Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Words and the Development of Orthographic Knowledge

Bear, D. Ivernizzi, M. Johnston, F. and Templeton, S. (1996). Words and the Development of Orthographic Knowledge. In Words Their Way. (pp. 13-31). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Summary: I read a chapter called Words and the Development of Orthographic Knowledge from the book Words Their Way. This was a chapter about how children learn to read the English language. It also provided great insight about word study for phonics, vocabulary and spelling instruction and what one will see as children learn to read. There are three levels of how children progress through the process. 1. Alphabetic: individual letters match up to individual sounds following a left to right sequence. 2. Pattern: groups of letters function as a single pattern or unit to represent sounds. 3. Meaning: groups of letters represent directly the meaning units underlying words. For each level there are three stages. 1. What students do correctly - an independent or easy level. 2. What students “use but confuse” - students experiment; where instruction is most useful. 3. What is absent in students’ spelling - spelling concepts are too advanced; instruction for what is absent is frustrating. This chapter walked the reader through the journey that most children follow. However the authors pointed out that for EL students and children with learning disabilities the process is slightly altered. The end of the chapter gave a short history of English spelling and how that connected to children’s learning of English spelling.

Analysis: This chapter was a great read. It gave easy to understand information about student development and lots of examples at each level and stage. As a teacher of students that are learning to read, I was able to put all of my own students into different points in this process. Even though I was differentiating activities prior to reading this chapter, I am going to be able to differentiate some of my teaching based on the information in this chapter. I felt that this book was not only helpful for me to read as a educator but I think that parents of children would greatly benefit from reading it. So many times I talk to parents about how children learn to read and this book laid it out in a way that parents that are not educators could understand.


“Developmental spelling theory suggests that invented spelling is a window into a child’s knowledge of how written words work and can be used to guide instruction.” (13)

“Word study is based on stage of spelling.” (15)

“When students use the alphabetic principle, they find matches between letters and spoken word by how the sound is made or articulated in the mouth.” (21)

“Transitional learners approach fluency in both reading and writing. They move away from a literal application of the alphabetic principle and begin to chunk elements of written language structures: their reading changes from word-by-word to phrasal reading fluency.” (23)

“Students’ reading an speaking vocabularies grow along with their conceptual development. The research in upper-level word study and development has highlighted the importance of reading in vocabulary development. From adolescence on, except perhaps for slang, most of the new vocabulary students learn comes from reading.” (26)

“In word study, teachers show students how to move back and forth between the spelling of a word and its meaning. Students begin to see how spelling tells them about meaning and how pronunciation can blur meaning.” (27)

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