The effects of spacing and massing on children’s orthographic learning

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 214, Article 105309.


Despite substantial evidence that spacing study opportunities over time improves the retention of learned verbal material compared with study trials that occur consecutively, the influence of temporal spacing on children’s learning of written words has not been investigated. This experiment examined whether temporal spacing influenced Grade 3 and 4 children’s (N = 37; mean age = 8 years 7 months) learning of novel written words during independent reading compared with massing. Children read 16 sentences containing a novel word under either a spaced (sentences appeared once in each of four blocks) or massed conditions (four consecutive trials). After a delay, orthographic learning was assessed using recognition (orthographic choice) and recall (spelling to dictation) measures. Words experienced in the spaced condition were better recognized than those in the massed condition, but there was no effect on recall. These findings suggest that temporal spacing influences the acquisition of new written word forms, extending the potential utility of the spacing principle to reading acquisition.

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 214, Article 105309