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IES Grant

Title: An Efficacy Study of Toggle Talk
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Edwards, Jan Awardee: University of Maryland, College Park
Program: Reading and Writing      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/2017–07/31/2021) Award Amount: $3,247,480
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A170139
Description:

Co-Principal Investigator: Ana Taboada Barber, Rebecca Silverman, Jeffrey Harring

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of Toggle Talk, a Language Arts curriculum supplement that teaches kindergarten and first grade African American children to understand the differences between Mainstream American English (MAE) and African American English (AAE) with the goal of improving students' reading outcomes. Many African American children underachieve in school and the researchers propose that part of the explanation for this is dialect mismatch, which occurs when the dialects children hear at home and in the classroom differ. Many young African American children speak AAE at home while MAE is typically the language of instruction in schools. Research has shown that the AAE-speaking children who have the poorest literacy outcomes are those who have the most trouble shifting between AAE and MAE as is appropriate for the context (e.g. shifting to MAE in the classroom). Toggle Talk is an intervention developed and studied in two previous studies funded by the Institute (Developing Contrastive Analysis Techniques for Teaching Academic Classroom English to Young African American English-Speaking Students; Exploring the Contribution of Social, Cognitive, and Linguistic Factors on the Development of Style Shifting by Young African-American English-speaking Students Learning to Read). It aims to teach AAE-speaking kindergarten and first grade students how to shift between AAE and MAE in spoken language.

Project Activities: Toggle Talk is a fully-developed curriculum supplement that uses scripted lessons to teach students how to recognize and produce language in both MAE and AAE dialects. Lesson types include sorting, read-alouds and write-alouds. Custom-written storybooks are used to introduce the concept of home/informal versus classroom/formal language. In this study, researchers will randomly assign schools to receive either regular classroom practices or Toggle Talk. Student outcomes will be assessed prior to the intervention and after the intervention has ended.

Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the efficacy of Toggle Talk for kindergarten and first grade children, and peer reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in an urban school district in Maryland.

Sample: Approximately 2,000 African American kindergarten and first grade students will participate in this study.

Intervention: Toggle Talk is a fully developed language arts curriculum supplement that explicitly teaches children to shift between AAE and MAE. The intervention uses contrastive analysis, which explicitly teaches children that there are systematic differences between formal language and informal language and that different types of language are appropriate in different contexts. Toggle Talk consists of Dialect Recognition Lessons and Dialect Production Lessons. Dialect Recognition Lessons teach children about informality versus formality first by using examples of clothing and places, and then extending to language. The Dialect Production Lessons use contrastive analysis to teach children to recognize the morphological differences between MAE and AAE and to produce these morphological features in MAE. Each of the morphological contrasts between MAE and AAE are demonstrated in custom storybooks written to highlight the differences between MAE and AAE. Toggle Talk also includes a Dialect Assessment Battery which has three subtests (dialect recognition, elicited imitation, and translation/reformulation).

Research Design and Methods: This project uses a multi-site cluster randomized trial. Twenty schools, across two years, will be matched on school-level characteristics and then randomly assigned to receive either Toggle Talk or the control condition. All kindergarten and 1st grade students, and their teachers, will be invited to participate in the study. Students will be pretested before implementation of the assigned conditions, and at the end of the school year after Toggle Talk implementation has been completed.

Control Condition: In the control condition, students receive standard classroom practices in place at the school.

Key Measures: Dialect shifting will be measured with the Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation–Screener (DELV-S), Part 2, and the Dialect Assessment Battery. The Word Attack and Letter-Word Identification subtests of the Woodcock Johnson IV Achievement test will be used to assess decoding skill. Finally, a number of moderating variables will be measured: the Expressive Vocabulary Test, 2nd Edition and the DELV-S, part 1 will be used to measure language ability; the Sound Awareness subtest of the Woodcock Johnson IV Test of Oral Language will be used to measure metalinguistic ability; and the Concept Formation subtest of the Woodcock Johnson IV Test of Cognitive Abilities and the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task will be used to measure executive function.

Data Analytic Strategy: Multilevel modeling will be used to examine the efficacy of Toggle Talk on reading outcomes. A three-level model will be used with students nested within classrooms nested within schools. Models will use the pretest measure as a covariate. Multilevel models will also be used to examine the moderating effects of language ability, metalinguistic awareness, and executive function.

Related IES Projects: Developing Contrastive Analysis Techniques for Teaching Academic Classroom English to Young African American English-Speaking Students (R305A100284); Exploring the Contribution of Social, Cognitive, and Linguistic Factors on the Development of Style Shifting by Young African-American English-speaking Students Learning to Read (R305A120320).


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