Reading and Writing

, 21:505

Do children who acquire word reading without explicit phonics employ compensatory learning? Issues of phonological recoding, lexical orthography, and fluency

  • G. Brian Thompson
  • Michael F. McKay
  • Claire M. Fletcher-Flinn
  • Vincent Connelly
  • Richard T. Kaa
  • Jason Ewing


Two studies were conducted across three countries to examine samples of beginning readers without systematic explicit phonics who had reached the same level of word reading accuracy as comparison samples with high and moderate explicit phonics. Had they employed any compensatory learning to reach that level? Four hypotheses of compensatory learning or performance were tested on the samples, all of which represented the lower half of the normative distribution of word reading accuracy. The two samples without explicit phonics received teaching that centered on story text reading and some receptive phonics that arose from this text reading. They did not compensate by relatively greater use of a larger psycholinguistic grain size in the form of rime units. Nor did they compensate by trading off comprehension for text word reading accuracy. In a microtraining study, they showed no compensation in proficiency of initial learning of lexical orthographic representations. For all samples, this initial learning was less effective with spelling than reading training trials. In reading text, the samples without explicit phonics did not compensate by trading off speed for accuracy, or comprehension. On the contrary, they read text faster than the explicit phonics samples. The extra classroom instruction time available to them for text reading, with the consequential extra exposure and practice of word reading, would explain this result.


Beginning readers Explicit phonics Lexical orthography Phonological recoding Rimes Text reading fluency 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Brian Thompson
    • 1
  • Michael F. McKay
    • 2
  • Claire M. Fletcher-Flinn
    • 3
  • Vincent Connelly
    • 4
  • Richard T. Kaa
    • 5
  • Jason Ewing
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Education StudiesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of PsychologyAustralian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyOxford Brookes UniversityOxfordUK
  5. 5.Centre for Community Child HealthMurdoch Childrens Research InstituteMelbourneAustralia
  6. 6.Centacare – Schools UnitEast MelbourneAustralia

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