A survey was conducted in 20 classes, correlating the first grade pupil's (beginner's) experience in standard language with later spelling performances. At the same time, the development of standard language with pupils that had been kept down was recorded. In contrast to the experimental group, these children did not receive a systematic training course. Embedded in this survey are six case studies.
Here are statistics gathered about the spelling performance of pupils at the end of fourth and fifth grades. The formulation of the question: can you expect a major improvement in the spelling performance of pupils in conventional lessons beyond elementary school?
The result: On average of the random samples, performances are rising, especially so with efficient children. Therefore the gap between these and weaker children widens.
Questioning of school principals about the kind and degree of opening lessons in elementary school, Hauptschule, Realschule and in orientation-phases.
The result: Open lessons are discussed vividly but practised to a considerably smaller degree. The degree of opening is highest with elementary schools (18%), lowest with Realschulen (3.1%). These figures show, that the estimated amount of opening in elementary school remains far behind general expectations.
On the basis of statistics gathered from the beginning of school till the end of fifth grade, differences in spelling performance according to gender were investigated.
The result: At the beginning of school, girls can already write more words than boys. With regard to the "technical" aspects of writing - knowledge of letters, the sound-letter-correlation, pre-forms of reading -no gender-related differences emerge.
In the first half of first grade, the development of writing and spelling shows no differences between boys and girls. Only at the end of first grade do girls begin to show significantly better performances.
As the advantage of the simplified beginner's writing for writing performance, which has long been asserted, has not been adequately demonstrated statistically, an investigation is necessary to find out whether children who first learn to write in printed letters, show differences in their writing performance at all when they later learn different types of cursive writing ( Latin or simplified beginner's writing). To this end, children from second to fourth grades were investigated.
The result: A positive influence of the simplified beginner's writing could not be demonstrated. Some sub-random samples actually suggested the opposite: Children who write with the Latin beginner's writing showed significantly better performances.
The aim of the research project was to find out why boys on average perform worse on spelling than girls. For this, a qualitative mistake-analysis of the dictations of fourth and fifth grade boys and girls was conducted.
The result: Despite average superiority of the girls, the boys didn't write all words badly on the same scale. Words which can be ascribed to a male area of interest were written with less errors, some of the boys even managing to write them correctly more often than girls, e.g computer, referee, locomotive, police officer.
To clarify the question whether boys and girls differ clearly in their writing interests, a survey was carried out among elementary pupils in second to fourth grades.
The result: Clear differences in interests are evident, in which the topics favoured by boys - e.g. technology, sports - hardly occur in exercise-material of school books. Whereas the typical schoolbook contents - e.g. people, nature, animals, positive values - cover the preferred writing interests of girls.
Because of these results, the model "learning how to write, based on interests" was developed. Children learn how to write not with words from a set vocabulary, but with words from their own areas of interest.
Different surveys revealed that the vocabulary of 1.000 words which has traditionally been customary for the elementary school syllabus, does not fulfil the criteria of sufficient areas of usage. Consequently it seems unjustified to have to practise these words with every child. It seems to make more sense to reduce the amount of words and instead to offer teachers an extra amount of "model-vocabulary", which helps them to support their pupils, practising the peculiarities of German spelling.
In a survey, carried out in November 1998 in cooperation with the ISB for the Bavarian government, a representative examination was undertaken of how many and what kind of words appear frequently in free writing texts of elementary school children.