This study was an examination of the mnemonic value of spellings for securing vocabulary words and their meanings in memory. Second and fifth graders were each taught two sets of unfamiliar words and their definitions as oral responses in paired-association learning tasks. During study periods, students were shown spellings of one set of words, and they received extra practice reciting the other set of words but never saw their spellings. Learning to pronounce the words when their pictures were shown,
and learning to state meanings of the words when the words were heard were the responses taught.
Learning of words and meanings favored the spelling condition. Children with the largest printed word lexicons benefited most from seeing spellings,
indicating a "Matthew effect" for word learning.
Results are interpreted as providing evidence for the mnemonic value of spellings in vocabulary learning because they provide readers with orthographic images useful for storing pronunciations along with their meanings in memory.
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