This study took place in nine elementary schools located in England. Intervention sessions took place during the times set aside for "word-level work" within England's national curriculum.
The 12 children in each school who perform the poorest on a reading screening test were included in the study.
INTERVENTION CONDITIONS. This study examined the impacts of three different early reading interventions: (1) Soundworks, (2) RIME, and (3) Mixed (mixture of onset rime and phoneme programs). All interventions involved 20 minute sessions, four times per week for nine weeks, and intervention sessions replaced the "word-level work" sessions that are part of England's National Curriculum. All interventions had some common elements. These included: beginning each session with letter-sound learning activities using a multi-sensory approach, concentration on one vowel and nine consonents for segmentation and blending activities, and a recap of the previous session and introduction to new letters. Ten minutes were then spent on intervention-specific activities, with the last ten minutes of the session focused on phonological awareness games for the phonemes and rimes that were covered.
SOUNDWORKS INTERVENTION. Soundworks is referred to by authors as the phoneme-focused intervention. It has five components. Program activities involve a board used to make words around the phoneme "a"; writing on cards with vowel markers or spaces for students to write a vowel repeatedly, then add consonants to create words; and "spelling from your head". During first phase of this intervention, children use wood blocks with consonants to experiment with making new words by changing letters in existing words. Writing activities are introduced after using blocks for a while. During first phase of writing, emphasis is on repeated writing of the vowel and creating permutations by substituting consonants at beginning and end. The process can be repeated with other vowels (an i-board; o-board, etc). With assistance from an adult, children then read words aloud and sound them out piece by piece.
RIME PROGRAM. This program contained many elements found in the Beginning Phonological Awareness Training program. In the RIME program sessions, ten minutes were spent with a new rime unit (e.g., "-at") and alphabet letters covered previously. Children are asked to arrange the rime words themselves with plastic letters to match a picture prompt. If children had difficulty with that task, they are asked to work across the letters at the top of the sheet and find the correct onset rime to complete the word. The remaining 10 minutes of the intervention sessions were spent doing one of the following activities: 1) writing words, 2) doing simple word searches, 3) using onset-rime "word fans", 4) sorting words into groups based on their rimes, and 5) practicing with onset-rime sound frames. Learning Support Assistants had children complete one of these five tasks each day in a week.
MIXED PHONEME AND RIME PROGRAM. This intervention was very similar to the rime program. In addition to leading children through activities involving rimes, in this intervention the Learning Support Assistants indicated phonemic elements of words as well (for example, "an" is made up of 'a' and 'n'). This program encouraged students to say phonemes and rimes when constructing words, and the phonological games included analysis and synthesis of phonemes as well as rimes.
Students in the comparison condition participated in word-level activities that are part of the second term of the National Literacy Strategy. These activities involve grouping children around tables by literacy level and having them work through activities intended to improve their understanding of initial, medial and final sounds in words, discriminate sounds, read and spell consonant clusters at the beginning and end of words, and develop sight vocabulary for 30 commonly encountered words. The National Literacy Strategy identifies discrimination, segmentation and blending of phonemes as targeted skills for phonological awareness during this term. Comparison students receive periodic support from their classroom teachers during these sessions, as teachers divide their time among all their students. Teachers were told to treat comparison children in same way as if no interventions were taking place.
Support for implementation
Intervention was implemented by Learning Support Assistants. These LSAs participated in a single training session conducted in a single morning. During the first part of the meeting, all LSAs were congregated together to learn about the generic aspects of the interventions. The LSAs were then split off into groups to learn about the particular intervention being conducted in their school. These sessions were led by the authors or a remedial reading teacher. The principles underlying their intervention were presented, and LSAs were given opportunity to explore the materials and ask questions about the interventions and try the activities informally. The last part of the session had LSAs all grouped together again to discuss more general aspects of the interventions--e.g., grouping, location, timing, etc.