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Spelling in the Context of Writing: An Investigation of the Knowledge and Strategies Used by Average and Below Average Writers after Three Years at School

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posted on 2021-11-15, 05:47 authored by Pentecost, Helen

After three years of schooling, some primary students are behind the expected levels for spelling achievement. This qualitative case study sought an insider view from 12 Year 4 students on the strategies they used to spell words within the context of classroom writing programmes. The students in the study attended three primary schools. Half the students had been identified by their teachers as achieving below the expected level in spelling for their year group and half at the expected level. Data were collected through a series of semi-structured interviews with groups of students and individual interviews with teachers from their schools. Data were also gathered from analysis of the students' writing samples. A comparison was made between the data gathered from the two groups of students, searching for similarities and differences in their strategies and understandings about spelling. Data from the students were also compared to the teachers' views about how students learn to spell. The average-achieving students viewed new words as problems that can be solved through using a combined repertoire of strategies. These included drawing on visual memory, using phoneme-grapheme relationships and morphological strategies to spell challenging words. In contrast, the below average achievers had a more limited range of strategies, tending to use only one strategy at a time and did not readily making links to their prior knowledge. If teachers are aware of these strategies and how successful spellers combine appropriate strategies, they can assist students to improve their spelling by giving specific instruction and feedback on their use.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Education

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education Studies


Dickie, John