Do all roads really lead to Rome? The case of spelling acquisition.

Do all roads really lead to Rome? The case of spelling acquisition.

First Author: Daniel Daigle -- Universite de Montreal
Additional authors/chairs: 
Rachel Berthiaume; Agnès Costerg; Anne Plisson; Noémia Ruberto; Joëlle Varin
Keywords: Spelling, Instruction, Learning, Orthographic Knowledge, French
Abstract / Summary: 

The French orthographic code is complex and its acquisition is laborious (Catach, 2008; Fayol, & Jaffré, 2008). Three hypotheses attempt to explain orthographic knowledge acquisition (OKA). For some, exposition to the code leads to OKA through a self-learning process (Share, 2004). For others, OKA benefits from graphophonological processes (Coltheart et al., 2001). Finally, some authors suggest that OKA is possible thanks to visual specific processes (Ans et al., 1998). To our knowledge, no study tested these hypotheses in a classroom context with comparable populations. That is the main objective of this study.

In total, 143 second-grade children participated in this quasi-experimental study with a pre-test, immediate post-test and delayed post-test design. Participants were distributed in four conditions. For three conditions, we created three teaching devices aiming to respect each of the hypotheses (F (frequency of contacts with target words); P (explicit teaching of graphophonological properties of words); V (explicit teaching of visual properties of words). The fourth served as a control group.

ANOVA analyses indicate that all three experimental conditions (F, P, V) favor OKA, showing that different teaching devices lead to spelling development. However, V-condition turned out to be the most favorable.

Three main conclusions can be drawn from this study: 1) models of OKA should consider the different roads leading to spelling acquisition; 2) visual properties of words and their acquisition need extra research and 3) applied research in real classroom contexts is not only pertinent to guide teaching practices, but also to better understand how learning takes place.