This paper considers samples of independent writing highlighting the integral role of phonology, orthography and morphology in spelling development for children from 5–6 years to 7–8 years (3 years of formal schooling). It also introduces an approach to monitoring spelling development by considering the sources of knowledge that are evident in children’s attempts to spell when writing independently. Synthetic phonics can be a powerful and effective strategy for both reading and spelling; however when the development of a synthetic phonics strategy fails to take account of the importance of compatibility with orthographic and morphemic knowledge its predominant use can lead to long term spelling difficulties for children who cannot acquire this knowledge from implicit learning when reading. Furthermore, this paper proposes that there may be an optimum period for ensuring the interaction between phonemic, orthographic and morphemic knowledge (5–6 years to 7–8 years; 3 years of formal schooling) during which time significant gains can be made for all children. This optimum period is particularly important for children who are at risk of long-term spelling difficulties because they spell by sounds alone as a result of insensitivity to orthographic and ortho-morphemic patterns.

Tagged as: morphological processing, orthographic processing, spelling, and synthetic phonics


McMurray, S. Learning to spell for children 5–8 years of age: The importance of an integrated approach to ensure the development of phonic, orthographic and morphemic knowledge at compatible levels. Dyslexia. 2020; 26: 442– 458.

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