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Spelling Difficulties and Disabilities Kathleen Spencer Writing Development H-804 March 10, 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "Spelling Difficulties and Disabilities Kathleen Spencer Writing Development H-804 March 10, 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 Spelling Difficulties and Disabilities Kathleen Spencer Writing Development H-804 March 10, 2007

2 Overview of Today Why is spelling important? Three big issues to consider before thinking the issue is a learning disability  Language issues  Instructional history  Specific learning disability (dyslexia) Models of spelling (and writing) Research on the spelling/writing quality relationship Instructional issues and strategies

3 Why does spelling matter? These kids are really smart, right?

4 Why does spelling matter? Good spellers are generally considered to be better writers, smarter, more hirable, etc., than poor spellers ( e.g., Kriener et al., 2002; Schramm & Dortch, 1991 ). Spelling difficulties can interfere with the composition process ( Berninger, 1999; Graham & Harris, 2000 ) Poor spelling has been linked to overall essay quality ( Graham, et al.; 1997; Graham, Harris & Fink Chorzempa, 2002 ) Spelling difficulties can persist into adulthood, even when related word reading difficulties appear to have resolved (Bos & Vaughn, 2006; Sawyer & Joyce, 2006)

5 Is there a “disability”? “The term ‘specific learning disability’ means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Such term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage” (IDEA, 2004).

6 Diagnosis of SLD: Discrepancy approach vs. RTI Discrepancy approach – statistically significant discrepancy between expected performance and actual performance Response to Intervention (RTI) – student does not improve a reasonable amount after an appropriate intervention RTI is an acceptable diagnostic approach as of 2004

7 First issue to consider Language issues  Orthographic depth of target language. In English, two-way mapping issues, spelling based on root words, homonyms, etc.  Accents and Dialects (e.g., regional, AAVE, various dialects based on different Spanish- speaking immigrants, etc.)  ELL students. Clear phonological and vocabulary issues. Also, literate in a previous language?

8 Second issue Instructional history  School characteristics (ratios, teacher skills, indexes of poverty, school resources, etc.)  Instructional approaches (programs, philosophies, etc.)  Consistency of attendance (both daily and switching between schools) “Instructional casualties” (Vellutino, 2004) Response to Intervention (RTI) approach

9 Third issue – what if it is an SLD? Specific Learning Disability (SLD)  How do we refer to a student with a disability that affects their spelling? Dyslexic? Reading Disabled (RD)? Dysgraphic?  Literacy-based learning disability (LBLD)? Potential interactions between language, previous schooling, and potential LBLD. Hard to tease them apart.

10 Treiman chapter (1997) Children with dyslexia have even more trouble with spelling than reading words Their errors are generally similar to those made by much younger children (catching up is tough) BUT: Phonologically-based errors are somewhat more severe among kids with LBLD than with spelling-age matched children Students with LBLD may rely more on orthographic and morphological information Phonetic vs. non-phonetic errors “Gekuntly” vs. “how” (instead of “who”)

11 Theories of spelling development Just as there are different models of reading development; different and changing models of spelling/writing development Different assumptions about the source of errors, latent or explicit, in each theory Different diagnoses and intervention options stressed depending on which theory of development is dominant

12 Stage models of spelling development Piagetian and Vygotskian theory. Stages of development; instructional goals tailored to stage ( Frith, 1980; Ganske, 2000; Ehri, 1997; Bear et al., 2003 ) Spelling difficulties due to slower development, but follow the same general trajectory ( e.g., Treiman, 1997 ). Student may miss something from one stage, but move on in other areas. Therefore, possible uneven spelling/writing performance Instruction – focus on knowledge appropriate to the student’s stage of development, then move to next logical task.

