We are pleased to welcome Kenn Apel, PhD, CCC-SLP as our guest host
for the SLP chat tonight, Monday, April 14, 2003. Dr. Apel will be
addressing the topic of spelling.
Kenn Apel, PhD, CCC-SLP, is Professor and Chair of the Department of
Communicative Disorders and Sciences at Wichita State University.
His research and professional interests include spelling development,
assessment, and intervention emergent literacy skills, and language-
learning deficits in college students.
<Robin> Lets get started! Welcome! We are pleased to welcome Kenn Apel, PhD, CCC-SLP as our
guest host for tonight's chat. Dr. Apel will be addressing the topic of spelling.
<Robin> Could you give us an overview on spelling and how it relates to SLP?
<Kenn_Apel> Ok, well, I have to say that if you had told me 10 years ago I'd be talking about
spelling, I would have been very surprised.
<Kenn_Apel> BUT, we now know that spelling is a linguistic skill, and one that often is the
best window into learning what a person knows about language.
<Kenn_Apel> Spelling requires us to think about sounds (phonology), meaning (semantics and
morphology) and orthography (spelling patterns) among other things.
<Kenn_Apel> Plus, spelling development has a direct effect on reading development.
<Kenn_Apel> Unfortunately, most people think spelling is illogical and crazy, but that is
far from the truth.
<Kenn_Apel> And spelling, unfortunately, is one of the least recognized and taught language
<Kenn_Apel> We routinely assess and treat students with spelling deficits, and see
improvements in both spelling and reading.
<Kenn_Apel> Have any of you worked with students with poor spelling or learned about this
in your programs?
<Krista> I'm an undergrad and doing rotation experiences but have seen a few SLPs use
spelling in their lesson plans.
<tsegelman> Yes, in my program at MGH Institute of Health Professions we work with clients
with spoken and written language disorders.
<jamie> We have just touched on it in our class, however I am doing a report on dyslexia and
understand this is an area of deficit.
<Kenn_Apel> Excellent! It is an area, like reading, that is just now being acknowledged as
<tsegelman> We are very unique because we incorporate the two together, I LOVE IT!!!
<Robin> MGH has a strong reading program.
<Kenn_Apel> It doesn't surprise me that MGH is strong in that. And yes, reading and spelling
should be integrated.
<tsegelman> I have seen a number of clients to work on spelling skills.
<AdrienneFSU> I have done some rhyme awareness activities-- the child was stuck in
"orthographic analogies", not listen to the sound, just looking at the letter.
<Kenn_Apel> Sometimes typical students get stuck like that, but they quickly adjust. Our
students with LLD don't.
<suhardt> I currently work with spelling through the Orton-Gillingham Learning Center :
major part of our every session.
<Robin> Kenn, what is the role of the SLP in evaluating and treating spelling?
<Kenn_Apel> Well, the role of the SLP with spelling is the same for other areas of literacy
(reading and writing). We should be preventionists, direct interventionists,
collaborators with others, assessors, etc.
<Kenn_Apel> ASHA has a great document on this that came out recently. We need to help take
the lead in this because we understand language so well.
<tsegelman> I absolutely agree with what you said about taking the lead; in many of my
clinical placements I have been bringing information regarding reading, writing and
spelling skills to my supervisors.
<Kenn_Apel> great! By the way, I'm not assuming others can't play a role. That's where the
collaboration comes in.
<tsegelman> Collaboration is so key.
<Kenn_Apel> As far as assessment, many people are not familiar with thinking about phonology
and morphology, for example,
<Kenn_Apel> We can assess spelling for patterns of errors, and then decide WHY those patterns
<Kenn_Apel> In intervention and instruction, we can help students develop the STRATEGIES for
"word study" which pays off for spelling and reading.
<tsegelman> Do you ever use the Moats spelling inventory as a means of assessment?
<Robin> Yes, tell us about assessment tools.
<Kenn_Apel> I used to use Moats, but now we use a more prescriptive assessment, that
evaluates the students error patterns and finds the causes.
<Kenn_Apel> Julie Masterson and I wrote about this approach in a Topics in Language
Disorders article in May 2000. We now have an assessment tool out that does this.
<Kenn_Apel> It is a CD Rom based tool, called SPELL (Catchy, huh?) Spelling Performance
Evaluation of Language and Literacy.
<Kenn_Apel> Anyway, it does just that. We tried to go beyond just the right/wrong approach
or assignment to stage approach.
<Robin> What ages is it geared toward?
<Kenn_Apel> It is for grades 2 through adult.
