Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 385–400 | Cite as

Beyond the Rainbow: Retrieval Practice Leads to Better Spelling than does Rainbow Writing

  • Angela C. JonesEmail author
  • Liane Wardlow
  • Steven C. Pan
  • Cristina Zepeda
  • Gail D. Heyman
  • John Dunlosky
  • Timothy C. Rickard
Intervention Study


In three experiments, we compared the effectiveness of rainbow writing and retrieval practice, two common methods of spelling instruction. In experiment 1 (n = 14), second graders completed 2 days of spelling practice, followed by spelling tests 1 day and 5 weeks later. A repeated measures analysis of variance demonstrated that spelling accuracy for words trained with retrieval practice was higher than for words trained with rainbow writing on both tests (η p 2  = .49). In experiments 2 (second graders, n = 16) and 3 (first graders, n = 12), students completed 2 days of spelling practice followed by a spelling test 1 day later. Results replicated experiment 1; spelling accuracy was higher for words trained with retrieval practice compared with rainbow writing (η p 2  = .42 and .64, respectively). Furthermore, students endorsed both liking and learning from retrieval practice at least as much as (and sometimes more than) rainbow writing. Results demonstrate that retrieval practice is a more useful (and as engaging) training method than is rainbow writing and extend the well-established testing effect to beginning spellers.


Spelling Instruction Retrieval practice Testing effect Emergent literacy 



This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders [3RO1DC011 492]. We would like to thank Melissa Bishop, Dasom Kim, Soo Lee, and Brenda Wu for assistance with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela C. Jones
    • 1
    Email author
  • Liane Wardlow
    • 2
  • Steven C. Pan
    • 3
  • Cristina Zepeda
    • 3
  • Gail D. Heyman
    • 3
  • John Dunlosky
    • 4
  • Timothy C. Rickard
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychological ScienceJohn Carroll UniversityUniversity HeightsUSA
  2. 2.Pearson and Department of PsychologyUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychological SciencesKent State UniversityKentUSA

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