According to Dr. Jan Wasowicz “SPELL-Links is a speech-to-print, multi-linguistic, and meta-linguistic word study and structured literacy curriculum that targets essential reading and writing skills. SPELL-Links offers a range of programs. Within the family of SPELL-Links programs there exists instruction for phonemic awareness, decoding, morphology, spelling, vocabulary, syntax, and word level fluency.
When used with the SPELL-Links diagnostic prescriptive assessment or other deep assessment, SPELL-Links provides individualized instruction that can be delivered 1:1 or in small groups. In the absence of diagnostic, prescriptive data, SPELL-Links can be used to supplement instruction taking place in the classroom. SPELL-Links emphasizes direct instruction combined with carefully constructed inquiry-based learning activities. Scaffolding with gradual release is also emphasized.”
In order to assess the efficacy of SPELL-Links, an initial search on google, Education Source, and the company website was conducted to try and find research on the topic. Any studies that did not directly compare a treatment group receiving SPELL-Links instruction to a comparison group were excluded. The initial search failed to find a relevant study that met our screening criteria. However, one of the authors of SPELL-Links Dr. Jan Wasowicz reached out to Teaching by Science and shared two research studies related to the topic. One of these studies met our inclusion criteria. The other study was a systematic review of the instructional principles behind SPELL-Links, which found positive benefits.
Wanzek, et al, conducted a randomized control trial of SPELL-Links in 2017. The study compared four groups of struggling grade 1 students. In the first group, students received SPELL-Links linguistic phonics instruction. In the second group, the students received handwriting instruction. In the third group students received SPELL-Links and handwriting instruction. In the fourth group, students received business as usual instruction. Instruction lasted in all groups for 6 weeks. On average the SPELL-Links only group outperformed all four groups. The study design was very rigorous with careful fidelity tracking, and the use of both curriculum based measurements, and standardized tests. However, the sample size for the study was quite low with only 81 students spread across four groups.
The original authors calculated effect sizes, by comparing pre and post test results. However, in order to measure the magnitude of effect for the SPELL-Links program, I recalculated effect sizes using a Hedge’s g formula, by comparing the SPELL-Links only group with the business as usual control group. Those results can be seen in the below chart.
These results suggested a strong benefit for spelling and writing outcomes. However, alphabet writing fluency outcomes were weak. That said, SPELL-Links as a program does not directly teach letter formation skills. Therefore the WIAT scores might not be reflective of the value of the program. If we correct for the handwriting assessment, we get a mean effect size of .43.
Final Grade: B+
All of the principles of SPELL-Links appear well evidenced within the scientific research. SPELL-Links showed a mean effect size of above .40 on standardized spelling assessments.
Qualitative Grade: 9/10
The program includes the following evidence based forms of instruction: Individualized, explicit, phonemic awareness, decoding, morphology, vocabulary, spelling, and comprehension.
Disclaimer: Please note that this review is not peer reviewed content. These reviews are independently conducted. Pedagogy Non Grata, does not take profit from conducting any program review found on this website.
Written by Nathaniel Hansford: teacher and lead writer for Pedagogy Non Grata
Last Edited 2023/01/21
Wanzek J, Gatlin B, Al Otaiba S, Kim YG. The Impact of Transcription Writing Interventions for First-Grade Students. Read Writ Q. 2017;33(5):484-499. doi: 10.1080/10573569.2016.1250142. Epub 2016 Dec 20. PMID: 28989267; PMCID: PMC5625629.
Julie Wolter. (2009). Teaching Literacy Using a Multiple-Linguistic Word-Study Spelling
Approach: A Systematic Review. Utah State University.