Learning to Spell

Cracking the ABC Code Multisensory Reading and Spelling program.  

According to Frith’s (as cited in Heath,  Hogben, & Tan, 2008) literacy acquisition model , there are three levels in spelling acquisition: the logographic phase, the alphabetic phase and the orthographic phase. In the logographic phase students focus on the appearance of words and learn whole words as single units.  This is not a particularly good long-term strategy as you have to have seen and remembered a word in order to be able to spell and read it correctly. Look-Cover-Say-Write-Check falls into this phase.

The next stage in the alphabetic phase.  This has two sub-components.  The first is having good phonological awareness and auditory processing skills.  Phonological awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate the sounds in speech.  There is a long history of research which show students’ phonological awareness and auditory processing skills in pre-primary are a good indicator of their future success in reading and spelling (see for example, McNamara , Scissons,  & Gutknecth, 2011).  The second component of the alphabet phase is learning the alphabetic code (i.e., phonics).  Again, there is a large body of research which consistently demonstrates that the systematic teaching of phonics is the most beneficial strategy for students struggling with literacy (see for example, Al Otaiba et al., 2010).

The orthographic phase includes learning about root words, prefixes, suffixes, syllabification and the Spelling Rules.  The importance of this knowledge is highlighted in Holmes and Quinn’s  (2009) study of university students who were poor spellers.  They found that these students were not particularly good at identifying or using orthographic knowledge.  Orthographic knowledge is particularly important in learning English due to the complexity of the language.



Al Otaiba, S., Puranik, C., Rouby, D., Greulich, L., Sidler, J., et al. (2010). Predicting kindergarteners’ end-of-year spelling ability based on their reading, alphabetic, vocabulary, and phonological awareness skills, as well as prior literacy experiences.  Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(3), 171-183.

Heath, S., Hogben, J., & Tan. V. (2008).  Assisting students struggling with spelling. Dyslexia-SPELD Bulletin. 40, 5-7.

Holmes, V., &  Quinn, l. (2009) Unexpectedly Poor Spelling and Phonological-Processing Skill.  Scientific Studies of Reading.13, 295-310.