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

Critten, Sarah and Farrington-Flint, Lee (2014). The development of spelling and reading strategies and children's sensitivity to word type. In: Conference on Writing Research 2014, 27-29 Aug 2014, Amsterdam.



Research Context. There is an overlapping developmental relationship between word recognition, transcriptive processes (e.g. spelling) and text-level features of writing (Berninger et al. 2002). Furthermore the role of metaknowledge has been highlighted in these processes (Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000) with evidence that children can strategically choose among different reading and spelling approaches (e.g. Farrington-Flint et al 2008a, Lindberg et al 2011). However there has been less consideration for how these word recognition and transcriptive processes may change among older children as they encounter more complex word types and the implications of strategy-based research for theories of spelling and reading.

Aims. To examine patterns in children’s spelling and reading 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’). Furthermore to explore the distribution of strategy type (lexical versus non-lexical) according to word type, to evaluate predictions made by the Dual Route Cascade (DRC) model (Castles et al. 2001).

Method. Sixty children (aged 7-9 years), were given experimental spelling and reading trials and asked to provide retrospective verbal reports of the strategies that they employed. The individual reports were then coded as lexical/non-lexical strategies across the two domains and according to word type.

Results. Reading showed greater accuracy than spelling across word type however there was a similar distribution of strategies across the domains. The distribution of strategy use according to word type matched predictions made by the DRC model with a mixture of lexical and non-lexical strategies being employed for regular words, a predominance of lexical strategies being employed for irregular words and a predominance of non-lexical strategies being employed for nonwords. However regression analyses examining strategy usage in relation to accuracy when spelling and reading word types produced mixed findings.

Discussion. Implications are considered for understanding how children’s strategy choice develops as they encounter more complex word types when spelling and reading and the role of metaknowledge in reading and writing. Furthermore the usefulness of a model for skilled spelling and reading is considered in relation to children who are still developing

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