Adventures in Encoding

Adventures in Encoding

First Author: Joanne Arciuli -- Flinders University
Abstract / Summary: 

For many years research effort has been devoted to understanding decoding, however, there is now substantial interest in understanding the process of encoding – that is, spelling. This symposium includes five papers examining spelling. The symposium is designed to showcase the vast array of methods now being used in spelling research in order to deepen our understanding of encoding and how it relates to literacy development. The papers cover a broad range of topics including spelling in special populations such as children with autism spectrum disorder and those with cochlear implants, effects of literacy instruction on spelling ability, individual differences in spelling ability, the variety of ways that spelling errors can be analysed, and examination of spelling in multiple languages (papers represent studies of English, Spanish, and Dutch). The five papers come from different labs across the USA, Australia, Holland, and Mexico. Presenters represent a mix of early career and senior researchers. Outcomes of these studies have both theoretical and practical significance.

Symposium Papers: 

Spelling in Children who use Cochlear Implants

First Author/Chair:Krystal Werfel -- University of South Carolina

Purpose: Despite advances in amplification technology (e.g., cochlear implants), many children with hearing loss continue to exhibit poor literacy achievement compared to peers with normal hearing. Although more than 40 years of research has confirmed the linguistic basis of literacy, the linguistic mechanisms that contribute to spelling performance in children with hearing loss are not well elucidated. Children with hearing loss experience particular difficulty developing phonological processing skills. The purpose of this study was to explore the relation between phonological processing and spelling performance and to describe spelling errors of children with cochlear implants.

Method: Thirty school-age children with cochlear implants and thirty-two school-age children with normal hearing completed language and literacy assessments, including measures of phonological processing and spelling. Participants’ spellings were coded for linguistic category of spelling error (e.g., phonological, semantic, morphological, orthographic).

Results: Preliminary findings indicate that the pattern of association of phonological processing and spelling performance of children with cochlear implants differs from that of children with normal hearing. Additionally, the spelling errors of children with cochlear implants appear to differ proportionately across linguistic categories than those of children with normal hearing.

Conclusions: Preliminary results suggest that the relation of phonological processing and spelling performance differs for children with cochlear implants, and their spelling errors differ qualitatively from errors made by children with normal hearing. Further understanding of the linguistic skills that underlie spelling performance in children with cochlear implants can provide insight into developing effective interventions designed to meet the specific needs of this population.

The Effect of ABRACADABRA Literacy Instruction on the Spelling Ability of Children with Autism

First Author/Chair:Benjamin Bailey -- University of Sydney
Additional authors/chairs: 
Joanne Arciuli; Roger Stancliffe

Purpose – This study examined the effects of ABRACADABRA (CSLP, 2009), a freely accessible, evidence-based early literacy web application, on the spelling skills of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We hypothesised that children with ASD who received ABRACADABRA instruction would exhibit improved spelling ability compared to a wait-control group of children with ASD.

Method: 20 participants aged 5-10 years were assigned to Instruction and Wait-control groups (matched on ability). Participants in the Instruction group received 26 sessions of ABRACADABRA instruction over 13 weeks. Word spelling accuracy was measured pre- and post-instruction using the Wide Range Achievement Test – 4th edition (WRAT-4; Wilkinson & Robertson, 2006). All responses to the spelling subtest were evaluated for evidence of phonological, orthographic, and morphological spelling ability using the Computerized Spelling Sensitivity System (CSSS; Masterson & Hrbec, 2011).

Results : A series of 2 x 2 ANOVAs (Time x Group) were conducted. Results showed no significant interaction for WRAT-4 spelling accuracy, F(1, 18) = 0.56, p = .46, ƞp2 = .03. However there were significant interactions for the CSSS spelling measures: CSSS word spelling, F(1, 18) = 4.54, p = .047, ƞp2 = .20, and CSSS element spelling, F(1, 18) = 5.10, p = .04, ƞp2 = .22.

Conclusion: Results suggest that ABRACADABRA was effective in promoting the spelling abilities of children with ASD. However, these improvements were evident in CSSS scores that looks at all spelling attempts rather than a conventional measure spelling accuracy. Implications for literacy instruction and spelling assessment will be discussed.

