Student and Teacher Perspectives on Spelling

Daffern, Tessa and Critten, Sarah (2019). Student and Teacher Perspectives on Spelling. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 42(1) pp. 40–57.




This paper employs a mixed methods multiple case study approach to offer an insight into strategy-use in the teaching and learning of spelling within an Australian primary school context. Eight low-achieving spellers and eight high-achieving spellers aged between eight and 12 years were selected following completion of a normed dictation task comprising 70 words. Spelling errors produced by the students in the dictation task and their narrative and expository written texts were then analysed to determine potential breakdowns in phonological, orthographic and morphological processing. Finally, semi-structured interviews with the students and their teachers were then conducted to further elicit strategy-use among the students and to capture interactions between the teaching and learning of spelling. Data triangulation revealed that the high-achieving spellers were able to flexibly draw on a range of linguistic strategies while the low-achieving spellers relied on a sounding out approach. The findings also highlight the importance of explicitly teaching students to develop a repertoire of strategies, including morphological processing, and a need for teachers to develop confidence and knowledge of the linguistic processes involved in spelling. Implications for the teaching of spelling emphasise a need for pedagogical content knowledge, and for teachers to use metalanguage and to integrate quality children’s fiction and/or non-fiction texts when explicitly teaching spelling.

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