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In this study, it is proposed that spelling errors in written form collected according to Bear D. , Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston (2012)’s Spelling Inventory List, would be qualitatively analyzed to shed light on the current development of spelling of the dyslexic learner. Emerging spelling errors from the dyslexic learners give valuable information on the spelling errors made by them. This will help in identifying possible cognitive strategies used by the dyslexic learner`s to spell. Subsequently, it helps to provide practitioners / educators a benchmark in teaching spelling strategically based on individual dyslexic learner`s area of difficulty in spelling.

Working Title: Exploring Spelling Errors among Dyslexic Learners

Keywords: Spelling, spelling errors, development of spelling, dyslexia, spelling disability

Research Background

Dyslexia has been defined by British Dyslexia Association:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills.  It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects.  It is characterized by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual's other cognitive abilities” (British Dyslexia Association, 2007).


International Dyslexic Association has adopted the definition of dyslexia as:

“A language based disability. It refers to a cluster of symptoms which results in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties in other language skills such as spelling, writing and pronouncing words. It is also characterized with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive problems. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge”.                    

(International Dyslexic Association, 2016)

95% of dyslexic children response positively toward educational interventions which is reflected in their reading and writing process (Lum, 2011). Whereas, the remaining 5% continues to face challenges which needs intensive efforts and long-term support (Lum, 2011). Sariah Arimin who is the president of Dyslexic Association of Malaysia (DAM) have supported this statement using her reports on DAM centres which have shown 90% of success rate where the remaining 10 % is associated with other learning factors such as ADHD (Arfah,2012). Sariah Arimin in her published article ("Kelas Disleksia di 12 sekolah," 2012) also shared that about 300,000 dyslexic children in Malaysia are lack of proper learning facilities. According to her, if proper learning facilities and remediation is not provided to this category of learners; it will impact the socioeconomic aspect of the country. There are 12,076 special education teachers up to August 2010 where these teachers handle a specialized class of 40 children (Arfah, 2012). Insufficient special education, and teachers in Malaysia are also seems to be challenged as well. Subsequently, researches exploring more in dyslexia should be able to benefit the educators/practitioners as well as the dyslexic students in Malaysia to develop literacy skills in order to cope with the Malaysian Primary educational system which requires students to master 3M skills (“Membaca” Reading) (“Menulis” Writing) (“Mengira” Arithmetic).

“Standard spelling has assumed importance beyond the function it plays in written language. It has become the ‘ticket’ to the literacy club- the heir to the traditions and scholarly world of print” (Bean & Bouffler, 1987, p.67)

Exploring spelling errors in the perspective of English language is equally important as exploring it in Malay language for dyslexic learners in Malaysia. Spelling plays a vital role in reading as well as writing (Blachowicz, et al. 2006). According to Critchley & Critchley (1978), dyslexics face problems in acquiring the relations between symbols and sounds that underlie English Orthography which means that they have difficulty in spelling. Various experimental studies that analyze the spelling type had concluded that English spelling is a complex skill including letter knowledge, phonology, orthography and morphology (Boulware-Gooden, Joshi & Grigorenko, 2015). Particularly, in the case of orthography, the inconsistent relationship between graphemes and phonemes can cause irregular results since there are 26 alphabets, 45 phonemes and about 200 graphemes in the English language (Boulware-Gooden, Joshi, & Grigorenko, 2015).

Brown & Ellis (1994) mentioned that researches subsequently categorize spelling development into stages based on the idea that analysis of spelling errors reflects the metalinguistic understanding of language. Such assumption could be extended to dyslexic learners as well. Different spelling development stages might shed light on how dyslexic learners develop their metalinguistic understanding of language.Similarly, an action research was conducted by Ashbaugh (2016) using Bear`s Words - their Way Primary spelling inventory to asses dyslexic students current development in spelling and enables the researcher to set a benchmark in teaching multi-sensory techniques in spelling instruction; the findings showed improvement in spelling of complex consonants, R-controlled vowels, abstract vowels and other long pattern vowels of the dyslexic learners.