<Kenn_Apel> Stage theory, by the way, is not as "popular" anymore, because kids just don't
go through stages neatly.
<Kenn_Apel> We subscribe to a repetoire theory, that says students use various knowledge
sources for spelling with different levels or amounts across time.
<Kirsten> How long does it take to administer the test?
<Kenn_Apel> Administration is based on the student and the level of his/her abilities.
There is a screener that points the computer to assess at one of four levels.
<Kirsten> And then you just use a basal and ceiling for each individual?
<Kenn_Apel> No basals or ceilings. It needs a good body of spellings to deduce the error
<tsegelman> Does the student take the assessment right on the computer?
<Kenn_Apel> Yes, the student takes it on the computer, though you could enter data in
from a student's pencil and paper answers.
<Kenn_Apel> It also then follows up with a phonemic awareness test or morphological test,
as appropriate. It then prints out the errors, goals, and letters for parents and
teachers that explain the problem and what should be done.
<AdrienneFSU> That sounds so efficient!
<AdrienneFSU> Can you use it post treatment to measure progress? Are there practice effects?
<Kenn_Apel> Yes, that's the whole idea. You use it to monitor progress and subsequent goals.
I doubt there would be practice effects, because of the time lag between
administration and the corpus of words.
<Robin> Once error patterns are determined, what do you do? Perhaps you could give us an
example of an error pattern and how you would treat it.
<Kenn_Apel> Ok, it may be that there is a pattern of errors suggesting deficient phonemic
awareness, perhaps not representing all sounds in a word. The SLP then, if confirmed
through the subsequent testing of the SPELL, would work on phonemic awareness for
the particular spelling errors (e.g., always omitting a consonant in consonant blends).
Another example might be the child who consistenly uses sound vs meaning to spell.
<Kenn_Apel> In this case, it might be that the student spells words like walked as walkt.
The SLP would target, through word sorts, helping the student understand the rule
for that morpheme in spelling.
<Robin> That makes sense!
<Robin> What is one of the most common error pattern that you've seen?
<Kenn_Apel> I don't think there is one common, frequent error pattern, but one that DOES
seem to happen a bit involves r-colored vowels (er, ir, or, etc.). So, kids might
spell girl as gril.
<Kenn_Apel> People thought that was "dyslexia" - seeing things backwards, but that is not
<tsegelman> Well, since ir, er, and ur all make the same sound I find that kids have a lot
of trouble remembering which one to use.
<Kenn_Apel> Another REALLY hard spelling issue for students (and adults) is schwas.
<Kenn_Apel> Schwas are difficult to spell because they can be represented by ANY vowel.
However, many times, if you think about the "word family" you can determine which
vowel it is.
<Kenn_Apel> For example, in opposition, the second vowel is a schwa. Many people want to
write an a. But if you think of oppose (morphological knowledge) you will know it is
<Kenn_Apel> So, bottom line. Many (most times) there is a reason for a word's spelling.
<Kenn_Apel> Students with LLD (and typical students) aren't use to or don't have the
immediate knowledge, to think of morphology.
<Kenn_Apel> Speaking of morphology, morphological awareness is a POWERFUL tool for
students, and one that affects other areas of language
<Kirsten> What has the research shown with specific intervention targeting those deficits
and the effects on the spelling and reading.
<Kenn_Apel> A multiple linguistic approach (helping students understand the mutliple
linguistic knowledge sources they can use - phonology, morphology, orthography, and
MGRs has been shown to increase spelling skills better than traditional approaches.
<Robin> What is MGRs?
<Kenn_Apel> MGRs are mental graphemic representations, or the orthographic images we have in
our head for words or parts of words, that we use when spelling is automatic.
<Andrea> What do you think of programs like Lindamood (LIPS)?
<Kenn_Apel> I don't want to get into specifics, but programs like LIPS always have something
important to contribute. LIPS focuses a lot on phonemic awareness, which is good if
that is the issue. But that does not hit ALL the areas of linguistic knowledge that
we need to be good spellers.
<Robin> Tell us about the "word study" strategies you help students develop.
<Kenn_Apel> Well one specific word study strategy is word sorts. With this task, students
sort words based on a percevied pattern, then they hypothesize that the rule is,
and then develop "key words" to help them remember the pattern.
<Kenn_Apel> The focus here is on self-discovery, with guidance from the SLP.
<Kenn_Apel> You can use these to help students learn orthograhic rules (how to represent
long vs short vowels) and for morphology (like the past tense example I gave above).
