AMERIcAN EdUcATOR | WINTER 2008-2009
scls. Te training was especially efective amng te lwest-perrming cildren.
In sum, tese and ter studies aveund tat efective spelling instructin explicitly teaces stu-dents sund-spelling patterns. Students are taugt t tink abutlanguage, allwing tem t learn w t spell—nt just mem-rize wrds. As a result, linguistically explicit spelling instructin imprvesspelling studied wrds
nvel wrds. w explratry spelling interventin studies cntrasted linguistically explicitspelling instructin wit implicit spelling instructin, and undtat te explicit instructin gave students te knwledge spell-ing patterns tat tey needed t mre accurately spell nvel wrds. In te rst study, secnd- trug urt-grade students were taugt t spell Latin-based wrds tat ended in
Te students were divided int tw grups. one grup wastaugt t spell te wrds wit an empasis n te rtgrapicpatterns
, but witut discussin te wrds’sund patterns. Instead, activities cused students n te wrds’ visual patterns. Fr example, students srted spelling wrds by te nal endings
. Te secnd grup, wic receivedlinguistically explicit instructin, was taugt t spell te wrds wit a simultaneus empasis n te rtgrapic patterns
and te sund patterns /su˘ n/ and /zu˘ n/.* Fr exam-ple, students srted wrds by letter patterns and by sund pat-terns. Te rtgrapic and sund patterns te ter syllablesin te wrds, in particular te syllables tat preceded
, were als empasized. Fr example, /su˘ n/ is mst requently spelled
. hwever, ater a syllable tat ends in /l/, te ending/su˘ n/ is spelled
, as in
. Cmpared wit te students in te ter grup, te students w receivedte linguistically explicit instructin were better able t dis-criminate te sunds /s/ and /z/, spell te wrd endingscrrectly, and generalize te spellings te wrd endings tnvel wrds.In te secnd study, rst-grade students were divided inttw grups.
Bt grups were taugt t spell ne-syllable wrdstat ended in /k/. one grup was taugt t spell te wrds by using letter units suc as
. Te ter grup wastaugt t segment te sunds te wrds and t tink abutte pattern tat wuld determine te spelling /k/ (e.g., ater acnsnant r tw vwels, /k/ is spelled
; ater a srt vwel, /k/is spelled
; ater a lng vwel, /k/ is spelled
wit a nal
). Testudents in te secnd grup spelled te wrds mre accurately and read tem aster.
Is English Predictable Enough for ExplicitSpelling Instruction?
Tis is a questin we ear ten. I Englis spelling were cm-pletely arbitrary, ne culd argue tat visual memrizatin wuld be te nly ptin. hwever, spelling is nt arbitrary.Researcers ave estimated tat te spellings nearly 50 per-cent Englis wrds are predictable based n sund-letter cr-respndences tat can be taugt (e.g., te spellings te /k/sund in
are predictable t tse w avelearned te rules). And anter 34 percent wrds are predict-able except r ne sund (e.g.,
I terinrmatin suc as wrd rigin and wrd meaning are cnsid-ered, nly 4 percent Englis wrds are truly irregular and, asa result, may ave t be learned visually (e.g., by using ascardsr by writing te wrds many times).
Far rm being irregular and illgical, t te well-knwn lin-guists Nam Cmsky and Mrris halle, Englis is a “near pti-mal system r lexical representatin.”
hw culd tey pssibly make suc a claim? Tey understand tat written language is ntmerely speec written dwn. Te majr gal te Englis writ-ing system is nt merely t ensure accurate prnunciatin te written wrd—it is t cnvey meaning. I wrds tat sund tesame (i.e., mpnes suc as
) werespelled te same way, teir meanings wuld be arder t di-erentiate. Fr example, i we regularize te spelling, ten tesentence
Tey rode along the rode and, when they reached thelake, they rode across it
wuld be ard t understand, wile
Tey rode along the road and, when they reached the lake, they rowed
Researchers have estimated that thespellings of nearly 50 percent of English words are predictable based on sound-letter correspondences that can betaught. And another 34 percent of wordsare predictable except for one sound.
To d the reder, souds of the letters re represeted wth / / rther th usgthe symbols from the itertol Phoetc alphbet. Thus, /
p srepreseted by /sh/, d /t
s represeted by /ch/.
note tht the excepto ws for oe
, ot oe
. For exmple, oly oesoud s wrog f
(Continued on page 10)