Spelling development for learners develops in a similar sequence of Vygotsky`s (1962) Zone of Proximal Development (Bear D. , Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston ,2008). The concept of phases of spelling development illustrate growth of student`s knowledge on the features of the spelling system (Templeton & Bear, 2013). According to Bear D. , Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston (2008) five stages of Henderson’s spelling development were identified as Syllable and Affixes, Letter Name Alphabetic, Emergent, Within Word Pattern and Derivational Relations. Bear (2008) have summarized each stage of the spelling development. Spelling inventories comprises lists of words that are compiled based on the variety of spelling features that they represent from the range of increasing levels of difficulties (Bear et al., 2012, p. 26).  Bear (2008) have included three types of spelling inventories: Primary, Elementary and Upper level spelling inventory in his book Words Their Way. The skills of spelling are measured from Emergent Stage to the Derivational Relations based on Henderson’s spelling development sequence (Bear & Templeton, 1998). In this study, the Primary Spelling inventory will be used to conduct spelling assessment with the dyslexic learners. It comprises 26 words ranging from CVC words to words with derivational endings (-ing). The Primary Spelling Inventory only measures features of spelling from Emergent stage till Syllables & Affixes stage ; it only comprises the four stages out of five stages in the Henderson`s Sequence of Spelling Development.  If the dyslexic learner managed to get most of the spelling correct from the list of 26 words; then 5 words from the Spelling inventory will be added to the list which will measure the spelling skills for Derivational Relations which is the last stage of the spelling development sequence (Bear & Templeton, 1998).


Although there are many spelling tests available such as Vernon PE (1977) Graded Word Spelling Test. London: Hodder & Stoughton (Snowling & Stackhouse, 2013) ; Wide Range Achievement Test III (WRAT-III); Young D (1983) The Parallel Spelling Tests A and B. London: Hodder & Stoughton (Snowling & Stackhouse, 2013) but the most suited spelling test inventory to use for this study would be Bear D. , Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston (2012) Spelling Inventory List as this study tends to look into the current spelling development of the dyslexic learner to further analyze possible cognitive strategies used by the dyslexic learners to spell. Thus, identifying the learner`s area of difficulty in spelling. Bear (2008) have categorise each features of spelling that will be developed by the learner according to the stages of spelling development proposed by Henderson (1974) in the spelling inventory. If the learner makes two or more errors in the particular feature of spelling (Bear`s Spelling Inventory), that would indicate the current stage of spelling development of the learner. There are various dyslexic association that have suggested Bear D. , Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston (2012) Spelling Inventory List to evaluate spelling of dyslexic learners. According to Moira Finnegan from Decoding Dyslexia Oregon, dyslexic assessment for spelling can be done using Bear`s Words Their Way (Finnegan, n.d.). Besides that, it is also suggested for analyzing dyslexic learner`s spelling using its spelling inventory as a guide to start inventions to teach spelling (, n.d.)

Research problem 

Gomez (2004) confirms that an understanding of the size of the problem on dyslexia in Malaysia has not been obtained despite of pilot studies and small scale researches being done to understand it. According to Thayasan (2013) it has been reported that in the year 2013, there are as many as 400000 children with dyslexia ; which is about 24.7% of increment compared to the number of children with dyslexia around 314000 in the year 2010. The growing number of dyslexic children in Malaysia also increases the responsibility of educators/ practitioners to use effective teaching instructions to develop literacy skills among the dyslexic children.  There are many studies conducted to analyze Malay language in the perspective of dyslexia in Malaysia.  For example, a study conducted by Malie & Jiniti (2010) which explores writing difficulties among dyslexic learners; Mohammad & Lecthumy ( 2013) analyzes the underlying problems in writing mechanism faced by the dyslexic learner ; Muhammad, Ruzanna, S.Vijayaletchumy, Abdul Aziz, & Abdul Rahim (January 2012) focused on patient experiencing dyslexia with difficulties in spellings related to learning Bahasa Melayu. Malay orthography differs from English orthography.Malay language has a lesser number of phonemes in its phonology repertoire for the spoken language (Awang, 2004; Lee, 2008). As compared to English language which has about 24 consonant and 20 vowel phonemes, Malay language has approximately 25 consonant phonemes (inclusive of /q/ but exclude /x/) and 9 vowel phonemes (inclusive of 3 diphthong /ai/, /au/, and /oi/) (Asmah, 1985; Yap, et al., 2010; Zaharani, 1993). Thus, the findings of studies that are conducted in Malay language cannot be transferable to English language in Malaysia. In Malaysia, English is considered as the second language and widely used in business, employment, education, politics, tourism, law, media as well as translation (Hanapiah, 2004).

