top of page

Spell-Links is a linguistics phonics program, meaning that it attempts to teach reading from a linguistically accurate model that emphasizes teaching sounds first. It starts with phonemic awareness and then transitions straight into orthographic mapping. With traditional analytic phonics, students would learn sounds in chunks, via word families, for example: “Boat, Moat, Float”. With synthetic phonics students learn the individual sounds that make up these words first, IE: B-oa-t. Whereas, with orthographic mapping, students would learn the meanings behind the individual sounds that make up these words. 


As I always try to mention, to fully establish the efficacy of any intervention, we need a peer reviewed meta-analysis. I searched for studies on the topic, on Google, the company website, Education Source, and Scholar's Porta. To the best of my knowledge, no studies have been conducted on “Spell-Links”. That being said, I think some teachers and scholars might advocate for a linguistic phonics program like this one, because it is more linguistically accurate. I would caution against this assumption, as just because something is more linguistically accurate, does not make it more effective pedagogically. I previously conducted a non-peer reviewed, secondary meta-analysis of other linguistic phonics programs and found below average results. 

Similarly, as the English language is primarily morphological, not phonological, we would assume that programs that include more morphology would automatically do better than ones that do not. However, my secondary meta-analysis of the topic, showed phonics only interventions on average out-performing morphology only interventions, by a statistically insignificant degree. Although Morphology instructions looks like it might outperform phonics instruction, for specific outcomes/interventions. 

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I personally remain cautiously skeptical, but intrigued with linguistic approaches to teaching. These types of approaches, have yet to display solid evidence of efficacy within the literature and I worry that they might underperform, due to their complexity. I COULD see a more simple synthetic program outperforming, not because it's more accurate, but because the curriculum is easier for both the teacher and students to master. 


In terms of Spell-Links specifically, it does include several evidence-based principles, including phonemic awareness, direct instruction, phonics instruction, and morphology instruction. 

Final Grade: B

The program is research based: IE there are no direct studies but most of the program principles are well evidenced, within the meta-analysis literature.


Qualitative Grade: 4/10

The program includes the following essential evidence-based instructional types: phonemic awareness, direct, morphology, and phonological. 


Written by Nathaniel Hansford

Last Edited, 2022-02-24



Filderman, M. J., Austin, C. R., Boucher, A. N., O’Donnell, K., & Swanson, E. A. (2022). A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Reading Comprehension Interventions on the Reading Comprehension Outcomes of Struggling Readers in Third Through 12th Grades. Exceptional Children, 88(2), 163–184.


Feng, L., Lindner, A., Ji, X. R., & Malatesha Joshi, R. (2019). The roles of handwriting and keyboarding in writing: a meta-analytic review. Reading & Writing, 32(1), 33–63.


Ehri, Linnea & Nunes, Simone & Willows, Dale & Schuster, Barbara & Yaghoub-Zadeh, Zohreh & Shanahan, Timothy. (2001). Phonemic Awareness Instruction Helps Children Learn to Read: Evidence From the National Reading Panel's Meta-Analysis. Reading Research Quarterly. 36. 250-287. 10.1598/RRQ.36.3.2. 


-NRP. (2001). Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence Based Assessment of the Scientific Literature on Reading Instruction. United States Government. Retrieved from <>.


 -Hurford, D. P., Lasater, K. A., McMahon, A. B., Kiesling, N. E., Carter, M. L., & Hurford, T. E. (2013). The Results of a Scripted Linguistic Phonics Reading Curriculum Implemented by Kindergarten Teachers. Journal of Educational Research & Policy Studies, 13(3), 33–50.


Bowers, Peter & Kirby, John & Deacon, Hélène. (2010). The Effects of Morphological Instruction on Literacy Skills: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Review of Educational Research - REV EDUC RES. 80. 144-179. 10.3102/0034654309359353.


Reed, Deborah. (2008). A Synthesis of Morphology Interventions and Effects on Reading Outcomes for Students in Grades K–12. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice. 23. 36 - 49. 10.1111/j.1540-5826.2007.00261.x.


Bowers, J.S. Reconsidering the Evidence That Systematic Phonics Is More Effective Than Alternative Methods of Reading Instruction. Educ Psychol Rev 32, 681–705 (2020).


Linnea, et al. (2001). Systematic Phonics Instruction Helps Students Learn to Read: Evidence From the National Reading Panel’s Meta-Analysis. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Retrieved from <>. 


J, Hattie. (2021). Visible Learning Metax. Retrieved from <>.



Elleman, A.M., Lindo, E.J., Morphy, P., & Compton, D.L. (2009). The impact of vocabulary instruction on passage-level comprehension of school-age children: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2(1), 1–44. 2539200



N, Hansford. (2021). Morphology: A Secondary Meta-Analysis. Pedagog Non Grata. Retrieved from <>. 



Graham, Steve, and Michael Hebert. Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve. Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2010. Print.

bottom of page