Australasian Journal of Special Education


An Examination of Commercial Spelling Programs for Upper Primary Level students

Barbara Mullock 

The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia


The acquisition of spelling skills in English presents, for a substantial number of children, a significant challenge. Spelling skills do not automatically transfer from reading skills, and while many teachers are aware of the need to develop a separate word study program to assist with spelling development, time and confidence factors often result in their turning to commercial spelling programs for assistance. But to what extent do such programs reflect what contemporary research tells us about how spelling skills are acquired? The current study uses criteria developed from Cramer and Cipielewski (1995) to analyse 9 Australian commercial spelling programs designed for use in primary Years 4 to 6. The programs are examined with special attention to the needs of weaker spellers. The study found that although the majority of the programs contained treatment of basic morphological aspects of spelling, only 2 of the programs presented material designed to develop understanding of the more complex sound–symbol relationships of the English spelling system. Treatment of more complex morphemic principles was weak in almost all programs, and there was only limited coverage of compound words, homonyms, contractions, and words that are easily confused.


  • English spelling;
  • instructional materials;
  • upper primary levels


Correspondence: Barbara Mullock, School of Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2025, Australia. E-mail:;