Subsequently, it is equally important to explore dyslexia in terms of  English language. Although there are studies being conducted in terms of English language that have highlighted the importance of morphological awareness  among dyslexic (Hsia, 2013) and reading comprehension abilities of a dyslexic child (Sankaran, 2006). Study that critically analyze spelling errors which provide an insight on the development of spelling among dyslexic learners have not been explored in Malaysia.  Hence, the current study will be conducted to address the lack of literature that explores the spelling errors in English language of dyslexic learners in Malaysia. This will also explore the possible cognitive strategies used by them to spell. Subsequently, it will be able to further justify specific interventions that can be ascertained in overcoming it.

Significance of the research and future study suggestion

It would enable practitioners / educators to set a benchmark in teaching spelling to overcome spelling disability based on specific interventions suggested since the number of children with dyslexia shows increment. In the future, this study can be extended in examining the spelling development progress of the dyslexic learners based on the intervention suggested in this study.

Study Limitations

The current study is limited to study population selected in qualitatively analyzing the spelling errors. As it only provide valuable information for intervention for spelling based on the selected dyslexic participants only.

Research objective and research questions

The key research objective is to qualitatively analyze the spelling errors of the dyslexic learners to set a starting point in teaching spelling based on the dyslexic learner`s current spelling development. As a result, the research questions are:

  1. What is the current development in spelling of the dyslexic learner?
  2. What are the cognitive strategies that might have been used by the dyslexic learner to spell?
  3. What are the learner`s area of difficulties in spelling?

Summary of literature review

J.P Gupta (1993) who have conducted a detailed research either in a normal condition or clinical, explains dyslexia level occurring in Malaysia Science University Hospital, Kelantan (Muhammad, Ruzanna, S.Vijayaletchumy, Abdul Aziz, & Abdul Rahim, January 2012). His findings revealed that poor performance in graph-phonemic will be shown in dyslexic children in both reading and writing skill. However, they will show 70% achievement in the automatic skills, the auditory skills, and graphical skills (Muhammad, Ruzanna, S.Vijayaletchumy, Abdul Aziz, & Abdul Rahim, January 2012). Children having dyslexia fail to combine “grapheme‟ and “phoneme”, which is the main problem of dyslexia in Malaysia (Muhammad, Ruzanna, S.Vijayaletchumy, Abdul Aziz, & Abdul Rahim, January 2012).

Previous study conducted by Just & Carpenter (1987) also highlighted that dyslexic students performed worst in spelling more difficult words that the normal college student especially words with multiple morphemes and double morphemes like the word “accommodation”. The most crucial skill in dealing with spelling and word reading is having the capacity to associate phonemes with graphemes (L.Breadmore & M.Carroll, 2015). Spelling skill is dependable on the linguistic knowledge but the benefaction of linguistic knowledge is not well understood (Carolina, n.d.). A study comparing dyslexic and language impairment children as adolescent which were matched with same age as those in the clinical group revealed that the tests of spoken and written language skill were undistinguishable; both groups performed at age-expected level but both groups shows phonological awareness deficits (Goulandris, Snowling, & Walker, 2000).

