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Pró-Fono Revista de Atualização Científica

versão impressa ISSN 0104-5687

Pró-Fono R. Atual. Cient. vol.22 no.3 Barueri jul./set. 2010 



Students' performance in phonological awareness, rapid naming, reading, and writing*



Simone Aparecida CapelliniI,**; Simone Cristina LanzaII

IFonoaudióloga. Pós-Doutora em Ciências Médicas pela Faculdade de Ciências Médicas da Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Docente do Departamento de Fonoaudiologia e Programa de Pós-Graduação em Educação da Faculdade de Filosofia e Ciências da Universidade Estadual Paulista (FFC/Unesp) - Marília - SP
IIFonoaudióloga. Aprimoramento Fonoaudiologia em Otorrinolaringologia na Unesp. Fonoaudióloga da Prefeitura Municipal de Pratânia




BACKGROUND: phonological awareness, rapid naming, reading and writing in students with learning difficulties of a municipal public school.
AIM: to characterize and compare the performance of students from public schools with and without learning difficulties in phonological awareness, rapid naming, reading and writing.
METHOD: participants were 60 students from the 2nd to the 4th grades of municipal public schools divided into 6 groups. Each group was composed by 10 students, being 3 groups of students without learning difficulties and 3 groups with students with learning difficulties. As testing procedure phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, oral reading and writing under dictation assessments were used.
RESULTS: the results highlighted the better performance of students with no learning difficulties. Students with learning difficulties presented a higher ratios considering time/speed in rapid naming tasks and, consequently, lower production in activities of phonological awareness and reading and writing, when compared to students without learning difficulties.
CONCLUSION: students with learning difficulties presented deficits when considering the relationship between naming and automatization skills, and among lexical access, visual discrimination, stimulus frequency use and competition in using less time for code naming, i.e. necessary for the phoneme-grapheme conversion process required in the reading and writing alphabetic system like the Portuguese language.

Key Words: Reading; Writing; Learning.




Recent studies show that students with learning difficulties may show changes in phonological awareness and access to mental lexicon due to modifications at different levels of information processing 1-7.

The students with reading disabilities have reading fluency changed and problems with reading comprehension as a result of changes in phonological awareness and low capacity for storing information in working memory 8-10.

The component mechanisms of language processing underlie the development of phonological awareness. These components, ie, phonological working memory and access to mental lexicon enable the processing and organization of language. Likewise, they are requested by the central executive component in carrying out any task, including phonological awareness and phoneme-grapheme association 11-13.

Based on the above, this study aimed to characterize and compare the performance of students with and without learning difficulties in public municipal education in phonological awareness, rapid naming, reading and writing.



This study was approved by the Ethics Committee in Research of the Faculty of Sciences - FFC / UNESP - Marília, under protocol number 2812/2003.

A total of 60 students from second to fourth grades of public school programs in Marília-SP participated in this study, 32 (53%) students were males and 28 (47%) were females, aged 8 years and 3 months to 10 years and four months old, divided into Group I (GI), Group II (GII) and Group III (GIII), each consisting of 10 students without learning difficulties, respectively in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades, Group IV (GIV) , Group V (GV) and Group VI (GVI): each composed of 10 students with learning difficulties, respectively in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades.

The students were selected based on academic performance in two consecutive marking periods and the schoolchildren who had poor performances are considered to present learning difficulties and those who had sufficient performance evaluations in Portuguese Language and Mathematics are considered students without learning difficulties.

For this study, we used the following procedures:

- Automatic Rapid Naming (RAN)14,15: RAN was applied, consisting of the subtests of naming colors, digits, letters and objects.

- Phonological Awareness Test (PAT)16: PAT was applied, consisting of syllabic and phonemic skills of synthesis, segmentation, manipulation and transportation and supra-phonemic, such as rhyme and alliteration.

- Proof Reading and Writing17: It was applied to oral reading and writing under dictation of 96 items, two sub-lists of 48 real words and 48 non-word words were used for the tasks of oral reading and writing through dictation.

For inter-group statistical analysis, we used the Mann-Whitney test and, for the intra-group statistical analysis, we used the Wilcoxon Test and Friedman Test. In order to perform the statistical analysis and obtain the results, we used the SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences), version 10.0.



Table 1 presents the average performance of groups in the RAN, the PAT and the Test of Oral Reading and Writing in Dictation.

When comparing the performance of groups with and without learning difficulties, using the Mann-Whitney, it appears in Table 2 that GI had lower performance in time for naming letters than GIV, the same occurring between GII and GIV in naming colors and letters and GIII and GVI in naming colors, letters, numbers and objects. As for phonological awareness, it is observed that GIV showed higher error average in rhyme, syllabic manipulation, phonemic manipulation and transportation and total score than GI, GII and GIII. It can also be observed statistically significant differences when comparing the performances of GI and GIV, GII and GIII, GV and GVI in oral reading of real words of high and low frequency.

