The Science

7spell is scientifically designed, and utilizes principles based on decades of research in learning, retention, and psychology. Here is a summary of the theory and research behind 7spell's effectiveness.

Craik, F., and Tulving, E. "Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 104(3) (1975): 268-294. Print and PDF.

In this seminal study performed at the University of Toronto, Canada, the authors performed a series of tests in which they gave the study participants a sequence of words to learn, with information related to each word as it appeared in order. They discovered that when the information provided stimulated the participant's brain to process the word on a more involved level (referred to as "deep encoding" or "degree of elaboration" in the study), that word was more effectively learned and remembered. With 7spell, the user is given a wide range of additional information about each spelling word, including the word's definition - one of the key factors in enhanced memory, according to this study - as well as usage examples, synonyms, and antonyms.

Garcia, S.M., Tor, A., and Schiff, T.M. "The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective." Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2013, 8(6):634-650. Print and web.

Each person is influenced by a unique set of factors related to their own status and progress towards goals, but is also affected to a greater or lesser degree by the achievements and perceived standards of the people around them. This analysis of past and current studies looks at the way people view and are motivated by individual goals as well as societal achievement (competition). The authors conclude that effective use of motivational strategies must take both into account. This is something that 7spell accomplishes by providing each user with the ability to set personal goals, earn reward points, and view their own progress tracking reports, and also to publish all of those results on public social media platforms.

Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., and Zheng, Y. "The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention." Journal of Marketing Research, February 2006, 43(1):39-58. Web.

In a study focusing on the influence of reward-scheme programs on behavior, the authors found that when people see visible progress towards their goals they are more likely to increase the activity required to reach those goals. The study also confirms that most people are also motivated by receiving rewards for completing specific activities, even if those rewards are not immediately transferable to actual material or monetary benefits. Status points, rewards, and real-time progress tracking are all methods used in 7spell to encourage frequent spelling practice by awarding points for the completion of exercises and activities. Because the user can access their progress charts at any time, they will always be able to see how close they are to achieving their personal spelling goals.

Buton, M., Winterbauer, N., and Todd, T. "Relapse processes after the extinction of instrumental learning: Renewal, resurgence, and reacquisition." Behavioural Processes, May 2012, 90(1): 130–141. Print and web.

Instrumental learning, also called "operant conditioning," is a method by which behaviors are learned in connection with a stimulus, a reward, or both. In this research done at the University of Vermont, the authors studied the ways in which the information connected to a specific behavior is retained when the stimulus is removed, and how subsequent repetition or reward reinforces information recall and a resumption of previously learned behaviors. They conclude that there are two primary methods of reinforcing active memory and behavior: by creating a different way to test the subject's memory, and by providing the opportunity for intensive focused repetition of that stimulus-behavior response. These two methods are widely used in the 7spell activities and games to create the link between instruction and memory that is so crucial in effective spelling learning on the student's part.

Xue, G., Mei, L., Chen, C., Lu, Z-L., Poldrack, R., Dong, Q. "Spaced Learning Enhances Subsequent Recognition Memory by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2011;23(7):1624-1633. Print and web. http://doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21532

In this study comparing long-term and short-term memory, the study authors tested the neural activity of participants as they memorized a set of images. Half of the study participants used massed learning techniques, in which each new image was presented multiple times in a row; the other half were given the images in a spaced repetition mode, where the images were shown in alternating order. Although each participant saw each image the same number of times, the people in the spaced-repetition exercise were able to accurately remember more images, and for a longer period of time. Repetition is a key technique in learning spelling, and 7spell incorporates spaced repetition in two ways. First, the system uses randomized selection of spelling words from the user's current list to populate the activities and exercises, ensuring an interval between word reviews. Second, the system's Word Discover feature provides pop-up instant review of the words on that list, again in random order. By providing users with multiple opportunities throughout the day to read and review their words, 7spell provides all of the benefits of the spaced repetition methodology in its spelling instruction.

Blocki, J., Cranor, L., Datta, A., and Komanduri, S. "Spaced Repetition and Mnemonics Enable Recall of Multiple Strong Passwords." Cornell University Library, January 3, 2015. PDF.

Spaced repetition is a memory training tool that relies on frequent and consistent review of information; mnemonics is a memory technique that involves multiple ways of looking at that information, such as the incorporation of images or story lines. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University focused on the combination of spaced repetition and mnemonics in evaluating how best to train people to remember specific pieces of information: computer passwords. They found that by combining the two methodologies, the results in both ease of learning and retention were increased. 7spell uses each method separately and together to help users learn and remember new spelling words by using the same words in multiple exercises, presenting spelling words in a variety of formats, and encouraging users to add information related to each word to make a personal connection that helps them to remember that word and its correct spelling.


