Invented spelling in preschool: Contributions for learning to read and write

Ana Albuquerque, Margarida Alves Martins


This study was developed within the theoretical framework of emergent literacy and aims at analysing the contributions of an invented spelling intervention programme in preschool for learning to read and write in the first year of primary school. 95 children attending the last year of preschool who did not know how to read or write participated in this study and were randomly divided into two conditions: 48 in the experimental group and 47 in the control group. The participants in each condition were equivalent on age, parents’ education level, abstract reasoning, syllabic awareness, phonemic awareness and letter knowledge. Children’s word reading and writing skills were tested in preschool (before and after the programme) and at the end of primary school. During the intervention period, the experimental group participated in 10 invented spelling biweekly sessions, whereas the control group participated in storytelling activities. Data analysis exposed statistically significant differences both in reading and in writing, since the experimental group displayed higher results at the end of primary school and at the end of Year 1. This study indicates that it is important to include invented spelling activities as a pedagogical practice in preschool contexts.


Emergent literacy, Preschool, Intervention programmes, Invented spelling, Reading.


Adams, M. (1998). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Alves Martins, M., Albuquerque, A., Salvador, L., & Silva, C. (2013). The impact of invented spelling on early spelling and reading. Journal of Writing Research, 5, 215-237. doi: 10.17239/jowr-2013.05.02.3

Alves Martins, M., Albuquerque, A., Salvador, L., & Silva, C. (2015). Escrita inventada e aquisição da leitura em crianças de idade pré-escolar. Psicologia: Teoria e Pesquisa, 31, 137-144. doi: 10.1590/0102-37722015021639137144

Alves Martins, M., Mata, L., & Silva, C. (2014). Conceptualizações sobre linguagem escrita – Percursos de investigação. Análise Psicológica, XXXII, 135-143. doi: 10.14417/ap.841

Alves Martins, M., Salvador, L., Albuquerque, A., & Silva, C. (2016). Invented spelling activities in small groups and early spelling and reading. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 36, 738-752. doi: 10.1080/01443410.2014.950947

Alves Martins, M., & Silva, C. (2006). The impact of invented spelling on phonemic awareness. Learning and Instruction, 16, 41-56. doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2005.12.005

Bacelar do Nascimento, M. F., Casteleiro, J., Marques, M. L., Barreto, F., Amaro, R., & Veloso, R. (2000). Léxico Multifuncional Computorizado do Português Contemporâneo. Lisboa: Centro de Linguística da Universidade de Lisboa.

Besse, J. M. (1995). L’écrit, l’école et l’illettrisme. Paris: Magnard.

Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1990). Acquiring the alphabetic principle: A case for teaching recognition of phoneme identity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 805-812.

Chauveau, G., & Rogovas-Chauveau, E. (1994). Les chemins de la lecture. Paris: Magnard.

Chomsky, C. (1970). Reading, writing and phonology. Harvard Educational Review, 40, 287-309.

Ehri, L. C. (1991). The development of reading and spelling in children: An overview. In M. Snowling & M. Thomson (Eds.), Dyslexia: Integrating theory and practice (pp. 63-94). London: British Dyslexia Association.

Ehri, L. C. (1997). Learning to read and learning to spell are one and the same, almost. In C. Perfetti, L. Rieben, & M. Fayol (Eds.), Learning to spell – Research, theory and practice across languages (pp. 237-269). New Jersey: LEA.

Ehri, L. C. (2005). Learning to read words: Theory, findings, and issues. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9, 167-188. doi: 10.1207/s1532799xssr0902_4

Ehri, L. C. (2014). Orthographic mapping in the acquisition of sight word reading, spelling memory, and vocabulary learning. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18, 5-21. doi: 10.1080/10888438.2013.819356

Ehri, L. C., Nunes, S. R., Willows, D. M., Schuster, B. V., Yaghoub-Zadeh, Z., & Shanahan, T. (2001). Phonemic awareness instruction helps children learn to read: Evidence from the national reading panel’s meta-analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 250-287. doi: 10.1598/RRQ.36.3.2

Ehri, L. C., & Wilce, L. S. (1987). Does learning to spell help beginners learn to read words?. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 47-65.

Everitt, B. (1996). Making sense of statistics in psychology: A second level course. Oxford: University Press.

Ferreiro, E. (1988). L’écriture avant la lettre. In H. Sinclair (Ed.), La production des notations chez le jeune enfant (pp. 18-69). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Ferreiro, E., & Teberosky, A. (1979). Los sistemas de escritura en el desarrollo del niño. México: Siglo XXI Editores.

Fijalkow, J. (1993). Entrer dans l’écrit. Paris: Magnard

Glass, G., & Hopkins, K. (1996). Statistical methods in education and psychology. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Gough, P., Juel, C., & Griffith, P. (2003). Reading, spelling, and the orthographic cipher. In P. Gough, L. Ehri, & R. Treiman (Eds.), Reading acquisition (pp. 35-48). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Hofslundsengen, H., Hagtvet, B. E., & Gustafsson, J. E. (2016). Immediate and delayed effects of invented writing intervention in preschool. Reading and Writing, 29, 1473-1495. doi: 10.1007/s11145-016-9646-8

Levin, I., & Aram, D. (2013). Promoting early literacy via practicing invented spelling: A comparison of different mediation routines. Reading Research Quarterly, 48, 221-236. doi: 10.1002/rrq.48

Levin, I., Shatil-Carmon, S., & Asif-Rave, O. (2006). Learning of letter names and sounds and their contribution to word recognition. Journal of Child Psychology, 93, 139-165. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2005.08.002

Lewis, D. (1968). Experimental design in education. London: University Press of London Press.

