The students attended four private child-care centers in a mid-sized city in the southeastern United States.
Most children (72%) were Caucasian, 14% were African American, and 14% were of other races/ethnicities (Indian, Hispanic, or Asian). Almost half (48%) of the sample was female. Half (50%) of the children had parents with college degrees, and 9% had parents that completed postgraduate training. Children were 3 or 4 years old.
An instructor delivered an eight-week curriculum (34 lessons of 10-15 minutes each) to small groups of three to five children as a pull-out program. The instructor taught three or four lessons per week. In the combined letter name and sound condition, each letter was consistently referred to by its name and linked to its most common corresponding sound (e.g., the letter C that makes the sound /k/) in all lesson activities (further described below). There was a lesson for each letter, and eight review lessons (roughly one a week). The curriculum taught the most common sound associated with individual letters (e.g., /k/ for C, /g/ for G) and short vowel sounds (e.g., /æ/ for A, /a/ for O) were taught. Lessons followed a fixed random sequence. Lessons were scripted, but instruction was delivered in an interactive manner. First, children practiced saying the letter name and/or sound, recognized the letter from an array of magnetic letters, and listened for words starting with the letter sound, as aided by picture cards. The study used eight different commercially available alphabet books that included all 26 letters, with a page being devoted to each individual letter and its corresponding sound. Children also participated in weekly review sessions.
An instructor delivered an eight-week curriculum (34 lessons of 10-15 minutes each) to small groups of three to five children as a pull-out program. Of these
34 lessons, 16 were devoted to instruction on a particular number, 0–15, with one to three individual number lessons being provided each week. Children also received 18 review lessons. The authors designed number lessons to be as similar as possible to alphabet lessons in format, activities, intensity, and duration.
Support for implementation
The authors trained implementers to deliver lessons during two training sessions, where lesson plans and instructional materials were distributed and implementation was modeled. Implementation was monitored throughout the course of the study. In particular, the authors reviewed audio recordings of 30% of lessons and addressed implementation challenges as they emerged. Fifteen percent of lessons were randomly chosen to support fidelity assessments.