Explicit instruction in orthographic structure and word morphology helps Chinese children learn to write characters

Jerome L. Packard, Xi Chen, Wenling Li, Xinchun Wu, Janet S. Gaffney, Hong Li, Richard C. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research in alphabetic languages had shown that children learning to write are sensitive to morphological information, and that it serves as a resource that they draw upon as they acquire writing skills. In Chinese as well, sensitivity to morphological and orthographic information had been found to predict children's ability to read characters. The present study investigated whether raising children's awareness of the morphemic and orthographic structure of Chinese words would lead to beneficial results in their learning to write Chinese. An experimental group of 144 first graders from two primary schools in Beijing, China were given instruction designed to increase their knowledge of the orthographic and morphological structure of Chinese words. After two semesters, the experimental group's ability to copy Chinese characters and to write them from memory were both found to be significantly better than a control group. Theoretical implications are discussed, including how writing benefits from the types of linguistic knowledge that underlie lexical storage and retrieval in reading and speech. Educational implications are also discussed, such as how drawing children's attention to the morphemic components of Chinese words and the systematic features of Chinese orthography provides them with multiple sources of information they may utilize in learning to write.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-487
Number of pages31
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Chinese
  • Instruction
  • Morphological awareness
  • Morphology
  • Orthographic structure
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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