The development of spelling and reading strategies and children’s sensitivity to word type

Critten, Sarah; Farrington-Flint, Lee and Jones, Emily (2013). The development of spelling and reading strategies and children’s sensitivity to word type. In: British Psychological Society Joint Cognitive and Developmental Section Annual Conference, 4-6 Sep 2013, University of Reading.


Previous work, in reading and spelling, has examined global changes within young children’s strategy choice supporting the application of the Overlapping Waves theory of cognitive development to non-algorithmic domains (Farrington-Flint et al 2008a, 2008b, Lindberg et al 2011). However there has been less consideration of developmental changes in word-specific orthographic representations and how this influences the choice of reading or spelling strategies within older children. The current work examined patterns in children’s reading and spelling strategies across older age groups and across more complex word types incorporating a selection of regular (e.g. ‘wedding’) irregular (e.g. ‘island’) and nonword items (e.g. ‘brinth’) so as to consider changes in orthographic representations on later strategy performance. Sixty children, aged between 7-9 years, were given experimental reading and spelling trials and asked to provide retrospective verbal reports of the strategies that they employed. The individual reports were then analysed to code for patterns of lexical and non-lexical strategy choice across the two domains. Results showed that children were highly variable in the type of strategies they employ when reading and spelling but that reliance on particular strategies is dependent on year group and orthographic features of word type. As children become more sophisticated in their reading and spelling ability, they show greater adaptation when selecting appropriate strategies, which is sensitive to word type and reflects the development of the underlying orthographic representations.

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