Improving children’s spelling ability with a morphology-based intervention

Kendall KolneMcGill University Centre for Research on Brain Language and Music
Laura GonnermanMcGill University Centre for Research on Brain Language and Music

Abstract

Children who have difficulty with literacy development often experience pervasive and enduring trouble with spelling, even after receiving remedial instruction. Our study tests a new approach to improving the spelling of these children. We designed an instructional program emphasizing the morphological structure of words, and directly contrast its benefits to instruction that focuses on word meanings, avoiding any discussion of morphology. The intervention was conducted with French-speaking children in Grades 3 and 5 with varying literacy abilities. The results reveal that our intervention improved the spelling of all children in the study, but it was especially effective for children who displayed low spelling performance. Moreover, low-performing spellers who received the morphology instruction showed a greater improvement in their spelling of suffixes than children who participated in the vocabulary instruction. Our findings suggest that spelling instruction concentrated on morphological structure may be a powerful tool for improving children’s spelling ability.

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