Teaching spelling as a route for reading and writing

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Reading and writing are functionally independent operants, in which the acquisition of one does not necessarily result in the acquisition of the other. However, when the main components of these behaviors become members of equivalence classes, the abilities become interdependent. Several studies have taught matching printed words to dictated words and matching pictures to dictated words, producing the emergence of equivalence classes and the emergence of reading and spelling, although reading scores were systematically higher than spelling scores. The present study taught spelling skills and sought to determine whether it affects reading skills. Four students learned to spell 30 Portuguese words using a computer-based constructed response matching-to-sample task. Simultaneously with presentation of the sample (i.e., a picture and its corresponding printed word or a dictated word), the computer screen showed a pool of 14 letters. The task was to select the letters in the correct order to spell a word that corresponded to the sample. Differential consequences followed correct and incorrect responses. Spelling and reading improved for all of the participants. Spelling performance was as accurate as reading performance for three of the four participants. These results replicate previous data that showed the effectiveness of the constructed response matching-to-sample task in teaching spelling and promoting the emergence of reading.

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