Spelling pronunciations help college students
remember how to spell difﬁcult words
Linnea C. Ehri
Published online: 15 November 2016
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract Studies have shown that children beneﬁt from a spelling pronunciation
strategy in remembering the spellings of words. The current study determined
whether this strategy also helps adults learn to spell commonly misspelled words.
Participants were native English speaking college students (N = 42), mean age
22.5 years (SD = 7.87). An experimental design with random assignment, pretests,
training, and posttests assessed effects of the pronunciation strategy on memory for
the spellings of 20 hard to spell words. Half of the participants were trained to read
the words by assigning spelling pronunciations during learning (n = 21). The
comparison group (n = 21) practiced reading the words normally without the
strategy. Strategy trained adults recalled signiﬁcantly more words, total letters,
silent letters, and schwa vowel letters correctly than controls. Poor spellers beneﬁted
as much if not more from this strategy as good spellers. Results support ortho-
graphic mapping theories. Optimizing the match between spelling units and sound
units, including graphemes and phonemes, syllables, and morphemes, to create
spelling pronunciations when words are read enhances memory for spellings of the
words. As a result, higher quality lexical representations are retained in memory.
Results suggest the value of teaching college students this strategy to improve their
ability to spell words correctly in their written work.
This study was drawn from a doctoral dissertation completed in partial fulﬁllment of a Ph.D. degree at
the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
& Turkan Ocal
Program in Educational Psychology, Graduate Center of the City University of New York,
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA
Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota Duluth, 1207 Ordean Court, Duluth,
MN 55812, USA
Read Writ (2017) 30:947–967