Spelling and Word Study

Modeling Complex Word Reading: Examining Influences at the Level of the Word and Child on Mono- and Polymorphemic Word Reading

Steacy, L. M., Rigobon, V. M., Edwards, A. A., Abes, D. R., Marencin, N. C., Smith, K., Elliott, J. D., Wade-Woolley, L., & Compton, D. L. (2022). Modeling complex word reading: Examining influences at the level of the word and child on mono- and polymorphemic word reading. Scientific Studies of Reading. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888438.2022.2077109

The probability of a child reading a word correctly is influenced by both child skills and properties of the word. The purpose of this study was to investigate child-level skills (set for variability and vocabulary), word-level properties (concreteness), word structure (mono- vs polymorphemic), and interactions between these properties and word structure within a comprehensive item-level model of complex word reading. Students studies were in grades 2-5. Results indicate important predictors at both the child- and word-level and support the importance of morphological structure for reading abstract polysyllabic words.

The Relations of Morphological Awareness with Language and Literacy Skills Vary Depending on Orthographic Depth and Nature of Morphological Awareness

Lee, J. won, Wolters, A., & Grace Kim, Y.-S. (2022). The Relations of Morphological Awareness with Language and Literacy Skills Vary Depending on Orthographic Depth and Nature of Morphological Awareness. Review of Educational Research. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543221123816

Researchers examined the relation of morphological awareness with language and literacy skills — phonological awareness, orthographic awareness, vocabulary, word reading, spelling, text reading fluency, and reading comprehension. They also examined potential moderators of the relations (grade level, orthographic depth of language, receptive vs. productive morphological awareness, inflectional vs. derivational vs. compound morphological awareness, and L1/L2 status). The review revealed that morphological awareness was, on average, moderately related to phonological awareness, orthographic awareness, vocabulary, word reading, spelling, text reading fluency, and reading comprehension. Importantly, morphological awareness had a stronger relation with word reading in orthographically deep languages than in orthographically shallow languages. The relation with vocabulary was stronger for upper elementary grades than for primary grades. The magnitude of the relation also varied by the nature of morphological awareness. These results underscore the importance of morphological awareness in language and literacy skills, and reveal a nuanced and precise picture of their relations.

The Unique Role of Early Spelling in the Prediction of Later Literacy Performance

Rebecca Treiman, Jacqueline Hulslander, Richard K. Olson, Erik G. Willcutt, Brian Byrne & Brett Kessler (2019) The Unique Role of Early Spelling in the Prediction of Later Literacy Performance, Scientific Studies of Reading, 23:5, 437-444, DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2019.1573242

Researchers examined the predictive value of early spelling for later reading performance by analyzing data from 970 U.S. children whose spelling was assessed in the summer following the completion of kindergarten. The word reading performance of most of the children was then tested after the completion of Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 4, and Grade 9. A computer-scored measure of post-kindergarten spelling was a significant predictor of later reading performance even after taking into account post-kindergarten phonological awareness, reading, and letter-sound knowledge and pre-kindergarten vocabulary. The results suggest that, by the end of kindergarten, spelling is more than just a proxy for phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge. Given the information that spelling provides, it should be considered for inclusion when screening children for future literacy problems.

Invented spelling in kindergarten as a predictor of reading and spelling in Grade 1

Ouellette, Gene; Sénéchal, Monique. Invented spelling in kindergarten as a predictor of reading and spelling in Grade 1: A new pathway to literacy, or just the same road, less known? Developmental Psychology, Vol 53(1), Jan 2017, 77-88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000179

This study 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 were assessed on measures of oral vocabulary, alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, word reading, and invented spelling; approximately one year later they were assessed on multiple measures of reading and spelling. The researchers found a direct line from invented spelling leading to improved reading scores at the end of first grade. The study suggests that invented spelling integrates phonological and orthographic growth and is a unique predictor of growth in early reading skills, over and above children’s alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness.

The role of part-time special education supporting students with reading and spelling difficulties from grade 1 to grade 2 in Finland

Leena K. Holopainen et al, The role of part-time special education supporting students with reading and spelling difficulties from grade 1 to grade 2 in Finland (April 25, 2017). European Journal of Special Needs Education (2017). DOI: 10.1080/08856257.2017.1312798

The reading skills of children with reading and spelling difficulties (RSD) lag far behind the age level in the first two school years, despite special education received from special education teachers. Furthermore, the spelling skills of children who in addition to RSD had other learning difficulties also lagged behind their peers in the first two school years. Small group education and a moderate amount of part-time special education (approximately 38 hours per year) predicted faster skill development, whereas individual and a large amount of special education (more than 48 hours per year) were related to slower skill development and broader difficulties.

