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Whilst spelling is a feature of most primary classrooms, it is an aspect of literacy instruction that is more often tested than taught. Part of the problem is that many teachers work with limited resources and understandings of the English morpho-phonological language system and lack the confidence they need to operationalise this linguistic knowledge effectively in teaching. In this paper, we present findings from a doctoral study that aimed to improve the teaching of spelling through a linguistically informed toolkit based on powerful morpho-phonological awareness. Ten teachers were shown how to direct children's attention to the meaningful structures within words (morphemes), how morphemes relate to sounds (phonemes) within words, and importantly, how morphemes connect words in meaningful ways. The results of teachers' applying a relational approach to spelling in classroom interventions are revealing. Pre and post-testing of children revealed not only statistically significant improvements in children's correct spelling, but in spelling approximations and verbal reasoning about these. Teachers also reported increased levels of knowledge and confidence in assisting children to relate meaningful parts of words (morphemes) to their sounds (phonemes). The implications have practical relevance for teachers and fruitful avenues for further research into children's spelling development.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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