Saturday, May 28, 2011

Accelerating Preschoolers’ Early Literacy Development Through Classroom-Based Teacher–Child Storybook Reading and Explicit Print Referencing (2009)

L. M. Justice, J. N. Kaderavek, X. Fan, a. Sofka, and Hunt, A. (2009).Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 40, 67–85. DOI: 0161-1461/09/4001-0067

Children at risk for delayed reading development need a preventive approach to developing emergent literacy skills through concept of print training in preschools. This study examined the effectiveness of print referencing style among low SES children. (Justice & Ezell, 2000, 2002)  Teachers used verbal and nonverbal techniques to draw children’s attention to print in storybooks. Examples: “Do you see the letter S on this page?” “That word says ‘Splash!" (Justice & Ezell, 2004). The author's premise is that children will learn about print through a quality, engaging experience with explicit instruction from a teacher (Justice & Ezell, 2004).

Review of Literature (Important quotes)
"Print knowledge is a multi-determined aspect of development that is influenced by both genes and environment (Lemelin et al., 2007; Petrill, Deater-Deckard, Schatschneider, & Davis, 2005).Lemelin and colleagues’ recent research on the school readiness of 840 children showed that alphabet knowledge was less heritable (i.e., genetically influenced) compared to other indicators of school readiness, such as mathematic ability. We can interpret such findings as showing that print knowledge is strongly influenced by the environments in which children are raised and, by extension, is an aspect of development that can be readily modified with changes to the environment" (p. 68).

"A preventive orientation advocates for broad implementation of systematic and explicit early literacy
instruction delivered within early childhood programs so as to prevent early delays in literacy development from progressing into serious reading and writing disabilities that require intensive and
expensive remediation (Torgesen, 1998)" (p. 68).

Participants: 106 preschool children in 23 classrooms serving disadvantaged preschoolers. Children demonstrated risk factors including poverty, family stress (unemployment, homelessness), or suspected /diagnosed developmental delays.

Treatments: Teachers randomly assigned to a condition -14 classrooms used print referencing style for 120 large-group storybook reading sessions over 30 weeks. (Focused on two print targets in each session)
Teachers in 9 control group classrooms read the same storybooks but used their usual style.

Materials: books contained print salient features - speech bubbles, font changes, and accentuated words. Selections were age appropriate ( for 3-5 yr olds). Books were mostly fictional, but included
poetry, informational texts, and alphabet books.

Teacher training:  For experimental condition, teachers attended a 1-day workshop that informed them of research on print knowledge, the importance of early literacy instruction for pre-k children, and the specifics of print referencing reading style. Teachers practiced style with peers, then had a follow-up 3-hr workshop (midway through 30 weeks) to review practices and fidelity to treatment. They videotaped themselves once every two weeks, and they also received written feedback on their print referencing sessions during weeks 8 and 22.

Outcome Measures:
(a) child print knowledge outcomes
Upper-Case Alphabet Knowledge and Name-Writing Ability subtests of the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening:PreK (Invernizzi, Meier, & Sullivan, 2004).
Preschool Word and Print Awareness assessment (Justice & Ezell, 2001; Justice, Bowles, & Skibbe,
(b) classroom quality.
Classroom Assessment Scoring System—PreK (CLASS–PreK; Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2005)
observation checklists conducted by trained GAs, measured instructional support, emotional support, and classroom management

Children in the print referencing treatment made larger gains from fall to spring and showed medium effect sizes on 3 standardized measures of print knowledge: print concept knowledge, alphabet knowledge, and name writing.
Controlling for classroom instructional quality, the two groups had statistically different gain scores on the three early literacy measures.

Research indicates a longitudinal relationship between preschool knowledge of print and later reading achievement (National Early Literacy Panel, 2004; Storch & Whitehurst, 2002). Children who understand rules about print, names (letters, words, sentences), and the purpose of print are ready for beginning reading instruction, able to connect their print knowledge with the alphabetic principle. On the other hand, children with little knowledge of print (according to longitudinal studies) are more likely to exhibit reading difficulties in later elementary grades (Catts, Fey, Tomblin, & Zhang, 2002; Juel, 1988). Also of interest, research has shown "that both parents and educators can learn to embed explicit references to print into reading interactions with relatively little training (Ezell & Justice, 2000)."  (p. 76)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gaining Alphabetic Insight: Is Phoneme Manipulation Skill or Identity Knowledge Causal? (1998)

Murray, B. A. (1998) Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(3), 461-475.