Does spelling instruction make students better spellers, readers, and writers? A meta-analytic review

Graham, S., Santangelo, T. (2014) Does spelling instruction make students better spellers, readers, and writers? A meta-analytic review. Reading and Writing October 2014, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 1703-1743.

Some scholars have argued that spelling should not be directly or formally taught as such instruction is not effective or efficient. The authors conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies to address these claims. Results provided strong and consistent support for teaching spelling, as it improved spelling performance when compared to no/unrelated instruction or informal/incidental approaches to improving spelling performance. Increasing the amount of formal spelling instruction also proved beneficial. Gains in spelling were maintained over time and generalized to spelling when writing. Improvements in phonological awareness and reading skills were also found. The positive outcomes associated with formal spelling instruction were generally consistent, regardless of students’ grade level or literacy skills.

A Written Language Intervention for At-Risk Second Grade Students

Hooper, S. R., Costa, L. C., McBee, M., Anderson, K. L., Yerby, D. C., Childress, A., & Knuth, S. B. (2013). A written language intervention for at-risk second grade students: A randomized controlled trial of the process assessment of the learner lesson plans in a tier 2 response-to-intervention (RtI) model. Annals of Dyslexia, 66(1), 44–64.

The study examined the effects of Process Assessment of the Learner (PAL), a writing expression curriculum. The program was tested with second grade students in a suburban–rural school district in the southeastern United States. Three sections of PAL lessons were implemented in the district as a small-group curriculum supplement — Talking Letters, Spelling, and Handwriting and Composition. The study found that the average written expression skills of the PAL intervention group were higher than those of the comparison group at the beginning of third grade. However, a review of the findings by What Works Clearinghouse did not confirm that the observed effect of the PAL intervention on growth in written expression skills was statistically significant.

Orthographic Mapping in the Acquisition of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning

Linnea C. Ehri (2014) Orthographic Mapping in the Acquisition of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning, Scientific Studies of Reading, 18:1, 5-21, DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2013.819356

Orthographic mapping (OM) involves the formation of letter-sound connections to bond the spellings, pronunciations, and meanings of specific words in memory. It explains how children learn to read words by sight, to spell words from memory, and to acquire vocabulary words from print. This development is portrayed as a sequence of overlapping phases, each characterized by the predominant type of connection linking spellings of words to their pronunciations in memory. During development, the connections improve in quality and word-learning value, from visual nonalphabetic, to partial alphabetic, to full grapho-phonemic, to consolidated grapho-syllabic and grapho-morphemic. OM is enabled by phonemic awareness and grapheme-phoneme knowledge. Recent findings indicate that OM to support sight word reading is facilitated when beginners are taught about articulatory features of phonemes and when grapheme-phoneme relations are taught with letter-embedded picture mnemonics. Vocabulary learning is facilitated when spellings accompany pronunciations and meanings of new words to activate OM. Teaching students the strategy of pronouncing novel words aloud as they read text silently activates OM and helps them build their vocabularies. Because spelling-sound connections are retained in memory, they impact the processing of phonological constituents and phonological memory for words.

Contributions of Emergent Literacy Skills to Name Writing, Letter Writing, and Spelling in Preschool Children

Puranik, C.S., Lonigan, C.J. and Kim, Y-S. Contributions of emergent literacy skills to name writing, letter writing, and spelling in preschool children. (2011) National Institute of Health.

This research study focused on the connection between emergent literacy skills, name writing, letter writing, and spelling in preschool children. Investigators found that name writing and letter writing may signal the development of understanding the alphabetic principle in young children. Letter writing skills may also be a better predictor of children’s emergent literacy skills, including spelling, and consequently, letter writing instruction may promote emergent literacy skills and be an important intervention in the early years of learning.

The Effects of Morphological Instruction on Literacy Skills: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Bowers, P. N., Kirby, J. R., & Deacon, S. H. (2010). The effects of morphological instruction on literacy skills: A systematic review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 80(2), 229-251. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654309359353

The authors reviewed all peer-reviewed studies with participants from preschool to Grade 8 for this meta-analysis of morphological interventions. They identified 22 applicable studies. The authors investigated the effects of morphological instruction (a) on reading, spelling, vocabulary, and morphological skills, (b) for less able readers versus undifferentiated samples, (c) for younger versus older students, and (d) in combination with instruction of other literacy skills or in isolation. Results indicate that (a) morphological instruction benefits learners, (b) it brings particular benefits for less able readers, (c) it is no less effective for younger students, and (d) it is more effective when combined with other aspects of literacy instruction. Implications of these findings are discussed in light of current educational practice and theory.

