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IES Grant

Title: Explicit Vocabulary Instruction in Automated Listening Centers for Young Children with Language Delays
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Goldstein, Howard Awardee: University of South Florida
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2015–6/30/2018) Award Amount: $1,499,971
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A150132

Co-Principal Investigator: Spencer Kelley, Elizabeth

Purpose: This project proposed to develop a technology-based curriculum program, Story Friends. The curriculum, which focuses on vocabulary, was intended to supplement a core reading program and be implemented with high levels of fidelity in a variety of preschool settings and instructional programs. Substantial differences in vocabulary skills can exist among children entering preschool. Preschoolers with limited oral language skills are at high risk for reading disabilities. Many early childhood classrooms, however, provide limited instruction in vocabulary, suggesting that preschoolers most at risk for reading disabilities are unlikely to receive the critical instruction on oral language that they need. Story Friends was intended to improve oral language skills of preschoolers most at risk for later reading disabilities and thereby reduce the incidence and severity of potential reading disabilities.

Project Activities: The research team planned a series of iterative activities to develop the storybooks and accompanying lessons, teacher materials, and curriculum-based measures. The authors planned to complete a pilot study to determine the feasibility and promise of the intervention for improving oral language, vocabulary, and comprehension skills and investigate whether fidelity of treatment and use of teacher materials predict student outcomes.

Structured Abstract


Setting: The research takes place in child care and prekindergarten classrooms in Florida and Missouri.

Sample: Approximately 220 preschoolers with limited oral language skills will participate in this research. Some children may have identified disabilities or individualized education programs.

Intervention: Story Friends is an automated intervention that delivers vocabulary instruction via headphones with storybooks. The automated program is intended to provide consistent content and dosage as well as reduce the demands placed on teachers. Story Friends will include 39 books with embedded explicit instruction for vocabulary, accompanying audio, and listening devices. The books, 16 to 18 pages long, will be created for the purpose of the intervention and include engaging materials, carefully selected instructional targets, explicit teaching, and systematic instructional language. They will feature groups of animal characters (e.g., animals in the ocean or on a farm). Students will follow along with an audio recording of the text that specifically targets four to five vocabulary words. Students will listen to each book multiple times and be given multiple opportunities to respond throughout the audio recording. The intervention will also be delivered via computer-assisted instruction during the course of this project.

Research Design and Methods: Four activities will be accomplished over a 3-year period. First, the team will refine 26 previously developed story books and create 13 new books to complete the full set of 39 books. An iterative process will be used to develop prototypes of the books and accompanying lessons, pilot test them with small groups, monitor implementation and student learning, and revise the prototypes. The researchers will then develop computer-assisted instruction versions of the storybooks and lessons and examine the feasibility of implementation of this format. The third activity involves the development of teacher materials, supplemental activities, and curriculum-based measures and evaluating implementation and teacher satisfaction with the materials. Finally, the research team will conduct a small-scale cluster randomized trial investigating the feasibility and promise of the intervention for improving oral language, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. Twenty classrooms will be randomly assigned to the Story Friends or control condition. Approximately three to six children from each classroom who demonstrate limited oral language skills will participate.

Control Condition: A comparison group will be included in the pilot study with students participating in small-group centers that allow them to hear the stories but do not include the accompanying lessons and materials.

Key Measures: A series of measures of proximal and distal outcomes will be used to examine the promise of Story Friends. Proximal measures include researcher-created probes and unit tests to assess responsiveness to instruction. Distal measures include the Assessment of Story Comprehension, Picture Naming and Which One Doesn't Belong Individual Growth and Development Indicators, Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—4, and Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals—Preschool2. The researchers will also use teacher surveys and fidelity of implementation observations to inform revisions to the intervention and investigate whether fidelity and use of materials predict student outcomes.

Data Analytic Strategy: Pilot data will be analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling to determine the promise of Story Friends for improving oral language, vocabulary, and comprehension skills; compare outcomes for students who received the intervention with students in the control condition; and investigate whether fidelity of treatment and use of teacher materials moderate student outcomes.

Related IES Projects: Center for Response to Intervention in Early Childhood (R324C080011)


ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Select Publications:

Book chapters

Carta, J. J., Greenwood, C. R., Goldstein, H., McConnell, S., Kaminski, R., Bradfield, T., Wackerle-Hollman, A., Linas, M., Guerrero, G., Spencer, E., and Atwater, J. (2016). Advances in multi-tiered systems of support for prekindergarten children: Lessons learned from 5 years of research and development from the Center for Response to Intervention in Early Childhood. In M. K. Jimerson, A. M. Burns, and A. M. VanDerHeyden (Eds.), The Handbook of response to intervention: The science and practice of multi-tiered systems of support (2nd ed., pp. 587–606). New York: Springer.

Journal articles

Goldstein, H., Kelley, E., Greenwood, C., McCune, L., Carta, J., Atwater, J., Guerrero, G., McCarthy, T., Schneider, N., and Spencer, T. (2016). Embedded instruction improves vocabulary learning during automated storybook reading among high-risk preschoolers. Journal of Speech-Language-Hearing Research, 59(3), 484–500. doi:10.1044/2015_JSLHR-L-15–0227

Greenwood, C.R., Carta, J.J., Kelley, E.S., Guerrero, G., Kong, N.Y., Atwater, J., and Goldstein, H. (2016). Systematic replication of the effects of a supplementary, technology-assisted, storybook intervention for preschool children with weak vocabulary and comprehension skills. The Elementary School Journal, 116(4), 574–599. doi:10.1086/686223

Kelley, E.S., Goldstein, H., Spencer, T.D., and Sherman, A. (2015). Effects of automated tier 2 storybook intervention on vocabulary and comprehension learning in preschool children with limited oral language skills. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 31, 47–61. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.12.004

Spencer, T. D., Goldstein, H., Kelley, E. S., Sherman, A., and McCune, L. (in press). A curriculum-based measure of language comprehension for preschoolers: Reliability and validity of the assessment of story comprehension. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 42(4), 209–223. doi:10.1177/1534508417694121