WWC review of this study

Preschoolers’ alphabet learning: Letter name and sound instruction, cognitive processes, and English proficiency [Experimental letter names and sounds instruction vs. typical letter names and sounds instruction]

Roberts, T. A., Vadasy, P. F., & Sanders, E. A. (2018). Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 44, 257–274. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED583491

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    45
     Students
    , grade
    PK

Reviewed: June 2022

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Reading & Literacy Related outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Taught Letter Sounds

Experimental letter names and sounds instruction vs. (Not applicable)

0 Days

Full sample;
45 students

4.18

2.23

No

--
More Outcomes

Taught Letter Names

Experimental letter names and sounds instruction vs. (Not applicable)

0 Days

Full sample;
45 students

5.61

3.86

No

--

Letter Naming Speed

Experimental letter names and sounds instruction vs. (Not applicable)

0 Days

Full sample;
45 students

5.47

4.23

No

--

Writing/spelling

Experimental letter names and sounds instruction vs. (Not applicable)

0 Days

Full sample;
45 students

1.83

1.82

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Suburban
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    West

Setting

The study was conducted in 6 classrooms across 3 elementary schools in a suburban district near a western U.S. city. Each school had 1 full-day and 2 half-day preschool classes with low-income eligibility thresholds for enrollment. The 2 half-day classes in each building were initially enrolled and determined to be eligible for participation based on their performance on a screening task.

Study sample

A total of 93 children from 6 classrooms at 3 sites were initially enrolled and determined eligible for participation based on identifying fewer than 4 of the 12 letter names to be taught on a screening task. The study does not provide disaggregated student demographic data by condition. However, across all conditions, the mean age of students is 49.76 (SD = 5.11) months. The analytic sample across all conditions included 42 males, 41 females, and 30 children who were Dual Language Learners (DLLs). The study reports that 83% of children were from families whose incomes were less than 40% of the state median income.

Intervention Group

Research assistants provided the intervention for 9 weeks, in 10-minute sessions, 4 days per week. Weeks 7-9 of the intervention were implemented after a 2-week break for individual student testing. The alphabet instructional content intervention aimed to improve alphabet learning and cognitive learning processes. The intervention included 12 letters for instruction chosen based on letter name pronunciation and ease of learning. During weeks 1-6 when a letter was introduced, the instructor inserted the name and the sound. Weeks 7-9 were spent reviewing each of the taught letters.

Comparison Group

Trained research team leaders matched the typical letter names and letter sounds condition to the experimental condition by time, small group size, and Monday through Thursday teaching schedule. The authors state that during Weeks 1 through 6, research team instructors implemented the same basic teaching activities for both the experimental letter names and letter sounds and the typical letter names and letter sounds conditions. Under a memorandum of understanding with the school district, participating preschool teachers assigned to the comparison condition agreed to defer whole-class or small-group instruction on specific letters until after the intervention. The typical letter names plus letter sounds (Typical LN + LS) condition with lessons was matched with the experimental instruction for time, small group size, and Monday–Thursday teaching schedule by trained research team teachers.

Support for implementation

Research assistant instructors each received a one-day, 8-hour training presented by the first author in the implementation of each of the four conditions. Training emphasized the need to achieve high levels of response accuracy from the children by precisely articulating the letter sounds, adding explicit verbal models for dual language learners, and monitoring student progress and providing corrective feedback. Prior to instruction RAs (instructors and assessors) spent 2–3 hours in the preschool classrooms in which they were assigned to teach or assess, meeting the children, and introducing procedures for transitioning into small groups and participating in activities during which they responded to questions.

 

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