SpeechPathology.com Phone: 800-242-5183

Improving Written Language Using a Multiple-Linguistic Spelling Word Study Approach

Improving Written Language Using a Multiple-Linguistic Spelling Word Study Approach
Jan Wasowicz
March 1, 2011

Spelling and word-level reading are written language skills that draw upon an individual's repertoire of linguistic knowledge, including phonological awareness; knowledge of orthography, vocabulary, morphology and semantic relationships; and mental orthographic images (Apel & Masterson, 2001; Apel, Masterson, & Niessen, 2004; Wolter, 2009). Although spelling (encoding) and word-level reading (decoding) draw upon these areas of linguistic knowledge in different ways, each type of linguistic knowledge contributes to spelling and reading success (Ehri & Rosenthal, 2007; Nagy, Berninger, & Abbott, 2006; Share, 2004; Storch & Whitehurst, 2002; Treiman & Bourassa, 2000). A collective body of current research demonstrates the importance of integrating multiple linguistic processes within spelling instruction. Multiple-linguistic spelling interventions have proven to increase word-level reading recognition, decoding, and/or spelling skills for both typically developing children and children with language-based learning disabilities. Moreover, when compared to traditional spelling instruction and traditional reading instruction, multiple-linguistic spelling instruction has been shown to be more effective for improving student's spelling and reading performance (Apel, Masterson, & Hart, 2004; Berninger et al., 1999; Graham & Harris, 2005; Kelman & Apel, 2004; Kirk & Gillon, 2008; Roberts & Meiring, 2006).

The Language of Reading & Spelling

For both spelling and reading, individuals use multiple processes. They rely upon phonological awareness and knowledge of orthography, vocabulary, and morphology and semantic relationships. Also, they rely upon mental orthographic images stored in their long-term memories.

Phonological Awareness

The phonological awareness skills of segmenting, sequencing, discriminating, and identifying phonemes all play a role during the encoding process. These phonological awareness skills are critical early and throughout spelling development. Individuals use phonological segmentation skills when spelling by breaking down words into smaller units, such as syllables and phonemes, then linking these smaller units to their written forms. They use sound sequencing skills to map the letters to sounds in the correct order; and they use phoneme discrimination and identification skills to perceive differences between speech sounds (e.g., between the short vowel e and i sounds). Also, they use phonological awareness to recognize that a difference in sound signals a difference in meaning (e.g., pet versus pit). Increasingly important are the phonological awareness skills of recognizing stressed and unstressed syllables in words (e.g., nickel versus Nicole).

The decoding process draws upon the phonological awareness skills of identifying, sequencing, and blending phonemes. To read an unfamiliar word, the reader converts the individual letters and letter patterns into their corresponding phonemes, holds the sequence of individual sounds in phonological working memory for the length of time it takes to sound out the complete word, and then blends those individual sounds into a complete word. As students gain repeated exposure to the orthographic printed word form and the corresponding phonological structure of words through sounding out and blending all the phonemes in the words, they can more easily read familiar and unfamiliar words and increase reading fluency. Reading comprehension improves because rapid and accurate decoding allows individuals to decrease their focus on the decoding process and increase their attention on the meaning of what they read.

Orthographic Knowledge 

Individuals also draw upon their orthographic knowledge during the encoding and decoding processes. When spelling, individuals rely upon their knowledge of sound-letter relationships and knowledge of letter patterns and conventional spelling rules to convert spoken language to written form. This orthographic knowledge includes recognizing letter-sound relationships (e.g., the /t/ sound can be represented by the letters ch, tch, t, ti, c); knowing which letter patterns are acceptable (e.g., the /t/ sound is almost always spelled with the letters ch at the beginning of a word; at the end of a word the /t/ sound is never spelled with the letters tch after a long vowel sound); and understanding sound, syllable, and word position constraints on spelling patterns (e.g., the /t/ sound at the beginning of a word is never spelled with the letters tch). These orthographic knowledge skills are important early in the encoding process and remain important throughout spelling development as individuals encounter new words.

When reading, individuals use orthographic knowledge of letter-sound correspondences to convert letters and letter patterns into individual speech sounds when decoding an unfamiliar word. For example, the reader relies upon her or his orthographic knowledge that the letter c is always pronounced as /s/ when followed by the vowel letters e, i, y to correctly sound out the first letter in the word city.

jan wasowicz

Jan Wasowicz

Our site uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our site, you agree to our Privacy Policy.