<Kenn_Apel> One of the most frequent questions I hear when I lecture about this is I don't
know the rules of spelling. Actually, spelling assessment and intervention FORCES
you to make these explicit. Plus,there are sources to help you.
<tsegelman> Are you familiar with the SLD (Solving Language Difficulties) book? I have used
some of the spelling rules from that and students seem to respond well to them.
<Kenn_Apel> No, I haven't seen that book. Who publishes it?
<tsegelman> Give me a minute, I'll check...
<tsegelman> Okay, the SLD (solving Language Difficulties) book is written by Amey Steere,
Caroline Peck, and Linda Kahn, and it is published by Educators Publishing Service.
<tsegelman> it has TONS of word lists for the 6 syllable types, and also goes over spelling
rules such as doubling rule, drop y rule, ff, ll, ss rule, among others.
<Kenn_Apel> Thanks tsegelman.
<Kirsten> Dr. Apel, can you give us another example of helpful sources for the rules of
<Kenn_Apel> The SPELL manual has rules, as does the book, Words Their Way (by Bear et al)
and Word Journeys (Ganske).
<Kenn_Apel> Those last two are two different books.
<Kenn_Apel> For an example of what I have been talking about (assessment and intervention
strategies) you might check out an article in Language Speech and Hearing Services -
<Kenn_Apel> It's by me and Julie Masterson and its a case study that shows what we are
talking about in detail.
<AdrienneFSU> Some writing classrooms have a "write now, edit later" type policy. I feel
this may teach students not to worry about spelling, what do you think?
<Kenn_Apel> The write now, edit later is ok IF the student is really scaffolded through the
edit later part. But a strict "whole language" approach won't help students make
language learning explicit.
<Kenn_Apel> There's nothing wrong with encouraging children to write, while also showing
them how words are "spelled in books."
<tsegelman> I absolutely agree, the LLD students I have seen need to be shown the rules to
reading, writing and spelling, whole language does not work for them.
<Kenn_Apel> Spoken language is learned implicitly, but written language MUST be learned
through explicit attention to language.
<tsegelman> I have seen too many students "slip through the cracks" because they were never
taught the rules, and now they're 16 and reading at a second grade level.
<tsegelman> As soon as you explicity show them the rules to reading and spelling, they get it.
<Kenn_Apel> I feel for those slip through the crack kids, especially because they assume the
problem is all them, when it may very well be due to poor or uninformed instruction.
<tsegelman> YES, and then they are labeled as behavior problems because they can't read the
material in front of them, and it is much better to be bad than to be stupid, so
they act out.
<Kenn_Apel> Exactly. Our society equates struggles with literacy and intelligence, when the
data suggest NO such relationship.
<Kenn_Apel> Don't ever give up on students who struggle. We have no data to suggest there is
a door that closes that prevents learning. We have another case study that shows how
much gains a 29 year old college student made in a short time.
<Robin> How do reading specialists in the schools react to the SLP treating
<Andrea> Great question!
<Kenn_Apel> It depends on the school. Some are so excited to work COLLABORATIVELY (we're
not trying to hog here). They have much to bring to the situation (knowledge of
curriculum). Most just want to help the students, so any knowledge we bring is
<Robin> Thats good to hear.
<Kenn_Apel> Others may not be so excited about it, but it is all how you approach the
situation. An air of "I'm better than you" obviously never works.
<Kenn_Apel> I choose to believe most SLPs don't do this.
<tsegelman> I would hope so too!
<Kenn_Apel> My favorite workshops to give is when the whole team is present - general ed,
special ed, reading specialist, and SLP.
<Kenn_Apel> Then, everyone is on the same page and they work out who will do what for the
betterment of the students.
<tsegelman> Ken, have you heard of WKRP (Wisnia-Kapp Reading Program)?
<Kenn_Apel> Just in passing. Does it approach spelling this way?
<tsegelman> It incorporates a number of aspects of reading and spelling together...it uses
pneumonic stories to help students remember the rules.
<Kenn_Apel> This has been quite fun. I appreciate everyone's interest in this topic.
<tsegelman> Thanks so much for everything!
<Robin> Dr. Apel, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your expertise.
<AdrienneFSU> Thanks for all the info tonight!
<Kenn_Apel> Thank you!
<tsegelman> Thank you, thank you, thank you!
<Kenn_Apel> Take care everyone
<tsegelman> P.S. I love your book!
<Kenn_Apel> Thanks tsegelman.
<hhvenly> Thanks to all of you!!
<Kenn_Apel> Have a good evening
<Robin> Thank you all for joining us tonight!