Degree Granting Department
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Ruth Huntley Bahr, Ph.D.
Elaine R. Silliman, Ph.D.
Stefan A. Frisch, Ph.D.
phonology, orthography, morphology, POMAS, qualitative scoring systems
Previous research investigations in the area of spelling development have adopted
two approaches, the broad approach and the narrow approach. The broad approach
suggests that spelling develops in sequential stages whereas the narrow approach focuses
on individual linguistic patterns. However, research findings have revealed that children’s
spellings do not exhibit errors pertaining to specifically one stage or reflecting one
linguistic element, yet a research void exists in resolving how these two approaches
This study examined the spelling errors of typically developing children in first
through fourth grades (N = 400) to determine the quantitative and qualitative differences
in misspellings among grade levels. Each grade level had an equal representation of
children (N = 100) and male and female participants. The spelling errors were extracted
from two writing samples completed by the children, a narrative and expository sample.
In an attempt to combine the broad and narrow approaches, a coding system was
designed to evaluate the linguistic category (phonological, orthographic, morphological)
and specific features (letter name spelling, vowel error, digraph, etc.) of the spelling
The findings revealed a significant interaction between grade level and error type
for phonologically-based spelling errors (1
st graders made more errors than 2nd and 4th
graders) and a greater number of morphological errors was noted in 4
th vs. 2nd grade. No
significant effects were noted for writing genre or gender. Analysis of performance
patterns for specific linguistic category errors within and across grade levels revealed that
all four grade levels committed the most phonological errors in the PSE (phonological –
silent /e/) and PSON (phonological – sonorant clusters) categories. The OLN
(orthographic – letter name) and ODI (orthographic – digraph) errors also occurred
frequently in all four grades with first graders demonstrating significantly more
occurrences of the OLN than ODI error. Morphological findings revealed that first
graders made significantly more MINF (morphological – inflection) than MHOM
(morphological – homonym) errors and all four grades had significantly more MINF than
MCON (morphological – contraction) errors. A qualitative analysis regarding the most
frequently misspelled words and most frequently encountered codes was also performed.
The clinical and educational implications of these findings are discussed.
Scholar Commons Citation
Fawcett, Kelly M., "Spelling Development in Young School Age Children" (2006). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.