Spelling error analyses of native Spanish-speaking children in early grades

First Author/Chair:Joshi R. Malatesha -- Texas A&M University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Fabiola Gomez Velazquez; Andrés Antonio González Garrido; Ryan Xuejun Ji; Juan Zamora; Luxi Feng; Amanda Lindner; Luisa Borges Araujo

Purpose: The purpose of the present study examine was to examine the nature of spelling errors among native Spanish-speaking children from Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Method: A group of 166 children in Kindergarten to Grade 3 were administered a spelling test consisting of 120 commonly occurring words selected from elementary level textbooks. The spelling errors made by children were classified into eight categories such as substitution, addition, reversals, and omission of vowels and consonant letters.

Results: As expected, the number of errors decreased as the grade levels increased and a striking reduction occurred between Kindergarten and Grade 1. Consonant letter substitution was the major error type at all grade levels. Overall, consonant errors were the salient spelling errors for Spanish speakers, compared with the vowel letter errors at all grade levels.

Conclusion: Compared to spelling errors made by English-speaking children, native Spanish speaking children made more errors on consonants, especially substitution errors, (substituting b for p and c for k) than on vowel letters. Perhaps teachers should pay particular attention to sound patterns and spelling regularities of consonant letters in Spanish.

The Voice of Holland: Allograph Production in Written Dutch Past Tense Inflection

First Author/Chair:Elise de Bree -- University of Amsterdam
Additional authors/chairs: 
Sanne van der Ven; Han van der Maas

Purpose: According to the Integration of Multiple Patterns hypothesis (IMP; Treiman & Kessler, 2014), the spelling difficulty of a word is affected by the number of cues converging on the correct answer. We tested this hypothesis in children’s regular past tense formation in Dutch. Past tenses are formed by adding either –de or –te to a verb stem. Despite instruction, children often choose the wrong allograph.

Method: Using a large dataset (227 items, together completed 392,802 times, from an online language programme), we assessed whether morphophonological and orthographic cues determine differences in difficulty and explain error patterns.

Results: Regression analyses established that inflection difficulty was affected by number of converging cues, especially morphophonological and orthographic cues. Error analyses further showed that allograph errors were prominent when graphotactic frequency and especially voicing probability collided with the correct answer.

Conclusions: The results align with the IMP. On the basis of the findings, it is also evident that factors (implicitly) contributing to past tense spelling should be used in educational practice.

The mechanisms of semantic priming: Insights from individual differences in spelling and vocabulary

First Author/Chair:Sally Andrews -- University of Sydney
Additional authors/chairs: 
Melissa Prince; Aaron Veldre

Purpose: The well-established semantic priming effect is assumed to reflect automatic spreading activation in semantic memory. However, support for this assumption relies on average data for samples of skilled readers, reflecting an implicit assumption that all skilled readers read in the same way. This research uses individual differences in spelling and vocabulary among skilled readers to shed light on the mechanisms underlying semantic priming.

Method: This experiment compared semantic priming effects for 50 ms masked primes, which are unavailable to conscious awareness, with brief (200 ms) visible primes, in 99 participants who were assessed on vocabulary and spelling ability. Prospective and retrospective contributions to semantic priming were distinguished by comparing symmetrically associated pairs (eg answer-question) with asymmetrically associated pairs in both the forward (eg panda-bear) and backward (eg ball-catch) direction.

Results: Masked semantic priming was significantly stronger in high vocabulary participants, but was unrelated to spelling ability or type of associative relationship. In contrast, unmasked priming was significantly predicted by spelling ability but not vocabulary. Only poorer spellers showed significant semantic priming, and it was restricted to symmetrical and backward associates, suggesting increased reliance on strategic mechanisms such as retrospective matching.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that spelling and vocabulary predict independent dimensions of variability in semantic priming among skilled readers. Poorer spellers rely more heavily on strategic decision processes to compensate for their imprecise lexical representations. Better spelling is associated with a more modular reading strategy in which orthographic competition gates the spread of activation to semantic memory.