Nacent decoding in preschool children: Letter knowledge and instruction effects

Nacent decoding in preschool children: Letter knowledge and instruction effects

First Author: Theresa Roberts -- Oregon Research Institute
Additional authors/chairs: 
Patricia Vadasy
Keywords: Decoding, Letter knowledge, Instruction, Dynamic assessment, Preschool
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose.To explore how letter knowledge and type of alphabet instruction influence nascent decoding in preschool children
Method. Eighty preschool children who had received variations in letter name and letter sound instruction participated in a brief (3-5 minute) dynamic assessment of learning-to-decode. Children were taught to identify and blend phonemes of two-phoneme printed words. Measures included phoneme identification and blending, letter name and letter sound knowledge, and phonemic awareness. Multilevel models of children’s learning of decoding components (phoneme identification and blending) on the dynamic assessment task and treatment effects were estimated. Correlations between decoding components and children’s letter knowledge were computed. A qualitative analysis of those children who were “high-decoders” was performed.
Results. Letter-trained children made significant gains from before to after dynamic assessment/instruction on both phoneme ID and blending. However, letter knowledge provided less benefit to the blending component of decoding compared to the phoneme identification component. Children who received paired-associate based letter instruction that included letter sounds were statistically significantly superior in identifying initial and final phonemes in two-phoneme words compared to letter name instruction. Letter sound knowledge was significantly more correlated with components of nascent decoding than was letter name knowledge. All children in the high decoder group were English fluent, knew some letters at preschool entry, had all been in treatments that included letter sound instruction, but had variable phonemic awareness.
Conclusions. Letter trained preschool children showed evidence of nascent decoding. Dynamic assessment may provide a window into initial decoding. Given the learnability of letter sounds and its greater utility in nascent decoding, more emphasis on preschool letter sound instruction may be warranted.