Literacy Practices and Written Language Acquisition

Literacy Practices and Written Language Acquisition

Objectives:

  • In the light of recent studies that have demonstrated the existence of low levels of literacy among the Portuguese population, it is of the greatest interest to conduct research concerning the process involved in teaching written language in the initial years of schooling. Our aim is to characterize the pedagogical practices and the beliefs of first grade teachers in relation to writing and reading instruction, and to compare the results with similar studies developed in other countries, namely in France.
  • The syllabic period in writing acquisition and development doesn’t seem to be equally salient across languages, depending on at least two factors: language and pedagogical practices. The present research aim is the analysis of the impact of these factors at kindergarten level on children’s syllabic spellings, comparing two different linguistics contexts: Portuguese and French. Our hypothesis is that syllabic spellings could be induced, independently of the linguistic context. For that matter, we will conduct a cross-linguistic experimental study with five-year-old pre-syllabic Portuguese and French children attending kindergarten. For that matter, we will conduct a cross-linguistic experimental study with five-year-old pre-syllabic Portuguese and French children attending kindergarten.
    We will create two intervention programs consisting in 6 small-group sessions of 20 minutes each, designed to induce an analytical assessment and critical awareness and discussion of the syllables in regular words. These programmes will be equivalent in Portuguese and French. During these sessions, different activities will be performed around syllables (segmentation, suppression, and identification). Children involved in the first programme will explore syllabic units at oral level and children involved in the second programme will explore syllables at written level.
    We expect that the children involved in both programmes, and independently of their linguistic context, will develop syllabic spellings at the end of the study. Differences between children’s spellings in the two groups across languages will be explored.
  • If there is strong empirical evidence that invented spelling activities and in particularly invented spelling programmes have a positive impact on the evolution of children’s knowledge concerning the written language and on the discovery of the alphabetic principle, there are very few studies that look at the impact that invented spelling may have on early reading acquisition. There are some correlational studies showing that there are stronglinks between invented spelling and early reading, but few experimental studies. So our aim is to assess the impact of an invented spelling programme on pre-school age children’s early reading acquisition.
  • In order to improve literacy instruction, researches try to determine the underlying skills that contribute to successful spelling acquisition. Linguistic awareness makes it possible for the child to appreciate the ways that the oral language maps onto the written language. More specifically phonological awareness and morphological awareness have been related with success in reading and spelling. However there are not studies in Portuguese language that have the purpose of analysing the relation between these two metalinguistic abilities and the misspelling of words that present contextual or morphological restrictions. Our aim is to analyse the evolution of spelling from 2nd to 4th grade. Several studies have already analysed the evolution of spelling along primary school in Portuguese orthography, however they did not study the nature of orthographic restrains (different contextual and morphological rules) that differentiates orthographic knowledge in different grades. We will deeper information about orthographic knowledge on second, third and fourth grade in what concerns children´s knowledge about different kind of orthographic restrains. Our second aim is to test whether children's morphological and phonological awareness make an independent contribution to children's correct spelling, in different grades and in different types of words. We would like to clarify the links between morphological awareness, phonological awareness and the spelling of different words: words whose orthography is linked to a contextual rule or a morphological rule and words whose orthography depends of regular phoneme-to-grapheme correspondences but with different levels of complexity on their syllabic structure. We will use several instruments that evaluate morphological awareness, phonological awareness and a spelling task.