The first step to remediate phonological deficit among dyslexia children is very important as it highlights on the “decoding first” accounts; “all available skills” accounts imply as optional skills to cope with phonological deficits (L.Breadmore & M.Carroll, 2015). A study conducted by matching peers according to literacy ability reveals that the usage of morphology in dyslexia is delayed or following a different trajectory (C.Bourassa & Treiman, 2008). The linguistic knowledge revolves in knowing the phonological, morphological and orthographical perspective in order to spell a word (Boulware-Gooden, Joshi, & Grigorenko, 2015).  Individuals with spelling disability performed poorly in various spelling tests as compared to normal developing children which were matched according to their age. Another interesting theoretical comparison revealed that older individuals who have spelling disability performed similarly as compared to younger normally developing individuals in spelling tests (C.Bourassa & Treiman, July 2001). This give rises to another perspective that both of the group of individuals (spelling disability and normal development) spelling will be indistinguishable although group of spelling disability individuals spell at a slower rate ; this also highlights that if the spelling task of both the spelling disability individuals and normally developing individuals is analysed qualitatively,  would be able to give valuable insights on the nature and causes of spelling disabilities (C.Bourassa & Treiman, July 2001). 

Over the years, there are number of spelling development models that have been refined by Ehri 1986; Gentry 1978, 1982; Henderson & Beers 1980; Morris 1983. There are some common things being shared by all these spelling models: a) attempted to analyse spelling errors of invented spelling written by children b) qualitative analysis of spelling errors sheds light on different cognitive processes involves in spelling of children at different development levels ; it is focused on stage to stage development c) although phonological awareness is very important in early spelling of children; phonological awareness also explains how children acquire the description of words orthographically (Brown & Ellis, 1994). 

Bear (2008) further identified that many children with dyslexia tends to memorise spelling words assigned for weekly spelling test; it do not generalise spelling accuracy in their written work. As a result, teachers should not focus on the teaching patterns alone but teach dyslexic students the skills to develop this process on their own (Bear D. , Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston, 2008). Hence, it is very important to qualitatively analyse the spelling of the dyslexic learners to understand which features of the spelling that they have developed and vice versa. It creates a great opportunity for practitioners / educators to understand specific areas of spelling that needed to be work on.

Theoretical Framework

Developmental Stage Theory of Spelling

Cognitive stage theory and models of spelling development emerged in a parallel direction (Ellis 1994, 1997; Gentry, 1984). The study conducted by Charles Read can help to draw on the evolution of the developmental stage theory of spelling. Read (1971) assumed that children can memorise bits of unpredictable spellings, but the assumption failed to justify the capability of a mature reader or writer. Based on this findings, Read (1971) examined the “invented spelling” to investigate the knowledge of preschool children regarding English orthography. As a result, he found out that children achieved the common and systematic spelling of unknown words. Hence, this initiated the study of “development stage theory of spelling”.

Developmental spellings are resulted from different strategies used by the children at different phases of cognitive development (Ellis 1994, 1997; Gentry, 1984). Cognitive theory relates to how children construct knowledge from their experiences across a sequence of stages (Rogoff, 2003). These stages are determined by the child’s developmental level, not their chronological age (Rogoff, 2003). Henderson and Templeton (1986) believe that cognitive developmental theory has an impact on spelling acquisition by children, because spelling achievement follows a series of developmental stages through which learners pass. Templeton and Spivey (1980) draw on Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory in their research on how children develop the concept of “word” and how this concept of “word” corresponds to the levels of cognitive development. Cognitive developmental theory is also used by Bear and Templeton (1998). The development of word study as an instructional tool can be understood by following a student’s cognitive development as they progress through the different stages (Bear and Templeton, 1998). Furthermore, the knowledge of cognitive development helps teachers by providing lessons about the right developmental level for students (Bear & Templeton, 1998). 