Get Your Super Teaching Tools From Tim Weibel’s Websites

Categories: Spelling Resources |

If you’re a teacher in a public school who’s looking for some new resource material, then you’ll be glad to know of a place where you can find worksheets on topics like spelling, grammar, multiplication, handwriting, geography, and astronomy. ESL instructors and homeschooling parents can also benefit from these handy lesson materials, and anyone who spends time teaching any subject can get inspiration by sharing information with other people in the teaching profession. For all of these reasons and more, Tim Weibel and his team have set up a series of websites that provide quality material and practical information for teachers at home, in schools, and around the world.

US: At your website, you’ve got an ever-growing collection of tips provided by people who are experienced in providing education. Do you have a place for people to ask questions as well, if they’re looking for specific information?

TW: Yes, Super Teacher Ideas has thousands of lesson ideas and classroom activities, submitted by real teachers. Most of the ideas on the site are geared towards elementary school educators. There are math lessons, spelling games, science experiments, writing projects, and even craft ideas.

There is a contact button where teachers can submit their own teaching ideas. We do screen them, and the best ones are added to the website. Many times teachers do contact us with special requests. We do what we can to include the specific types of lessons that teachers want.

US: There are links on that site to a lot of spelling games, but they’re not the online spelling games that many sites offer. Instead, they’re classroom games that teachers can use to teach spelling to a group of children. Are you seeing a trend towards more computer-based games being used in classrooms?

TW: Nowadays classrooms have access to desktop computers, laptops, SMART Boards, and iPads. Of course there is a growing demand for on-line spelling games. Computers are changing the way we teach kids for the better. Online tools and software (like 7spell) are amazing tools that just weren’t available twenty years ago.

At the elementary level, teachers will continue to use non-tech classroom lessons as well. Super Teacher Ideas was designed to be a resource for teachers looking for new, fun ways to help students learn using hands-on exploration, classroom games, and interactive activities.

US: Although most of the worksheets you provide on your website are only available to members, there are some free ones that can be downloaded. The site explains that schools can sign up at a group rate to receive full membership benefits – can a group of homeschooling parents sign up as a group, as well?

TW: Yes! Super Teacher Worksheets is our largest site, and it’s the only one of our sites that has any type of subscription fee. Super Teacher Worksheets has thousands of printable worksheets and lessons that were created by experienced writers and teachers. We only charge 20 bucks for a full-year individual membership, which is a pretty good deal for homeschooling families, parents, tutors, and school teachers who are on a budget.

We estimate that about 10% of our members are homeschooling families. We have reduced rates, which are priced similar to school site licenses, for large homeschooling co-ops.

Even those who don’t have a membership can use the website because nearly every page has free worksheets on it. You don’t need to sign up; you don’t need to enter your email; you don’t need to do anything to access the free resources.

US: According to the description on the website, these worksheets are designed for younger students, up to grade 5 (approximately 11-13 years old). What made you decide to stop with this age/grade group?

TW: My background is in elementary education. I was a teacher in elementary schools for over 10 years. When I launched the site in 2007, I was a full-time teacher who wanted to share worksheets that I’d made. Since that time the sites have grown a great deal, but our focus on the elementary grades has remained.

All three of our sites (Super Teacher Worksheets, Super Teacher Ideas, and Modern Chalkboard) offer exclusively elementary resources. However, we have received many requests to expand our collection to include middle school and high school content. It’s something we’re looking into. We’re a very small, family-run company, so it would be a big change for us.

US: Technology is changing classrooms, and you’ve set up the website to help people learn how to use the “interactive whiteboard” that’s becoming more common in schools and businesses. Can you explain to our readers what a SMART board is?

TW: When I was a kid, back in the caveman days, teachers wrote on a dusty chalkboard in the front of the room. The chalkboard was a teaching tool that allowed the teacher to write notes or demonstrate difficult concepts to the class.

The interactive Whiteboards (or SMART Board) is the 21st century chalkboard. It’s a large touch-screen monitor that’s five or six feet wide. Teachers and students write on it with a digital pen. It can display graphics from the web during lessons. Teachers can even design interactive lessons that are displayed on the screen while they teach. It’s still has all of the features of an old-fashioned chalkboard but, because it’s connected to a computer, it can do so much more.

The vast majority of classrooms in America now have interactive whiteboards in them now. As a teaching tool, interactive whiteboards are incredible, but it takes a great deal of time to develop a lesson with a professional presentation. Most teachers are busy people and they don’t have the time to design the lessons themselves. Our Modern Chalkboard site offers teachers free, downloadable lessons that are specifically designed to be used on SMART Boards.

Our goal for all three sites is to make teachers’ jobs easier by providing tools and resources that they can use in the classroom.

Cross-posted at The Vocabulary Builder’s Blog.

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