On the test of writing under dictation, it can be verified that GII had lower error average compared to GV in all categories of words. GI and GIII and GIV and GVI were statistically different in all categories.

In table 3, with the application of the Wilcoxon Test, we verified the occurrence of significant differences, indicating that GI, GII and GIII presented lower time for naming than GIV, GV and GVI. As for phonological awareness, it was found that all groups had superior performance in phonemic skills.

GIII and GIV showed superior performance in reading high-frequency regular words compared to low frequency. GI, GIII and GIV showed superior performance for reading real words irregular high frequency, while GI and GVI had superior performance for reading real words rule of high frequency. In the reading of non-word words, GI and GIV showed superior performance in reading regular words than irregular words in rule than non-word.

GI, GII, GIII, GIV and GV were superior in writing high-frequency words than low frequency ones, regular non-word words than irregular ones, while GI, GII, GIII, GV and GVI had superior performance in writing regular word than rule word, and irregular words than the rule.



Regarding the performance of students in the RAN, it was found that students without learning difficulties were superior in naming colors, letters, numbers and objects than students with learning difficulties, however, students with learning difficulties were faster naming letters and numbers than color, corroborating studies 14,15,18,19 discussing the requirement of the use of attentional, perceptual and visual processes for lexicon recovery of greater extent in students with good academic performance. Regarding the performance of students in phonological awareness, it was found that all students were better in syllabic skills than in phonemic skills 7,20.

In rhyme and alliteration, it was found that groups with learning difficulties presented these skills changed, which suggests that these students had gaps in the perception of initial and final sounds of words, highlighting difficulties in grouping of words that have phonological similarity, revealing changes in the use of phonological working memory 6,21.

It was also found that the students performed better in reading and writing real words of high frequency than in low-frequency words and in non-word regular words than rule and irregular and non-word words, corroborating studies 22,23, which said that the higher the perceptual, auditory and visual contact with words, the more these words become familiar to children. In comparisons of real words, high frequency regular and irregular rule, only GI, GIII, GIV and GVI were statistically different, indicating the need for formal teaching of spelling and reading incentive in the school context 7,24,25.

Regarding the performance of students in reading and writing, there was superior performance for reading and writing real words of high frequency than low frequency words, non-word regular words than irregular and rule, according to literature 20,26 which describes that lexicon of high frequency is filed in the graphemic lexicon, thus facilitating the development of writing without errors.

The school groups without learning disabilities showed lower speed / time in naming tasks, and thus superior performance in phonological awareness and activity of reading and writing of single words compared to the performance of groups with learning disabilities who had higher relation time/speed in naming tasks and hence lower performance on tasks of phonological awareness, reading and writing single words 18,27.

The profile of students with learning difficulties in this study, in relation to phonological awareness, naming speed, ability to lexical access, visual discrimination, frequency of use of stimuli and competition for the retrieval of information and naming, may be sufficient to infer that this may be the cause of failure in learning the mechanism of phoneme-grapheme conversion required to achieve the reading and writing of irregular and non-words 3,8,28.

In Brazil, a profile of students with learning difficulties is of paramount importance because the high percentage of children with problems in phonological awareness and rapid naming causes them to be confused with elementary school children with the framework of developmental dyslexia7.

Thus, this profile might help to fill a gap in speech therapy, which is to establish the profile of the poor readers and dyslexic readers, which would avoid the misdiagnosis and its consequences, which usually affect the quality of life for children within the family, and in social and educational contexts.



The results of this study indicate that:

. GIV, GV and GVI had lower performance in phonological awareness, rapid naming, reading and writing compared to GI, GII and GIII, indicating that, when present, the learning difficulties are not overcome during schooling.

. GIV, GV and GVI showed higher speed/time in naming tasks, poorer performance in tasks of phonological awareness and reading and writing, compared to GI, GII and GIII, thus suggesting that changes in these abilities may have been crucial to the academic failure of the participants of this study.

Acknowledgments: São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP - São Paulo - Brazil) - Scientific Initiation and Research Fund of the Faculty of Philosophy and Science (FFC / UNESP) - Marília-SP - Brazil.



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Recebido em 28.11.2009.
Revisado em 19.04.2010; 13.07.2010.
Aceito para Publicação em 11.08.2010.
Conflito de Interesse: não



Artigo Submetido a Avaliação por Pares
* Trabalho Realizado no Departamento da FFC/UNESP - Marília - SP.
** Endereço para correspondência: Av. Hygino Muzzi Filho, 737 - Marília - SP CEP 17525-900 (

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