Teaching Spelling in the Primary Grades: A National Survey of Instructional Practices and Adaptations

Graham, S., Morphy, P., Harris, K., Fink-Chorzempa, B., Saddler, B., Moran, S., & Mason, L. (2008). Teaching spelling in the primary grades: A national survey of instructional practices and adaptations. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 796-825.

Primary grade teachers randomly selected from across the United Sates completed a survey (N = 168) that examined their instructional practices in spelling and the types of adaptations they made for struggling spellers. Almost every single teacher surveyed reported teaching spelling, and the vast majority of respondents implemented a complex and multifaceted instructional program that applied a variety of research-supported procedures. Although some teachers were sensitive to the instructional needs of weaker spellers and reported making many different adaptations for these students, a sizable minority of teachers (42%) indicated they made few or no adaptations. In addition, the teachers indicated that 27% of their students experienced difficulty with spelling, calling into question the effectiveness of their instruction with these children.

Preventing Writing Difficulties: Providing Additional Handwriting and Spelling Instruction to At-Risk Children in First Grade

Graham, S., & Harris, K.R. (2006). Preventing writing difficulties: Providing additional handwriting and spelling instruction to at-risk children in first grade. Teaching Exceptional Children, 38, 64-66.

The article presents information on a research on preventing writing difficulties by providing additional handwriting and spelling instruction to at-risk children in first grade in the U.S. The difficulties with text transcription skills such as handwriting and spelling can even change the meaning of a message that a writer wants to convey. The difficulties like poor handwriting or spelling can influence the competency of the child. More over it can affect the execution of other composing processes. It also can curb the skill of a child to grow as a writer. Difficulties with spelling can affect the vocabulary of the students and in turn it can affect the writing skill and the total language ability. The article informs that the researchers in the Center on Accelerating Student Learning (CASL) have designed the CASL First Grade Hand writing/Spelling Program to improve the writing skills of students. The design includes the letters of the alphabet, handwriting fluency, knowledge of sound and letter combinations and spelling patterns.

Reconceptualizing Spelling Development and Instruction

Templeton, S., & Morris, D. (2001, October). Reconceptualizing spelling development and instruction. Reading Online, 5(3). Available: http://www.readingonline.org/articles/handbook/templeton/index.html.

Over the years, researchers' thinking about "spelling" has evolved. Once seen simply as a tool for writing, it's now acknowledged that spelling offers perhaps the best window on what an individual knows about words. Learn how spelling has been reconceptualized, and the implications for spelling instruction.

Extra Spelling Instruction Promotes Better Spelling, Writing, and Reading Performance Right from the Start

Graham, S., Harris, K.R.,& Fink Chorzempa, B. (2003). Extra spelling instruction: Improving spelling writing and reading right from the start. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35, 6668.

The consequences of poorly developed spelling skills for both writing and reading led researchers to develop an instructional program designed to boost or accelerate the spelling development of the poorest spellers, including children with disabilities, in second grade classrooms in four schools. The National Center on Accelerating Student Learning (CASL) Spelling Program was designed to teach children basic sound/letter combinations, spelling patterns involving long and short vowels, and common spelling word that fit these patterns.

The Role of Set for Variability in Irregular Word Reading: Word and Child Predictors in Typically Developing Readers and Students At-Risk for Reading Disabilities

Steacy, L. M., Wade-Woolley, L., Rueckl, J. G., Pugh, K. R., Elliott, J. D., & Compton, D. L. (2019). The role of set for variability in irregular word reading: Word and child predictors in typically developing readers and students at-risk for reading disabilities. Scientific Studies of Reading, 23(6), 523–532. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888438.2019.1620749 

In a quasi-regular orthography like English, children inevitably encounter irregular words during reading. Previous research suggests successful reading of an irregular word depends at least partially on a child’s ability to address the mismatch between decoded form and stored word pronunciation — referred to as a child’s “set for variability” — and the word’s relative transparency, measured here using a spelling-to-pronunciation transparency rating. From the study, significant predictors included general word reading, general set for variability performance, and item-specific set for variability performance; word frequency and spelling-to-pronunciation transparency rating; and an interaction between word reading and the transparency rating. Results underscore the importance of considering both general and item-specific factors affecting irregular word reading.

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