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.


How to Help Your Child Learn to Spell

Categories: About Spelling, Tips and Tricks | Tags:

Children often get different advice about spelling from different sources. Depending on who they’re listening to, they might hear any or all of these statements:

“Just leave the space on the spelling test blank when you don’t know the word, and fill it in later if you have time.”

“When you can’t spell a word, write it out according to the way it sounds, using the letters that seem to fit the best.”

“If you don’t know how to spell a word, use a different one that has the same meaning.”

“Make something up that looks right – what’s important is that you fill in every blank on the test.”

“Look it up in the dictionary, or ask someone else how to spell the word.”

Which of these statements is good advice depends on the situation. If your child’s taking a spelling test, it probably is better to leave a space and move on to the next word, coming back to the trouble spot later if they can. It’s important that they fill in all of the words they know how to spell correctly, saving the hard ones for last. This just makes sense – if a child really knows 18 out of the 20 words on a test, but spends most of their time trying to figure out a word in the early part of the test that they don’t know, they’ll leave blanks for words they do know, and get a much lower grade. It’s usually better to get two blanks “wrong” and 18 right, than to only fill in 10 words before running out of time.

The second statement can be good advice as well. If your child understands phonics – that is, the relationship between letters and the sounds they represent (alone or in combination) – then they’ll probably have a fairly good ability to guess logical letters. However, the fourth statement, though it seems similar, isn’t very good advice. By making up their own spellings to words, children might confuse themselves about how a word is spelled, and start focusing on their own made-up words instead of the ones that are correctly spelled. It’s a good idea to apply the rules of phonics to spelling unfamiliar words, but not a good idea to write down random letters without really thinking about the logic behind your choices.

If your child is answering an essay question instead of completing a spelling test, the advice to use a word with similar meaning is good. In this situation, communicating ideas, information, and meaning is what’s important, as much as how the words are spelled. Choosing to use the word explain and spelling that word correctly will usually be more effective than using the word elucidate and spelling it incorrectly. There will be time to expand vocabulary skills once a firm foundation has been built on spelling skills.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to encourage children to not be afraid to ask questions, or to ask for help. Of course, this usually isn’t encouraged during spelling tests, but teachers may be open to giving some spelling help during other types of tests, and you can be there to help them while they’re doing homework. It’s best to encourage them to look up words on their own, rather than just giving them the answers, though. If children get used to using resources like a dictionary, they’ll get into the good study habit of actively looking for answers.

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