Teaching children with dyslexia to spell in a reading-writers' workshop

Virginia W. Berninger, Yen Ling Lee, Robert D. Abbott, Zvia Breznitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To identify effective treatment for both the spelling and word decoding problems in dyslexia, 24 students with dyslexia in grades 4 to 9 were randomly assigned to treatments A (n = 12) or B (n = 12) in an after-school reading-writers' workshop at the university (thirty 1-h sessions twice a week over 5 months). First, both groups received step 1 treatment of grapheme-phoneme correspondences (gpc) for oral reading. At step 2, treatment A received gpc training for both oral reading and spelling, and treatment B received gpc training for oral reading and phonological awareness. At step 3, treatment A received orthographic spelling strategy and rapid accelerated reading program (RAP) training, and treatment B continued step 2 training. At step 4, treatment A received morphological strategies and RAP training, and treatment B received orthographic spelling strategy training. Each treatment also had the same integrated reading-writing activities, which many school assignments require. Both groups improved significantly in automatic letter writing, spelling real words, compositional fluency, and oral reading (decoding) rate. Treatment A significantly outperformed treatment B in decoding rate after step 3 orthographic training, which in turn uniquely predicted spelling real words. Letter processing rate increased during step 3 RAP training and correlated significantly with two silent reading fluency measures. Adding orthographic strategies with "working memory in mind" to phonics helps students with dyslexia spell and read English words.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalAnnals of Dyslexia
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Third, the RAP findings not only replicate past research about its effectiveness in improving silent reading fluency but also support new understanding about RAP’s potential effectiveness for improving the timing and related efficiency of orthographic working memory—holding time-limited written words and their letters in mind while processing them for meaning. That the training improved the rate of letter processing, which was correlated with two silent reading comprehension fluency measures, warrants further research on the role of orthographic working memory in silent reading comprehension rate and accommodation needs of students with dyslexia for extra time on silent reading tests. The accelerated reading may exert its effects on reading fluency via orthographic working memory (Breznitz & Share, 1992) by accelerating the rate of letter processing in orthographic working memory (Crosson et al., 1999). A collaborative research project, funded by the Binational Science Foundation (P.I. Zvia Breznitz, University of Haifa; Co-PI, Virginia Berninger, University of Washington), is investigating this issue in a larger study of writing and reading fluency.

Funding Information:
Based on research that was supported by HD25858 and P50 33812 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).


  • Integrated reading-writing instruction
  • Morphological awareness instruction for dyslexia
  • Orthographic strategies instruction for dyslexia
  • Phonological decoding instruction for dyslexia
  • Rapid accelerated program for reading fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Speech and Hearing


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