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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Finding the Intersection of Speaking, Spelling and Reading


Speech, spelling, reading and phonics: They are all interrelated and essential to academic success. Dr. Julie Masterson, dean of the Graduate College at Missouri State University, is an internationally known expert in the area and author of “Beyond Baby Talk: From Speaking to Spelling: a Guide to Language and Literacy Development for Parents and Caregivers.” 

When her then second-grade son began having difficulty with spelling, Masterson refused to accept the idea that individuals could not improve a skill or that it was normal.

Masterson found that in order to learn how to spell, you need four things: appreciation of sounds, appreciation of spelling those sounds, appreciation of meaning units and spelling pattern awareness.

She and her research collaborator Dr. KennApell developed a multi-linguistic multifaceted model for spelling, which when used in treatment, helped students improve spelling but it showed even greater results in reading skills. They then developed assessment software for teachers and clinicians to test students’ spelling skills and see what the problem areas are and how to treat that. Then, clinicians and teachers sought them out for curricular activities to support students with difficulties.

With the assessment and the curriculum developed, Masterson and her collaborators were able to do more research on this multi-linguistic model– most recently looking at the assessment and spelling challenges for kids with special needs.

Masterson would like for parents to forget what they remember about spelling tests – cramming and memorizing – and focus on giving their children the skills to spell confidently on their own.

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Nicki received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State in marketing, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. After gaining experience in writing, marketing, special event planning, fundraising and public relations, she returned to the university to work in the office of strategic communication. There she tells the university’s story by sharing the stories of individuals at Missouri State.
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