The study took place in a large rural midwestern district.
All the Kindergarten teachers in a district participated and were assigned to an in-service or comparison condition by geographical location, with all eight comparison classes coming from the same school. Students in each classroom were pre-tested and divided by ability level into typical learners and at-risk learners. In the combined analysis sample that included both subgroups, 192 students from nine classrooms were in the treatment group and 126 students from eight classrooms were in the comparison group. The children were predominantly of European-American descent. Class sizes ranged from 18–28 students and all included at least one child with a disability.
In addition to their typical pre-reading instruction, children in nine intervention classes were given more than twenty Ladders to Literacy activities, including sound isolation, first sounds, rhyming pictures, rhyming, onsets and rhymes with first letters, invented spelling, story grammar, and integrating spelling and reading. The district-sponsored pre-reading curriculum included reading and discussing Big Books, learning letters of the alphabet and common sounds, and practicing writing of letters.
Children in eight comparison classes received the same district-sponsored pre-reading curriculum as the intervention group and were introduced to the concept of rhyme. The eight comparison classes formed a Kindergarten center in one school. The teachers of these classes routinely planned their instruction together and shared materials. The students were matched on the Peabody Picture vocabulary Test and demographic variables.
For both pretest and posttest, the author administered the Peabody Picture Vocabulary test, the test of Short Term Memory, the Letter-Word Identification subtest of the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement, and the Rhyme Production, Segmenting, Blending, and Rapid Letter Naming tests. The Dictation subtest of the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement was also used in the study but is not included because it is outside the scope of this Beginning Reading review. (See Appendices A2.1–2.3 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures.)
Support for implementation
Teacher participants included general education Kindergarten teachers, Title I teachers and other supporting staff. In this traditional model of professional development, teacher training totaled three and a half days spaced across the school year. Teachers discussed implementation of activities, solved issues with materials, and shared data on the progress of their students. Training provided teachers with modeling and rehearsal of upcoming activities.