Language-based spelling instruction: Teaching children to make multiple connections between spoken and written words

Virginia W. Berninger, Katherine Vaughan, Robert D. Abbott, Allison Brooks, Kristin Begay, Gerald Curtin, Kristina Byrd, Steve Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Two studies addressed issues related to multiple instructional components in early intervention for at-risk spellers learning to spell polysyllabic words. The first study was a follow-up to a prior second-grade intervention. The fast responders in that study, who were monitored at the beginning and end of third grade (n=61), maintained their earlier gains during third grade when treatment was withdrawn. Thirty-two of the slower responders received continuing tutoring (12 individual tutorials over 6 to 8 weeks in late fall of third grade), which showed that children who received only alphabet principle training did as well as those who received combined alphabet principle and syllable awareness training (syllable types in English), but that these children required 24 practice trials for short-term mastery of spelling specific words. The second study with a new sample of 48 third graders also evaluated the effectiveness of alphabet principle training only versus combined alphabet principle and syllable awareness training. In these 24 individual tutorials over a 4-month period beginning in the fifth month of third grade, the combined treatment was more effective for (a) spelling untrained transfer words, (b) spelling taught polysyllabic words with a final, silent e syllable, and (c) transfer to phonological awareness. A two-tier model for early intervention to prevent spelling disabilities is proposed. In the first tier alphabet principle is taught (along with other sound-spelling connections for words including syllable awareness) and applied to practice in spelling words singly and in text (teacher-directed dictation and child-generated composition). In the second tier children are monitored in the year following early intervention and continuing tutoring is provided if necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-134
Number of pages18
JournalLearning Disability Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Health Professions
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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