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.


Roxie Carroll At Provides Spelling Resources And More

Categories: About Spelling, Spelling Resources |

Is your child tired of writing out each week’s list of spelling words to practice on a boring rectangular sheet of paper? Then print out a fun shape with lines to write on that matches the theme of that week’s list or the time of year! Writing out words like PLOUGH, GOURD, HARVEST, and AUTUMN on a pumpkin-shaped piece of paper will help kids remember the words and their correct spelling by visually linking the words with the shape of the paper. That’s just one of the many teaching and learning ideas you can find on Roxie Carroll’s website, We talked to Roxie recently and asked her about some of the other resources she provides.

US: There are lots of great ideas on your website for making learning fun. What inspired you to set up the website and share it with others?

RC: I began the website by making little bits for my granddaughter twelve years ago. During the years that followed, I taught Kindergarten, First, Second, and Third Grade at a private school with a very tight budget. Hence, I began making more and more resources to use with my students, and since I spent so much time making them, I felt as if I should share some of them.

US: Your site provides or links to many resources for teachers as well as parents and kids. Do you have a background in education?

RC: Oops, I guess I answered that in question 1. Yes, I do have B.S.E.D in Mathematics Education from the University of Georgia. My husband was in the military and we moved quite often. I received my certification in quite a few states, and have had wonderful experiences teaching a variety of levels and subjects, from Kindergarten to Post Secondary Technical Schools in a variety of environments and cultures.

US: You’ve got some featured games right now on the site that focus on getting kids ready to go back to school. Which ones do you recommend to help them work on their spelling skills?

RC: The Word Making Games that are found on the word games page, I also have a page where teachers or parents can make their own word search puzzles to print for their students or that the students can play online.

For younger children, the nonviolent hangman type games with the Dolch and Fry’s Frequent Word List, are a lot of fun and helpful in learning to spell the sight words. Also, hidden in the website is an older windows downloadable game called Cleft, the Spelling Clown. It lets the teachers or parents add up to ten lists of words at a time. It is also a nonviolent hangman type game, but instead of hanging guys, it pops balloons. It still functions in Windows 7.

US: The preschool resource section of the website has alphabet games, simple puzzles, basic math learning tools, and fun pictures to color – all things that any parent will be glad to use for entertaining and educating at home. How early do you think parents can start teaching spelling to children?

RC: Phoneme awareness should be taught along with letter recognition. If the child is able to learn letter formation, he needs to be taught the sounds…and the spelling process has already begun.

US: What games, lessons, and materials are you planning on featuring in the next few months?

RC: The last few days, I have been working on designing some fun holiday stationery for another site of mine, This week, I plan to add three or four more word-making type games to For the upcoming months, I will be featuring fall favorite themes-apples in September and pumpkins in October.

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