Spell-Links is a linguistics phonics program, meaning that it attempts to teach reading from a linguistically accurate model that emphasizes teaching sounds first. It starts with phonemic awareness and then transitions straight into orthographic mapping. With traditional analytic phonics, students would learn sounds in chunks, via word families, for example: “Boat, Moat, Float”. With synthetic phonics students learn the individual sounds that make up these words first, IE: B-oa-t. Whereas, with orthographic mapping, students would learn the meanings behind the individual sounds that make up these words.
As I always try to mention, to fully establish the efficacy of any intervention, we need a peer reviewed meta-analysis. I searched for studies on the topic, on Google, the company website, Education Source, and Scholar's Porta. To the best of my knowledge, no studies have been conducted on “Spell-Links”. That being said, I think some teachers and scholars might advocate for a linguistic phonics program like this one, because it is more linguistically accurate. I would caution against this assumption, as just because something is more linguistically accurate, does not make it more effective pedagogically. I previously conducted a non-peer reviewed, secondary meta-analysis of other linguistic phonics programs and found below average results.
Similarly, as the English language is primarily morphological, not phonological, we would assume that programs that include more morphology would automatically do better than ones that do not. However, my secondary meta-analysis of the topic, showed phonics only interventions on average out-performing morphology only interventions, by a statistically insignificant degree. Although Morphology instructions looks like it might outperform phonics instruction, for specific outcomes/interventions.
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I personally remain cautiously skeptical, but intrigued with linguistic approaches to teaching. These types of approaches, have yet to display solid evidence of efficacy within the literature and I worry that they might underperform, due to their complexity. I COULD see a more simple synthetic program outperforming, not because it's more accurate, but because the curriculum is easier for both the teacher and students to master.
In terms of Spell-Links specifically, it does include several evidence-based principles, including phonemic awareness, direct instruction, phonics instruction, and morphology instruction.
Final Grade: B
The program is research based: IE there are no direct studies but most of the program principles are well evidenced, within the meta-analysis literature.
Qualitative Grade: 4/10
The program includes the following essential evidence-based instructional types: phonemic awareness, direct, morphology, and phonological.
Written by Nathaniel Hansford
Last Edited, 2022-02-24
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