The study was conducted in six preschool classrooms in the Experimental Education Unit at
the University of Washington.
Fifty-five children aged 4–6 with developmental delays were pretested for the study. The
authors excluded four children who scored 30% or better on a phonological pretest and
one child with autism, who was nonverbal. Children were stratified by class (morning or
afternoon), age, and the results of the cognitive ability pretest. Within strata, children were
randomly assigned to either one of three phonological awareness training conditions or a comparison group. Only one comparison, phonological awareness training with a blending focus
versus the comparison group, meets WWC standards and is included in this report. Twelve
children were randomly assigned to the phonological awareness training with a blending focus
condition and 13 to the comparison group, but three children left the program before the
completion of the study, leaving an analytic sample of 22 children (11 each in the intervention
and comparison groups). For the whole sample (including all three phonological awareness
training conditions), 80% of the children had significant language delays and some physical
handicaps, behavioral disorders, or an intellectual disability.
Children met in groups of three to five for 10-minute sessions, four times a week. Instruction
lasted seven weeks. In the first three weeks, children in the blending focused (intervention) condition practiced blending two to three phonemes in elongated words with continuous sounds.
For example, “I’ll say words the slow way. You’ll say them fast. Ssseeeeennnn. What word?”
(p. 536). At the end of the three weeks, children were tested on the set of phonological skills
that was taught and one that was not taught (e.g., blending and segmentation). During the last
four weeks, the skills were reviewed and instruction was extended to other tasks. Children were
taught to blend words beginning with stop sounds, all sounds separated, and onset-rime.
Children participated in routine preschool activities, such as listening to stories read by the
teacher or “circle time” oral language activities. The authors were concerned that children in
the intervention group would have more experience with “sounds in isolation” than children in
the comparison group, which could result in the outcome measures favoring the intervention
groups. To address this, the researchers met with each comparison group child twice during
the implementation period to practice the isolated sounds used in training. For example, the
researcher would say, “Today we’re going to practice saying sounds. Say this sound.” The
researcher would model, and the children would then repeat the sounds.
Nine subtests of auditory phonological skills (three each for rhyming, blending, and segmenting) were developed by the study team. The blending outcomes were continuous phonemes,
onset-rime, and separate sounds. The segmenting outcomes were all sounds, onset-rime, and
first sound. The rhyming outcomes were production, oddity, and recognition. Children were
tested in the week prior to the start of the study and directly after the cessation of instruction
for the intervention groups. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see
Support for implementation
The intervention was conducted by three graduate students, all of whom had teaching
experience. Each graduate student teacher led all three interventions to minimize potential teacher
effects. Each Monday, the three teachers practiced the formats to be used for the week with
the first author. The teachers met daily to discuss and resolve problems. In addition, the teachers
were randomly audiotaped to ensure that protocols were being implemented as designed.