Spelling Errors Made by K-3 Students in Authentic Writing: What are the Developmental Differences?

Spelling Errors Made by K-3 Students in Authentic Writing: What are the Developmental Differences?

First Author: Robin Irey -- University of California at Berkeley
Additional authors/chairs: 
Yi-Jui Iva Chen; Trina Spencer
Keywords: Spelling, Writing development, English Language Learners (ELL)
Abstract / Summary: 

The purpose of this study was to document common spelling errors made by K-3 students and investigate developmental differences in the types of spelling errors children make in authentic writings (i.e., write a story based on pictures or write a summary of information). Writing samples (n= 700) were collected from K-3 students attending school in Florida and stratified based on grade level, oral language performance (i.e., above average, average, below average), and race/ethnicity. Thirty writing samples were randomly selected for each grade and counterbalanced according to oral language skills and race/ethnicity. The subset of writing samples was analyzed using a spelling coding system with more than 100 error categories. This tool was strategically designed to comprehensively document various types of misspellings to inform to inform the field’s understanding of the complexity of spelling development. Chi-square tests were conducted to examine whether types of errors made differed significantly by grade level or language performance. Results indicate that (a) proportionally, younger spellers make more consonant errors than older spellers, p < .001; (b) conditional on grade level, students with lower oral language ability make more consonant errors, p = .030; (c) the top two most frequent vowel errors made by K-3 students were using one letter to represent a vowel digraph (e.g., ea, ee, ou) and misusing a, e, i, o, u, y to represent a target vowel; and (d) the top two most frequent consonant errors were missing a consonant letter in the middle of a spelling and interchanging c, s, and k. Based on cross-sectional spelling error analyses, a theory of spelling acquisition was proposed.