Metalexical abilities in French-speaking children from kindergarten to fourth grade

Metalexical abilities in French-speaking children from kindergarten to fourth grade

First Author: Agnès COSTERG -- Université de Sherbrooke
Additional authors/chairs: 
Daniel DAIGLE/Universite de Montreal; Élisabeth DEMONT/Universite de Strasbourg
Keywords: Writing development, Orthographic Knowledge, Spelling, Concept Of Word, metacognition
Abstract / Summary: 

Learning to read and write constitutes a great challenge for all children. To spell French correctly, children must develop orthographic knowledge and metalexical abilities (Daigle et Montésinos-Gelet, 2013). Indeed, phonological and morphological processing are not sufficient: specific visual knowledge about orthographic structure is also required, including knowledge about lexical boundaries (the beginning and the end of words) (Apel, 2009; Ferrand, 2007). However, we still do not know how these specific knowledges develop during spelling acquisition. To investigate this question, this study describes the lexical boundaries representations of 172 children from kindergarten to Grade 4. Children were all French-speakers and were all registered in the French school system in the Montreal area (Canada). None suffered from deficits that could impede normal literacy acquisition. All participants performed a general cognitive ability test (Raven, 1998) and had to achieve three oral and written tasks. Kindergarten children completed only the oral tasks. The first task (lexical decision) consisted in 48 items, half of which were one real word and half were pseudowords or two words (e.g. : aveccrème - with cream). In the second task (lexical identification), participants were asked to count the number of words in 18 sentences. In the last task (lexical permutation), children had to permute the first and the last word in 12 sentences. Each task was analyzed. Success for each task and for each level was calculated. The results indicate that participants score higher for tasks with less cognitive constraints than for complex tasks and they show that older children perform better than younger children. Findings showed that the formal teaching of reading and spelling is an important step in the development of metalexical abilities. The role of metalexical abilities in spelling development and the importance of well-defined lexical boundaries representation are raised.