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Simplex Spelling

Simplex Spelling Validation Study by Dr. Linda Chmiliar &
Serena Seeger, Athabasca University

Simplex Spelling Series Scientifically Validated by Athabasca Univsersity

A 2014 study, carried out by Dr. Linda Chmiliar and Serena Seeger at Athabasca University, followed two class rooms and 23 students with learning disabilities who used the Simplex Spelling series of apps for 10-15 minutes a day for approximately 1-2 days a week over an 18-week period. Students took the Schonell Spelling Test at the beginning and end of the research period, which revealed an average rise of 1.9 grade levels among students involved. Remarkably, the largest grade improvement observed for a student during the study was 4.4 grade levels.

Simplex Spelling Theory by Dr. Lisa Welburn Ph.D.

The process of teaching a child to read can be difficult for both the teacher and the student. Most often a student learns the letters and their corresponding sounds first, and with a bit of phonics instruction a child may start to sound out words. However, his or her initial progress may be slow as many of the high frequency sight words that are needed to establish fluency cannot be sounded out using implicit phonics alone. To increase fluency, students are often given flash cards and are asked to simply memorize these high frequency words. While memorization works for some students, it often does not transfer into good long term reading and spelling skills. Over 84% of the words in the English language follow phonetic patterns, and can be sounded out using other approaches to phonics including synthetic phonics. A Scottish study on phonics followed students for 7 years and showed that students who learned their literacy skills with a full synthetic phonics approach were on average 3.5 years ahead of the rest of the population in their word reading skills. Hence, in recent years the UK government has changed their country's entire educational system over to a full synthetic phonics approach[1].


It has been shown that people who can spell well are also good readers. However, good readers may or may not be good spellers[2][3]. In addition, 10 years of extensive research into dyslexia using MRIs has shown that in effective readers the brain reads by processing sounds, while those with dyslexia have difficulty accessing the sound processing areas of the brain[4][5]. This is why an intesive phonics approach to reading (and spelling) can also help dyslexics and those with learning disabilities to spell and read effectively. If a child can spell a word phonetically, he or she will also be able to read it. This is why we have developed a learning approach that focuses on spelling rather than reading.


When a child is taught to read using phonics, the child typically looks at different letter combinations to determine what sounds they make. The process of spelling is in many ways the reverse of reading. When a child learns to spell, he or she listens to the sounds that a word makes and tries to determine what letter combinations could make that sound. We believe that since phonics can be used successfully to teach a child to read, a reversed phonics approach can be used to teach a child to spell. "Reverse phonics" focuses on converting individual phonemes (the smallest units of sound) into different letter combinations (phonograms) for each sound.


With the use of reverse phonics, Simplex Spelling takes a unique approach to teaching the spelling of English words. The Simplex Spelling hint buttons sound out the spelling word phonemes and provide the student with a number of possible letter combinations (phonograms) for each sound. In this way the student is no longer required to memorize a number of sounds for each phonogram. The letter combinations are simply provided as helpful hints as each word is pieced together from its smallest or simplex sounds.


The repetition of seeing the lists of letter combinations that correspond to each phoneme helps to reinforce how words can be spelled. Combining this reverse phonics approach with many of the English spelling rules in an intuitive and easy to use interface creates a very powerful learning approach to improve spelling and thus reading fluency.


Simplex Spelling naturally increases a child's phonemic awareness as each word is broken down into its phonemes. Each phoneme comes with a list of possible phonograms and any contextually relevant spelling rules. When a student pieces a word together with phonograms that follow specific spelling rules, he or she actually learns "how to spell" each word rather than simply memorizing it.


Most spelling programs only determine whether a word was spelled correctly or incorrectly after the student has entered the entire word. This often leads to discouragement as the child doesn't understand where the mistake was made.


The letter by letter feedback system used in Simplex Spelling gives students immediate feedback as they select letters in the spelling word so that any mistakes are known and can be corrected immediately. The hints that are available give students enough information to guarantee success for each spelling word. At the end of every list, students are given the opportunity to return to words that caused them difficulty. In this way students can continue to practice these words to ensure mastery.


Simplex Spelling uses a multi-sensory approach to spelling which can be effective for students with special needs. It appeals to audio, visual, and tactile learners. The audio component is in the form of spelling words that are both spoken and used in a sentence to provide context. The visual component of Simplex Spelling was carefully designed to provide spelling hints and rules to students only as they are needed. Each letter in the spelling word is color coded to show if it is correct, correct but in the wrong place, or incorrect. The tactile component of Simplex Spelling uses the benefits of the touch screen device. Students can either tap the letters out on the keyboard, or they can drag letters from the keyboard to their spelling word and from letter to letter within the spelling word.


Many educational software programs are designed as games with little bits of educational content thrown in. In contrast, Simplex Spelling's main focus is on the education of children. While Simplex Spelling is not a game, it is still fun and easy to use. Even students who have previously disliked spelling begin to enjoy it as they piece each word together like it is a puzzle.



1.Rhona S Johnston and Joyce E Watson (2005). "Insight 17 - A seven year study of the effects of synthetic phonics teaching on reading and spelling attainment."

2.Frith, U. (1978). "From print to meaning and from print to sound, or how to read without knowing how to spell." Visible Language, 12, 43-54.

3.Frith, U. (1980). "Unexpected spelling problems." In Frith, U. (Ed.) Cognitive Processes in Spelling. London: Academic Press.

4.Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz (2003). "Neural Systems for Compensation and Persistence: Young Adult Outcome of Childhood Reading Disability." BIOL PSYCHIATRY 54:25–33

5.Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywit (2002). "Disruption of Posterior Brain Systems for Reading in Children with Developmental Dyslexia." BIOL PSYCHIATRY 52:101–110