Lois A. Evans

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education



First Advisor

Jeanne M. Donovan

Second Advisor

Gene Henderson


Spelling programs in the primary grades often seem to lack internal continuity . Although students may receive appropriate activity lessons early in the school year, by the end of the year they are expected to master weekly lists of high frequency Dolch words in isolation . That is, the students are not given any predeveloped lessons that would allow them to use their spelling words in a meaningful context. It was the present researcher's contention that primary students would show higher levels of spelling achievement when the words were mastered through a standardized program of creative and functional writing exercises and games than when the words were studied in isolated lists . To test this idea, a controlled experiment was conducted, across a ten-week interval using seven classes of first-grade students as subjects, On a random basis, three teacher/ classroom units were assigned to an experimental condition, and four teacher/ classroom unit s were assigned to a control condition . In all the classrooms 20 minutes per day were spent on spelling lessons. The experimental teachers received weekly lesson plans that included activity sheets and game ideas involving the ten Dolch words being studied each week. The control teachers were given only the list of ten Dolch words assigned for that week . On each Friday during the experiment, a standard weekl spelling test was administered by each teacher to measure weekly mastery of Dolch words . Also an end-of-year ( "cumulative") test, which measured long-term retention of the 100 Dolch words studied during the ten-week interval , was given to all students at the termination of the experiment . In addition to the experimental versus control manipulation, the students' reading levels

Three hypotheses were developed. Hypothesis 1, which predicted that the experimental students would have higher percent correct on the weekly spelling tests than the control students, proved to be untestable, as a result of a statistical ceiling effect . Hypothesis 2 predicted that the experimental students would have a higher mean percent correct on the cumulative test than the control students . Although this hypothesis was not supported by the statistical significance test, significant teacher difference did show up . The teacher difference accounted for 13% of the variation among students on the cumulative test . Hypothesis 3, which predicted that reading level would be positively related to spelling achievement on the cumulative test, regardless of treatment , was confirmed by the significance tests. This third statistical procedure, which was more "sensitive" than the first two procedures, also showed that the experimental students were significantly below the control students on the cumulative test . Additional tests showed that the high readers in the experimental condition did no better than the low readers in the control condition. On the basis of these results it was concluded that (a) teachers should include special, preplanned activities in their spelling lessons, but that these activities should be developed by the individual teacher for her particular classroom situation ( the activities should not be standardized) and (b) spelling should be taught as part of an integrated language arts program, with reading mastery being emphasized and achieved before spelling mastery is taken up .