Mann, V. A. (1993). Phoneme awareness and future reading ability. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26, 259-269. doi: 10.1177/002221949302600406

Mata, L. (2006). Literacia familiar. Ambiente familiar e descoberta da linguagem escrita. Porto: Porto Editora.

Mata, L. (2008). A descoberta da escrita – Textos de apoio para educadores de infância. Lisboa: DGIDC.

McBride-Chang, C. (1998). The development of invented spelling. Early Education & Development, 9, 147-160. doi: 10.1207/s15566935eed0902_3

Ouellette, G., & Sénéchal, M. (2008a). A window into early literacy: Exploring the cognitive and linguistic under-pinnings of invented spelling. Scientific Studies of Reading, 12, 195-219. doi: 10.1080/10888430801917XXX

Ouellette, G., & Sénéchal, M. (2008b). Pathways to literacy: A study of invented spelling and its role in learning to read. Child Development, 79, 899-913. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01164.x

Ouellette, G., Sénéchal, M., & Haley, A. (2013). Guiding children’s invented spellings: A gateway into literacy learning. Journal of Experimental Education, 81, 261-279. doi: 10.1080/00220973.2012.699903

Pollo, T. C., Kessler, B., & Treiman, R. (2005). Vowels, syllables and letters names: Differences of young children’s spelling in English and Portuguese. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 92, 161-181. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2005.01.006

Pontecorvo, C., Ajello, A. M., & Zucchermaglio, C. (2005). Discutindo se aprende: Interação social, conhecimento e escola. Porto Alegre: Artmed.

Pontecorvo, C., & Fabretti, D. (2003). Aprender un sistema de escritura, aprender una lengua. In C. Pontecorvo (Coord.), Manual de psicología de la educación (pp. 160-179). Madrid: Editorial Popular.

Raven, J., Raven, J. C., & Court, J. H. (1998). Manual for Raven’s progressive matrices and vocabulary scale: Section I – General overview. Oxford: Oxford Psychologists Press.

Read, C. (1971). Preschool children’s knowledge of English phonology. Harvard Educational Review, 41, 1-34.

Rieben, L., Ntamakiliro, L., Gonthier, B., & Fayol, M. (2005). Effects of various early writing practices on reading and spelling. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9, 145-166.

Richgels, D. (1995). Invented spelling ability and printed word learning in kindergarten. Reading Research Quarterly, 30, 96-109.

Sénéchal, M., Ouellette, G., Pagan, S., & Lever, R. (2012). The role of invented spelling on learning to read in low-phoneme awareness kindergartners: A randomized-control-trial study. Reading and Writing, 25, 917-934. doi: 10.1007/s11145-011-9310-2

Shatil, E., Share, D. L., & Levin, I. (2000). On the contribution of kindergarten writing to grade 1 literacy: A longitudinal study in Hebrew. Applied Psycholinguistics, 21, 1-21. doi: 10.1017/S0142716400001016

Silva, C. (2008). Bateria de provas fonológicas (2ª ed.). Lisboa: ISPA – Instituto Universitário.

Silva, C., & Alves Martins, M. (2002). Phonological skills and writing of pre-syllabic children. Reading Research Quarterly, 37, 466-483. doi: 10.1598/RRQ.37.4.6

Stanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 21, 360-407.

Sucena, A., & Castro, S. L. (2011). ALEPE – Avaliação da leitura em português europeu. Lisboa: CEGOC.

Teale, W., & Sulzby, E. (1989). Emergent literacy as a perspective for examining how young children become writers and readers. In W. Teale & E. Sulzby (Eds.), Emergent literacy – Writing and reading (pp. 7-25). Norwood: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Tolchinsky, L. (2004). Childhood conceptions of literacy. In T. Nunes & P. Bryant (Eds.), Handbook of children’s literacy (pp. 11-29). London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Tolchinsky, L. (2005). The emergence of writing. In C. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (pp. 83-96). New York: Guilford.

Treiman, R. (1998). Why spelling? The benefits of incorporating spelling into beginning reading instruction. In J. L. Metsala & L. C. Ehri (Eds.), Word recognition in beginning literacy (pp. 289-313). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Treiman, R., & Kessler, B. (2003). The role of letter names in the acquisition of literacy. In R. Kail (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (pp. 105-135). San Diego: Academic Press.

Uhry, J. (1999). Invented spelling in kindergarten: The relationship with finger-point reading. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Study, 11, 441-464.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Nº ERC: 107494 | ISSN (in print): 0870-8231 | ISSN (online): 1646-6020 | Copyright © ISPA - CRL, 2012 | Rua Jardim do Tabaco, 34, 1149-041 Lisboa | NIF: 501313672 | The portal and metadata are licensed under the license Creative Commons CC BY-NC