Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Development of a Dual Language Narrative Curriculum
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Spencer, Trina Awardee: University of South Florida
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (8/1/2014 – 7/31/2017) Award Amount: $1,481,976
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A160407

Previous Award Number: R305A140093
Previous Awardee: Northern Arizona University

Co-Principal Investigators: Douglas B. Petersen (University of Wyoming), M. Adelaida Restrepo (Arizona State University), and Marilyn Thompson (Arizona State University)

Purpose: Oral language skills are essential for reading comprehension and academic success. Young Spanish-speaking English learners may have greater school success through early and intensive language promotion that fosters English language development while building upon a Spanish language foundation. The purpose of this study is to develop a Spanish-English dual language narrative intervention program, complete with training materials, extension vocabulary activities, and progress monitoring tools for use in Head Start classrooms. The researchers will build on the existing English Story Champs intervention to develop Puente de Cuentos (Bridge Made of Stories).

Project Activities: The researchers will extend an English-only program called Story Champs to enhance its potential with preschool-age Spanish-speaking English learners by revising the current 12 lessons, and adding an additional 24 lessons. Through an iterative development process, the usability and feasibility of the intervention curriculum, training materials for teachers, and English and Spanish narrative assessments will be investigated. Development and revisions of all intervention components including curriculum, extension activities, and teacher training materials will be based on results of multiple baseline design studies (Years 1 and 2) with small groups of children and teachers. In Year 3, the promise of the completed curriculum will be examined using a clustered randomized group design with 12 treatment and 12 comparison classrooms. Researcher-developed narrative and vocabulary assessments, as well as norm-referenced measures of language and vocabulary, will be used to provide information about effects of the intervention on child outcomes. Teachers will provide information regarding intervention usage, acceptability, and feasibility.

Products: The products of this project will be a fully developed dual language Puente de Cuentos narrative intervention for use with Spanish-speaking English language learners.  Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in Head Start centers and classrooms in northern Arizona.

Sample: Study participants include children from low-income families, parents, and Head Start teachers. The sample for the initial field test will include 15 children from 3 classrooms/teachers (4–5 children per classroom). In year 2, 30 children and six bilingual teachers and teaching assistants will participate in the development study.  In year 3, 120 children and 24 teachers/classrooms will participate in the pilot study.  An additional sample of 250 children will be recruited to participate in the validity and reliability study for the researcher-developed measures of children's narrative skills.

Intervention: The current Story Champs is designed for early childhood Response to Intervention (RTI) systems and contains 12 lessons with procedures for whole class, small group (tier 2), and individual intervention (tier 3). The dual language Story Champs, Puente de Cuentos (Bridge Made of Stories),will include revised versions of the current 12 lessons and an additional 24 lessons to produce the complete curriculum with 36 Spanish/English lessons for use in small group (tier 2) and individual (tier 3) intervention. The researchers will retain the English-only large group intervention, but develop small group (tier 2) and individual (tier 3) components in Spanish and English to better meet the needs of dual language learners.  Puente de Cuentos (Bridge Made of Stories) will provide a flexible, dual language, differentiated intervention option suitable for Head Start classrooms serving Spanish-speaking dual language learners. The fully developed Puente de Cuentos curriculum materials will include 36 lessons to implement in the classroom and take-home activities for parents to work on with their children. A training system will also be developed to provide professional development support and guidance to teachers who will implement the lessons. The final Puente de Cuentos training materials will include a practitioner-friendly manual, presentation slides with many video demonstrations, and detailed implementation checklists for teachers to use and for monitoring fidelity.

Research Design and Methods: In Years 1 and 2 of the project, the researchers will develop and revise the intervention components including curriculum content, extension activities, training for teachers to implement the intervention, and examine the validity and reliability of the researcher-developed measures of children's narrative skills. They will also develop a vocabulary measure.  In Year 1, the researchers will conduct a validity and reliability study of the Spanish-English narrative measure they developed in prior work. They will conduct focus groups with Spanish-speaking parents and teachers of children attending Head Start to get feedback about the appropriateness of the existing 12 English-only Story Champs stories. They will conduct observations and use qualitative data from the focus group sessions to construct culturally relevant stories. In spring of Year 1, they will field test the 12 prototype Puente de Cuentos lessons in three Head Start classrooms using a multiple baseline across groups design. Bilingual members of the research team and Head Start teachers or teaching assistants will receive training to deliver the intervention.  At the end of Year 1, revisions will be made to the intervention materials.

In Year 2, the researchers will implement revised versions of the lessons and training system in six classrooms, using a multiple baseline study design.  Bilingual teachers will receive training and support to deliver the small group and individualized interventions to target children in their classrooms. Descriptive data will be collected and usability and feasibility measures will be administered to inform revisions and examine the use of Puente de Cuentos in Head Start classrooms. At the end of the Year 2 study, final refinements will be made to the intervention, training system, and narrative assessment tools in preparation for the pilot study. 

In Year 3, the researchers will use a cluster randomized study design to examine the effects of the intervention on child children’s narrative language, general language, and vocabulary skills.

They will recruit and randomly assign 24 Head Start classrooms to treatment and control conditions. Five children from each classroom will be selected to participate in the study.  Bilingual teachers or teaching assistants will receive training to implement the lessons and administer the Spanish and English narrative assessments and the expressive/receptive vocabulary measure. The researchers will administer standardized measures of children’s language and narrative skills to participating children.

Control Condition: In the pilot study phase of the project, 12 classrooms/teachers will be assigned to the “business as usual” control group.

Key Measures: The researchers will collect parent- and teacher-level data and administer direct assessments to participating children in the iterative development and pilot study phases of the project. In each year of the study, they will identify children’s primary language through a parent questionnaire, teacher report, and administering the Spanish English Language Proficiency Scale to each child. Parents will be asked to complete a family survey including items about socio-economic status and home-language environment.   Teachers will complete a survey to provide information on their educational background, years of experience, and classroom curriculum. Teachers will also identify whether the children are learning English or if they are native Spanish-English bilinguals. Researchers will use the Usage Profile-Intervention Revised to understand usage and feasibility of implementing the Puente de Cuentos intervention.  Teachers will complete the URP-I on a monthly basis to report their understanding of Puente de Cuentos, comfort implementing it, and motivation to use it, as well as time, space, personnel, financial resources, and administrative support.

In the pilot study year, the researchers will conduct ecobehavioral observations to describe treatment and control classrooms using the Classroom Code for Interactive Recording of Children’s Learning Environments. In the iterative development and pilot study phases of the project, researcher-developed measures of children’s narrative and vocabulary skills will be administered. The Expressive One-Word Vocabulary Test Spanish-English Fourth Edition and the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Preschool in English and Spanish will be used to assess children’s language skills. To measure children’s narrative skills, the Frog Where Are You? wordless picture book will be used to elicit story retells in Spanish or English.

Data Analytic Strategy: In Year 1 of the study, the researchers will conduct psychometric analyses to examine the validity and reliability of the researcher-developed measures of children’s narrative skills. In Years 1 and 2 (iterative development phase), the research team will conduct analyses of qualitative and quantitative data to inform revisions of the intervention materials. In Year 3 (pilot study phase of the project), the researchers will use multi-level modeling to test the effects of the curriculum and to identify possible predictor and moderator variables.