Implications for practice of current research on spelling.


Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Industry Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

First published Aug 9 2013 Updated 3/5/2018

 All my blogs can be viewed on-line or downloaded as a Word file or PDF at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/olxpifutwcgvg8j/AABU8YNr4ZxiXPXzvHrrirR8a?dl=0




 Underlying principles from research:

Fluency in lower order processes is necessary for success in higher order processes (e.g., decoding for comprehension, spelling for writing, tables for problem solving).

Practice is the key to fluency. e.g., knitting, topspin backhand, reading, spelling, writing. Initially, corrective feedback is vital, followed by spaced independent practice.

Using skill is fun; acquiring skill (learning) may not be fun!


 Old belief shown to be wrong: Naturally unfolding development.

"Children learn spelling without direct instruction if they read and write" (Goodman, 1989). 


Old belief shown to be wrong: If you don’t get it easily, you can’t get it ever!

“If your daughter struggles with spelling, she should simply make sure she marries a good speller” (Donald Graves, 1983).



Old belief shown to be wrong: Spelling's not really that important anyway, as long as communication takes place?

Yes, it’s important because spelling is a lower order skill that drives writing quality. Misspelling can also disrupt meaning:

When spelling is effortful, writing quality becomes limited by the need to concentrate on intra-word structure rather than meaning. Similarly, dysfluent handwriting slows the creative process, and interferes with real time planning. Additionally, a lack of facility with grammar hinders sentence construction, and hence expressive writing. The quality of handwriting and spelling have been found to be the best predictors of the amount and quality of written composition.

Unfortunately, current educational practice minimizes explicit instruction and practice of such skills (British Primary Framework for Literacy, 2006; McNeill & Kirk, 2014).


 “Learning correct spelling is important for several reasons: First, misspellings can cause errors and difficulties in comprehension. Second, readers may develop negative impressions of a writer’s arguments if his prose contains misspelled words (1). And finally, learning conventional spellings of words allows people to read the words more quickly (2) and concentrate on ideas rather than spelling.” ... How children should learn to spell is controversial. In this article, I have argued that the goal of spelling instruction is for children to understand how their writing system works. Children learn about some aspects of spelling on their own, including from exposure to written words while reading, but reading experience is insufficient for children to spell proficiently. The traditional instructional method—having children look at spellings, visualize them mentally, and try to reproduce them—does little to help them understand the workings of the writing system. Phonics instruction goes some way toward this goal, but more comprehensive instruction is needed to present a full picture." (p. 1, 5)

Treiman, R. (2018). Teaching and learning spelling. Child Development Perspectives, 0(0), 1–5.


Module-Bottom-Button-A rev

Module-Bottom-Button-B rev

Module-Bottom-Button-C rev2

AmazonSmileModule 01