enhances their reading comprehension. These findings provide empirical support for long-standing beliefs about the power of writing to facilitate reading.
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High quality lexical representations in memory, characterized by accuracy and stability, are said to underpin fluent reading. Here, the relationship between orthographic quality and reading speed was examined by asking undergraduates (N = 74) to repeatedly read and spell words. Spelling performance over five trials indicated orthographic quality. Single word reading speed was measured using E-Prime technology. A within-participant repeated measures analysis revealed that words which participants spelled consistently accurately, were read faster than words which were misspelled. This pattern also held in a within-word analysis; the same words were read faster by individuals who always spelled them correctly, compared to those who did not. Further, it was found that when words were spelled using the same incorrect letter patterns across trials (i.e., in the same erroneous way), they were read faster than when they had an incorrect but less stable representation (i.e., inconsistent spelling across trials). Hence, the difference in reading speed appears to be a function of both the accuracy and stability of the orthographic representations stored in memory, rather than due to characteristics of individual participants or words. These results lend support for a central role of lexical quality in both spelling and reading, and are discussed with reference to the lexical quality hypothesis.
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The lexical quality hypothesis (LQH) claims that variation in the quality of word representations has consequences for reading skill, including comprehension. High lexical quality includes well-specified and partly redundant representations of form (orthography and phonology) and flexible representations of meaning, allowing for rapid and reliable meaning retrieval. Low-quality representations lead to specific word-related problems in comprehension. Six lines of research on adult readers demonstrate some of the implications of the LQH. First, large-scale correlational results show the general interdependence of comprehension and lexical skill while identifying disassociations that allow focus on comprehension-specific skill. Second, word-level semantic processing studies show comprehension skill differences in the time course of form-meaning confusions. Studies of rare vocabulary learning using event-related potentials (ERPs) show that, third, skilled comprehenders learn new words more effectively and show stronger ERP indicators for memory of the word learning event and, fourth, suggest skill differences in the stability of orthographic representations. Fifth, ERP markers show comprehension skill differences in meaning processing of ordinary words. Finally, in text reading, ERP results demonstrate momentary difficulties for low-skill comprehenders in integrating a word with the prior text. The studies provide evidence that word-level knowledge has consequences for word meaning processes in comprehension.
In this study we evaluated whether the sophistication of children's invented spellings in kindergarten was predictive of subsequent reading and spelling in Grade 1, while also considering the influence of well-known precursors. Children in their first year of schooling (mean age = 66 months; = 171) were assessed on measures of oral vocabulary, alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, word reading and invented spelling; approximately 1 year later they were assessed on multiple measures of reading and spelling. Path modeling was pursued to evaluate a hypothesized unique, causal role of invented spelling in subsequent literacy outcomes. Results supported a model in which invented spelling contributed directly to concurrent reading along with alphabetic knowledge and phonological awareness. Longitudinally, invented spelling influenced subsequent reading, along with alphabetic knowledge while mediating the connection between phonological awareness and early reading. Invented spelling also influenced subsequent conventional spelling along with phonological awareness, while mediating the influence of alphabetic knowledge. Invented spelling thus adds explanatory variance to literacy outcomes not entirely captured by well-studied code and language-related skills. (PsycINFO Database Record
In this report, we propose a model of spelling acquisition inspired by statistical learning and a frame-like model of orthographic representations: the fuzzy representation model. To provide an initial test of the model’s predictions for inconsistent words, 107 French-speaking children in Grades 1 to 3 were asked to spell words ending with a silent letter. Half of the words ended with the frequent silent t and half with the less frequent silent d. As predicted, children accurately spelled more t- than d-words. Most errors were omissions and substitutions of the silent letter. Consistent with statistical learning, there was some evidence that children used the preceding orthographic context when making substitution errors. The proportion of omissions, however, was not consistent with the statistical properties of French. These findings are discussed in light of the fuzzy representation model, whereby inconsistencies in words are more likely to be underspecified, if represented at all.
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.
In two studies dissociations between reading and spelling skills were examined. Study 1 reports equally high prevalence rates for isolated deficits in reading (7%) or spelling (6%) in a representative sample (N = 2,029) of German-speaking elementary school children. In Study 2, children with isolated deficits were presented with the same words to read and spell. The double dissociation was replicated. Good readers/poor spellers named pseudohomophones as quickly as their corresponding words, and their phonological awareness skills were adequate, suggesting that their reading might be based on highly efficient decoding procedures. Poor readers/good spellers showed slow word naming and a clear slowing when reading pseudohomophones suggesting a reliance on intact orthographic representations in word reading. A deficit in rapid automatized naming in this group suggests problems in fast visual–verbal access. The profile of poor readers/poor spellers fits the double-deficit group in Wolf and Bowers's (1999)45. Wolf , M. and Bowers , P. G. 1999. The double-deficit hypothesis for the developmental dyslexias. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91: 415–438. [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]View all references dyslexia theory.