This study examined supraspan free recall in children with and without spelling impairment. A repeated free recall task involving overt rehearsal and three computer-based adaptive working memory tasks were administered to 54 eight-year-old children. Children without spelling impairments tended to recall more items than did those children with spelling deficits. Video analyses revealed that recall behaviour was similar in impaired and unimpaired children, indicating that both groups applied similar learning activities. Group differences in number of recalled items were attributed to differences in working memory subcapacities between children with and without spelling impairment, especially with regard to central executive and phonological loop functioning. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.