13 Dual-route theory Assumes two routes to storing and retrieving spelling information – phonological and visual/orthographic ( e.g., Coltheart, 1978; Foorman, 1994 ) Phonological: e.g., phonological encoding, sound sequencing, auditory memory ( Sawyer & Joyce, 2006 ). Visual/orthographic: direct access to lexical unit stored in visual memory ( Leong, Tan, Cheng, & Hau, 2005 ). General move from phonological route to orthographic route, but students with dyslexia tend to rely more on orthographic route than peers Relevant terms: “Dyseidetic” or “surface” dyslexia

14 Purely Phonological approach Phonological Processing foundation of disabilities affecting spelling  Phonological Encoding (enter data)  Phonological Memory (store data)  Phonological Retrieval (retrieve data) Difficulties at each level may manifest as different types of difficulties/disabilities  Learns slowly or does not seem to learn concepts  Learns then forgets or holes in knowledge  Slow production or looks like one of the first two

15 Connectionist/neurological theories Spelling involves a complex interaction between phonological, orthographic, and semantic systems ( Holmes & Caruthers, 1998; Seidenberg & McClelland, 1989.) Trying to retrieve word, speller activates network Problem in an area or weak connections could result in poor word reading/spelling, and vis versa Spelling attempts may not reflect a clear, stage progression if student has LBLD/dyslexia. “Spelling by analogy” ( Goswami, 1988; Sawyer & Joyce, 2006 ). Also, exercises that connect vocabulary, concepts, and written representations.

16 Constructivist approach Assumptions: reading and writing are meaning- making activities that are closely related to speech Children actively construct knowledge and will pick up spelling during meaningful writing experiences Whole language approach is one example Little evidence that this approach is better than direct instruction ( Graham, 2000 ) and it is a disaster for students with LBLD/dyslexia BUT, it is important not to maroon kids with LBLD in phonics-land. Meaningful interaction with text is important

17 Other factors that may affect spelling Executive function issues (e.g., ADHD) Verbal Memory, short and long term Visual-spatial difficulties Motor difficulties …usually, these issues affect areas in addition to literacy, though they may be underidentified

18 Some types of spelling errors Unconventional but legal (modelling, cote/coat) “Mishearing” sounds (Gekundly) Pronunciation influence (pahty, jrive) Omission of phoneme/morpheme (bush teeth) Homonym (there, their) Retrieval of related but incorrect word (how for who) Misordering of letters to form undecodable word (dgo for dog) Other?

19 Some points about instruction Emphasis on phonological awareness (oral language) and phoneme-grapheme mapping Word families and spelling by analogy (list of key words) Chunking strategies – syllables, affixes/root words, familiar/unfamiliar parts Focus on words the child uses or may be interested in. Over-emphasis on single word work can backfire Spelling is not word reading. Do not assume transfer for a struggling speller

20 Exercise: students with marked LBLD What spelling strengths does each student have? Describe each students’ difficulties with spelling. What would you guess is the main source of this child’s spelling difficulty? You may consider:  Different models of development  Nature of spelling errors/attempts  Your experience or information from readings How would you instruct each child? Would you use a particular method? What would you target first?

21 How does spelling affect writing? Poor spelling or lack of automaticity distracts from other writing processes (Berninger, 1999) Correlational studies suggest a strong relationship (Graham t al., 1997; Spencer, 2008), BUT… Spelling intervention has an effect on sentence-level quality but not overall quality (Graham, Harris, & Chorzempa, 2002).  How is sentence-level quality assessed here? Combination spelling and composition intervention had the biggest impact on essay quality vs. spelling alone and composition alone (Berninger, Vaughan et al., 2002)  The spelling-only approach had no significant effect on writing quality

22 Factoring in Vocabulary Correlational study looking at the relationship between general spelling ability and writing quality (Spencer, 2008) Considers possibility that there might be an interaction between students’ spelling ability and the words they either know in general or use in their essays Focus on somewhat older students (fourth through eighth graders). Less work on this age group in LBLD research. Essays were transcribed and corrected of all spelling errors prior to scoring. Assumption that spelling affects other writing processes.

23 Looking at a group of children with LBLD

24 Fourth through Eighth Grade Students with RD: Relationship of spelling scores to essay ratings Standardized score on KTEA-II Spelling Subtest

25 Summary of findings Results indicate a relationship between spelling ability and essay quality for this group of students (controlling for other variables) This relationship is moderated by the complexity of the words students use in text. Overall vocabulary knowledge did not play a role. Words they know vs. words they use.

26 Why inconsistent findings? Essay QualitySentence Quality Spelling Is this the right model to use when considering the effects of spelling on writing quality and sentence quality (aka, writing fluency) for struggling spellers and/or writers?

27 Another option Spelling Writing Fluency Sentence Complexity Vocabulary complexity Writing Quality

28 Discussion What are your experiences trying to help children with persistent spelling difficulties? What are your thoughts on the different interventions you have tried or witnessed?


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