Freebies > Articles >
A Short Summary of Traditional Spelling Research
See also: Research | AVKO Philosophy | Get Involved

What appears to be reliable:

  1. Most commonly used methods of teaching spelling are ineffective.  The most common complaint by teachers and parents is that students study their spelling words on Thursday nights, take the test on Friday, and by Monday the words they memorized are forgotten.
  2. Of all the spelling techniques currently employed immediate student self-correction is generally the most effective (T. Horn 1946; Louis, 1950; Beseler, 1953; Tyson, 1953; Thomas, 1954; Schoephoerster, 1962, E. Horn, 1963; Christine and Hollingsworth, 1966).  This element combined with careful sequencing of words being presented is why Sequential Spelling is so highly effective.
  3. The teaching of spelling rules is not the same as the learning of spelling rules such as the adding
    of -s (-es, -ies), -ed (-ied).  In fact, research has indicated that "using phonic rules, for most words,
    is (NOT) a worthwhile instructional procedure" (Fitzsimmons & Loomer, 1978).
  4. Dictation is not generally used to help students translate their spoken language into correctly written language.  This lack of specific practice leads to the common occurrence of misspellings such as "hafta" for have to, "sposta" for supposed to, and "should of" for should have.  To help remedy this gap in the teaching of spelling AVKO has developed a book entitled Speech to Spelling
  5. No currently available commercial spelling program presents all the basic patterns of English spelling.  What patterns they do present are in an arbitrary order not related to their difficulty in learning.  That is, they don't proceed in a systematic order from the easiest (such as the "in" rime as in pin, sin, spin, win, grin, etc.) to the more difficult rimes (such as the "ology" rime as in theology, geology, archaeology, psychology, etc.)  To help remedy this situation, AVKO has developed its Sequential Spelling 1-7 series.  So that major educational publishers might develop their own, AVKO has a source book that they can use to find all the patterns and all the words that share the same patterns.  This is the book entitled: The Patterns of English Spelling
  6. Writing words several times each does NOT help ensure spelling retention (Abbot, 1909; E. Horn, 1967; Green, 1968; Petty, 1968).  AVKO believes that immediate correction by the student, erasing the misspelling and writing the correct spelling just once is at least as effective as copying the same word over and over again.
  7. "The spelling words of highest frequency in child and adult writing should be studied by elementary school children" (Thorndike, 1921; E. Horn 1924, 1926, 1939, 1960; Hollingsworth, 1965; T. Horn, 1969b).  AVKO believes that this is especially true of the "insane" words such as was, does, should, couldn't, weren't, etc.   However, no studies exist that limit themselves to the words that do not follow regular spelling patterns. Nor does any spelling series (except AVKO's) insist upon mastery of these words.  AVKO also believes that even though the word nice is more frequently encountered than the word ice, ice should be taught first.  And along with ice and nice should come rice, price, lice, slice, mice, twice, etc.  No studies have ever been made to determine the frequency of the "patterns" or rimes.  This, we hope, will be done as a result of our Proposed New Research
  8. "In order to learn to spell, it is not necessary for children to learn the meaning of the majority of their spelling words"  (Petty, 1968).  This may be true, but it certainly doesn't hurt a student to have the opportunity to improve his/her vocabulary.  AVKO's Sequential Spelling gives students this opportunity when it includes among the at words such as bat, rat, cat, and sat the words tat, spat, and spats.
  9. "Spelling lists derived from the various curricular areas are of little value in increasing spelling ability"   (Fitzgerald, 1951, 1953).
  10. Phonemic awareness training and phonological/orthographical training is important for developing reading and spelling skills (Griffith & Olson, 1992; Haskell, Foorman, & Swank, 1992; Helfgott, 1976; Wylie & Durrell, 1970; Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1994; Yopp, 1992).

See also:


Abbot, E.E., "On the Analysis of the Memory Consciousness in Orthography." University of Illinois Psychological Monograph 11, 1909.

Beseler, D.W., "An Experiment in Spelling Using the Corrected Test Method." Unpublished master's thesis, Central Washington State College, Ellensburg, 1953.

Fitzgerald, J.A., The Teaching of Spelling.  Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1951.

Fitzgerald, J.A., "The Teaching of Spelling,"  Elementary English, Vol. 30, January 1953.

Griffith, P.L., & Olson, M.W. (1992). "Phonemic Awareness Helps Beginning Readers Break the Code." The Reading Teacher, 45, 516-523.

Haskell, D.W., Foorman, B.R., & Swank, P.R. (1992). "Effects of Three Orthographic/Phonological Units on First-Grade Reading." Remedial and Special Education, 13, 40-49.

Helfgott, J.A. (1976). "Phonemic Segmentation and Blending Skills of Kindergarten Children: Implications for Beginning Reading Acquisition." Contemporary Educational Psychology, 1, 157-169.

Louis, R., "A Study of Spelling Growth in Two Different Teaching Procedures." Unpublished master's thesis, Central Washington State College, Ellensburg, 1950.

Loomer, B.M., & Fitzsimmons, R.F. (1989) Spelling: Research and Practice.  Iowa City, IA: Useful Curriculum, Inc.

Petty, W., Developing Language Skills in the Elementary Schools. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1968.

Torgesen, J.K., Wagner, R.K., & Rashotte, C.A. (1994). "Longitudinal Studies of Phonological Processing and Reading," Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27, 276-286.

Yopp, H.K. (1992).  "Developing Phonemic Awareness in Young Children," The Reading Teacher, 45, 696-703.

Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap