International Perspectives on Fostering Language in Preschool Classrooms

International Perspectives on Fostering Language in Preschool Classrooms

First Author: David Dickinson -- Vanderbilt U.
Abstract / Summary: 

Oral language has been identified as being of critical importance to reading comprehension when children have mastered decoding skills. Language at that point builds on abilities developed in the early childhood years. These language abilities are strongly associated with parental income and educational background in the United States and abroad. To help ensure the long-term literacy success of children from homes that are less able to foster early development, schools must play a role, but typically they fail to do so.

This symposium includes papers reporting interventions and research done in three countries. One approach that two papers report comes from Chile in which the intervention seeks to help teachers enhance language support across the day. One approach addresses this by combining use of a new curriculum that has a focus on language and literacy combined with professional development. The second reports a novel approach that strives to effect change by raising teachers' awareness of patterns of their instructional interactions with children.

A second approach is to focus on helping teachers implement specific instructional routines created in ways designed to foster language and early literacy. One paper reports results of an effort being conducted in Abu Dhabi. This paper reports evidence of sustained ability to help teachers develop English and Arabic language and literacy skills using book reading and a morning literacy routine and a child outcome data that reveal that students from that intervention school are entering first grade better prepared to read than children from other preschools. The final paper reports the effectiveness of an intervention that uses book reading in combination with play to teach vocabulary.

The discussant will draw on her expertise in oral language development and familiarity with preschool interventions.

Symposium Papers: 

Efficacy of a language stimulation monitoring system for improving language in the preschool classrooms

First Author/Chair:Katherine Strasser -- Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Additional authors/chairs: 
Susana Mendive -- Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Daniela Vergara -- Fundación Crecer; Michelle Darricades -- Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the efficacy of a low-cost language stimulation monitoring system to improve the language environment of preschool classrooms in Chile.
Method: Nineteen classrooms serving at-risk three-year olds in Santiago de Chile were randomly assigned to an intervention or control group (10 intervention, 9 control). A list of 6 “key” language events were crossed with children’s names to create a matrix. Teachers were requested to fill in this matrix after class, twice a week, for 6 months. The completed lists were used to provide the teachers with monthly reports of the language stimulation received by each child. A random sample of 225 children was given language measures before and after the intervention. Each classroom was audio-recorded for four mornings and the frequency of key language events was counted.
Results: Adults in the intervention group read more books and discussed more word meanings than those in the control group. Intervention group children showed a marginally significant advantage in their receptive vocabulary growth, after controlling for teacher characteristics. The number of times each child was marked in the matrix as participating in a language event was significantly associated with their language growth.
Conclusions: A device that helps teachers remember the kind of language experiences they should be providing, and to monitor the stimulation received by children, may improve the quality of language in the preschool classroom and affect children’s language growth.

Preschool Language-Focused interventions: The Implementation of a Research-based Preschool Curriculum in Chile

First Author/Chair:Andrea Rolla -- Harvard University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Marcela Marzolo; Katherine Becker -- Fundación Educacional Oportunidad

Purpose: Un Buen Comienzo (A Good Start; UBC) is a professional development intervention for early childhood educators in Chile, to improve classroom quality and children’s language/literacy outcomes.

Method: A cluster-randomized trial was implemented in 64 municipal schools between 2008 and 2011 to evaluate the program and followed 1,876 children from prekindergarten through kindergarten. Moderate positive impacts were observed on emotional support and classroom organization, but no significant impacts on child outcomes were detected. Although intervention teachers on average provided only 13 minutes of language/literacy instruction small statistically significant associations betwen dosage and children’s language/literacy outcomes were observed (Mendive et al., 2015).

In order to increase instructional time devoted to language/literacy and improve child impacts, UBC piloted the Spanish-language OWL curriculum (Dickinson, 2014) in one classroom for 20 4- and 5-year-olds in 2015. Data collected included the CLASS, documentation of curricular implementation, and child language/literacy outcomes of participating children and peers from comparison classrooms in the same school.

Results: We will report results from the first study as well as final data from the second study. Preliminary midyear results indicating that the classroom teacher improved slightly in her CLASS scores from the beginning of the year, and the OWL children improved in their outcomes slightly more than their comparison peers . Implementation was successful but several adjustments will need to be made to the curriculum.

Conclusions: Even small doses of instruction appear to yield benefits for child outcomes; therefore use of a research-based curriculum should increase instructional time and child outcomes.

Sustaining High Quality Bilingual Instruction in Preschool Classrooms in Abu Dhabi

First Author/Chair:Collins Molly -- Vanderbilt University
Additional authors/chairs: 
David Dickinson; Georgine Pion

This paper reports on a multi-year effort to develop a model for educating children in Arabic and English in Abu Dhabi. There is high annual turn-over among expatriates and Arab teachers.

The collaborating preschool school has two grade levels, KG1 and KG2. We developed bilingual instructional routines for book reading and morning message, a literacy instruction that builds understanding of print. Fidelity of implementation forms were used as part of PD and coaching, and to assess implementation. Pre-post assessments were given of print skills in preschool. In first grade in the primary grade school that we are supporting all children were assessed; roughly 25% were from our program.

Fidelity data collected fall and spring in year four revealed acceptable to strong fidelity of implementation ratings for book reading in fall (KG1: 76%, KG2: 91%) and spring (KG1: 91%, 88%). The same was true for Morning Message; fall (KG1: 81%, KG2: 84%) and spring (KG1: 83%, 80%, 84%). Depending on the measure, pre- and posttest data in Arabic and English were available for 12 classrooms and revealed statistically significant growth over the school year in English and Arabic. Preschool graduates from our program were at higher levels than those from other preschools (effect sizes ranged between 0.31 and 0.41) as measured by Running Records. Effect sizes were even larger (0.79 to 0.84) for a Letter Sounds measure.

We are established instructional systems that have resulted in sustained quality and acquisition of literacy skills in Arabic and English.

Combining Book Reading and Play to Teach Vocabulary

First Author/Chair:David Dickinson -- Vanderbilt University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Molly Collins; Kathy Hirsh-Pasek; Roberta Golinkoff

Purpose: We sought to help teachers use book reading followed by teacher-guided replica play to teach vocabulary to low-income preschool children and to compare effects of book reading combined with picture card review with book reading and play.

Method: Teachers were provided lightly scripted materials and in-class coaching to help them teach 16 words in each of four books. Ten classrooms were randomly assigned to a Read + Play condition and 6 to Read + Picture Card review. Each book was read four times across three weeks.

Results. Within-subject analyses, where children served as their own controls, showed large effects of both conditions. Children learned taught words at a rate significantly greater than control words for both receptive (Read Only, d = 1.02; Read + Play, d = 1.32) and productive knowledge (Read Only, d = 0.94; Read + Play, d = 1.12). There was a non-significant trend favoring the Read + Play condition for both receptive (dfall = 0.18, dspring = 0.21) and productive knowledge (dfall = 0.11, dspring = 0.24). Read Only children made significant growth on the PPVT (d = .20) and both conditions showed significant growth on two measures of self-regulation (d .24 - .44). Fidelity of reading was good, but play fidelity was weak. Prior vocabulary and self-regulatory skills moderated vocabulary learning.

Conclusions. Book reading can be used to teach significant numbers of words and teacher-guided play can improve depth of learning, but is hard to implement.


First Author/Chair:Discussant Discussant -- Harvard Graduate School of Education

Catherine Snow will draw on her expertise in oral language development and familiarity with preschool interventions.