Literacy 4-6

Orthographic Processing

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How Orthographic Processing connects to...

Orthographic Processing is the ability to mentally recognize, create, store, and retrieve the visual representation of written words. Students with strong Orthographic Processing skills become better and better at recognizing written words, helping them become more fluent readers and writers.

Main Ideas

Orthographic Processing helps students develop a large orthographic lexicon, that is a set of words and other orthographic units (e.g., letters, letter clusters) that allow them to quickly recognize letter patterns and written words. Orthographic Processing development relies on key skills:

  • Decoding: When students are initially developing Orthographic Processing skills, they are learning to decode. Decoding is the ability to apply knowledge of relationships between letters and speech sounds to properly recognize and pronounce words. Once students reach the upper elementary grades, they often have developed advanced Orthographic Processing skills that allow them to more rapidly process familiar words, but they will sometimes still use Decoding to help sound out unfamiliar words.
  • Phonological Processing: These skills are essential for the development of Orthographic Processing because Phonological Processing helps students understand the relationships between phonemes (speech sounds) and graphemes (letters or combinations of letters that are used to represent phonemes), which helps them become more efficient readers and writers.
  • Sight Recognition: Sight words are words that cannot be sounded out phonetically (e.g., light, could) and must be recognized by sight. However, it turns out that successful readers use orthographic mapping in Sight Recognition for most familiar words, even ones that can be sounded out phonetically. They do this by retaining the written version of a word and connecting it to its phonemes, morphemes, and meaning in Long-term Memory.

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