Summary of proposed research design


5 dyslexic learner`s will be chosen for this study who are currently studying in one of the centre of Dyslexic Association Malaysia (DAM). The age of the dyslexic learner`s will be between 7 years old to 12 years old.


Dyslexic learners will be asked to spell 25 words in increasing difficulty. These lists of words are adapted from Bear D., Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston (2012) Primary Spelling Inventory list. The words range from various features of primary level. The word “sled” will be omitted from the Primary Spelling Inventory list because it is not commonly used in Malaysian context and dyslexic learners will have difficulties in comprehending the meaning of word before spelling it.

Data Collection

The spelling data would be collected from a Primary Spelling Inventory list that will be administered like a usual spelling test by the teacher of each dyslexic learner who participated in this study. It will begin by teacher informing the dyslexic learner that the purpose of administering the list of spelling is to learn on how they spell. Teacher that is administering the spelling is not allowed to give the spelling beforehand to the dyslexic learner. It begins by saying the word once. Teacher is allowed to read a sentence containing that particular word when the meaning is not clear. Teacher is required to say the word naturally without breaking it into syllable.


The spelling data collected will be analysed according to Bear D. , Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston ( 2012) Feature Guide for Primary Spelling Inventory. The dyslexic learner`s current development in spelling can be determined by addressing the areas of errors in the spelling development stage.

This will enable the researcher to infer the features of spelling that the dyslexic learner have developed and vice versa. The possible cognitive strategies used by the dyslexic learner can also be inferred according to the features used by the dyslexic learner to spell the given words based on the Feature Guide for Primary Spelling Inventory and developmental stage theory of spelling.

Triangulation of data collection will also be done where the teacher will conduct informal discussion with the learners on the rationale of the spelling written would also be useful in providing valuable information on the cognitive strategies used by the dyslexic learners to spell. Hence, highlighting learner`s area of difficulty and provides importance in identifying intervention that will suit the dyslexic learner`s needs.

Pilot study

Ng Li Cheng is a 13 years old dyslexic student who is currently studying in Pusat Dyslexia Malaysia (PDM). Primary Spelling Inventory list was administered by his teacher with 25 words list by omitting the word “sled”. The spelling list was not given beforehand to Li Cheng. Teacher read the sentence containing the word to make the meaning clearer to Li Cheng and said the word again.

Qualitative Analysis

Li Cheng has developed the knowledge on how spelling works. He knows that letters represent sounds in words. Primary Feature Guide analysis shows that he has developed final and short consonant sounds knowledge. For example, words like “fan” and “pet” spelled correctly (RQ1). Possible strategies used by Li Cheng to spell are by pronouncing the words and listen for familiar letters and sounds. For example, word “coach” is spelled as “koc” where the initial sound of the word is written as how it sounds like. During an informal discussion with him, Li Cheng mentioned that he tries to spell words according to how it sound like when he have no idea on how to spell it. Besides that, when asked how he spelt the word “dream” correctly; he mentioned that “I have seen the word many times …so it sticks in my brain” (RQ2). Currently, Li Cheng is facing difficulty in spelling words with consonant blends as he makes most of the errors in it. Besides that, he could not spell words with inflected endings and words with long vowels (RQ3). Intervention for spelling should focus on teaching spelling that contains the features of consonant blending and then slowly move on to words with long vowels and inflected endings.

Research planning



Research activities

March-April 2016

May-June 2016



Sept-Oct 2016

Nov-Dec 2016

Jan-Feb 2017

Proposal writing and Literature review







Proposal presentation







Chapter 1-3







Data collection







Data analysis







Chapter 4







Candidature defence







Chapter 1-5







Editing and submission










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  • Course Code: NS3118
  • University: James Cook University
  • Country: Australia

Answer: Introduction Over-weight or obesity is the main risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardio-vascular disease and some other musculoskeletal conditions. Moreover, over-weight hampers the ability to control or manage the diseased condition (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017). In 2014-15 28% of the Australian adults are obese and the percentage has increased since 1995. Not only adults, children who are aged between 2...

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