Teaching children to read irregular words: A comparison of three instructional methods

Scientific Studies of Reading, 26(6), 545–564. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888438.2022.2077653


Purpose: Children learning to read in English must learn to read words with varying degrees of grapheme-phoneme correspondence regularity, but there is very little research comparing methods of instruction for words with less predictable or irregular spellings. Therefore, we compared three methods of instruction for beginning readers. Method: Eighty-five Kindergarten children were randomly assigned to either Look and Say (LSay), Look and Spell (LSpell), mispronunciation correction (MPC), or wait-list control conditions. Children were taught 12 irregular words over three sessions. Amount of instructional time and number of exposures to the written and spoken forms of the words was controlled across the three experimental conditions. After training, children were assessed on reading aloud and orthographic choice measures. Results: Children showed evidence of superior learning of trained words in the LSpell and MPC conditions, compared to LSay and control conditions. Differences between the LSpell and MPC conditions were not significant. There was no evidence of generalization to untrained items. Conclusions: Findings indicate that active processing of a word’s orthography is crucial for learning irregular words. These results have implications for initial reading instruction. Further research is required to determine whether differences between LSpell and MPC conditions emerge after longer periods of training.

Scientific Studies of Reading, 26(6), 545–564