Purpose of study: Phoneme Awareness often refers to an ability to manipulate and blend phonemes. This study looks at it from another angle and seeks to confirm Byrne and Fielding-Barnsley's findings that phoneme identity is the crucial task beginners need to develop the alphabetic principle and apply it in word identification.

Regarding the findings of Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley (1990) ". . . phoneme segmentation showed a weaker relationship to phonetic cue reading than did identity. Identity scores (r = .49) were better predictors of performance in phonetic cue reading than were segmentation scores (r = .20). Byrne and Fielding-Barnsley (1990) concluded that phoneme identity training is more successful than segmentation training in leading children toward the alphabetic insight because identity was easier to teach and led to a more stable alphabetic insight" (p. 463).

The Problem under investigation: "Do children better learn about the phonemic structure of words
through instruction in generalized manipulation skill, through instruction in particular phoneme identities, or through indirect language experiences? Do children more readily begin using the alphabet to decode when they learn to manipulate phonemes or when they learn the identities of particular phonemes?
Participants: 48 children in kindergarten (5 classrooms 2 parochial, 3 public); 15 day treatments
  • Word identification. Preprimer word list and passage from Basic Reading Inventory (BRI), Fifth Edition, Form A (Johns, 1991) for screening out readers with more than 3 preprimer words correct. 
  • The test of phonetic cue reading (TPCR), (Experimenter design based on Byrne and Fielding-Barnsley (1990)
  • Oral vocabulary. Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Form L (PPVT; Dunn & Dunn, 1981).
  • Alphabet knowledge 
  • Phoneme awareness. phoneme manipulations (TPM), an experimenter-constructed adapted from measures used in earlier studies (Stahl & Murray, 1994)
  • The Test of Phonological Awareness (TOPA; Torgesen & Bryant, 1994), modified for the study. 
  • Phoneme awareness.
    • an alternate form of the TPM 
    • the Word-to-Word Matching Test (WWMT) from Gunning (1992), modified 
  • Reading. 
    • Count of trials to mastery in learning eight letter-phoneme correspondences, (maximum of 20 trials).
    • An alternate form of the TPCR.
    • Experimenter-constructed test of decoding, featuring two- and three-phoneme words using the eight letters for taught correspondences with simple one-to-one relationships between phonemes and letters.
    • Experimenter-constructed attitudinal measure, using a Likert scale of images of the cartoon character Garfield (McKenna & Kear, 1990).
Conditions: Three instructional treatments involved intervention programs for phoneme identities (PI), phonological manipulation (PM), and language experience (LE).
  • PI learned a limited number of phoneme-grapheme correspondences. Practiced them in tongue twisters, used memorable activities, and practiced finding them in words in initial and end positions. Also blended and segmented the target phonemes. Phoneme-grapheme correspondences were not taught in this condition. Oral only.
  • PM manipulated phonemes through blending and segmentation, first as onset and rime activities then using the complete phoneme sequence. 
  • LE engaged in developmentally appropriate early literacy activities: looked at storybook  illustrations, listened to stories read aloud, talked about stories, and created a group story. Stories were typed and used as a text the next day.
  • All participants were individually taught the phoneme-grapheme correspondences for eight letters  (F, L, M, N, S, T, E, A) in their final session (Day 15) using a paired-association method.
"[W]hen instruction emphasizes phoneme manipulations, children learn what they were taught. By
contrast, teaching beginners about phoneme identities does not seem to enhance phoneme manipulation skill. This suggests that phoneme manipulation skill may be relatively independent of the knowledge of phoneme identities. Consistent with this explanation, the gains made by the manipulations group did not translate into alphabetic insight on the TPCR" (p. 470).

The PI group failed to show evidence of the superiority of the treatment over the manipulation and segmenting group, however, the differences between groups "emerged at posttesting on the TPCR, a
measure presumed to require phoneme identity knowledge" (p. 470).


The identity group failed to acquire useful knowledge of phoneme identities. The author attributes this to the PI measuring instrument at posttest and limited progress in the field in learning to measure phoneme awareness apart from reading ability. The identity treatment group indirectly demonstrated knowledge of alphabetic insight, but further evidence is needed to conclude that identity knowledge is causal in gaining alphabetic insight. (p. 470)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Studies supporting phonological deficiences in Dyslexia

Hamalainen, J. A., Leppanen, P. H. T., Eklund, K., Thomson, J., Richardson, U., Guttorm, T. K., Witton, C., Poikkeus, A. M., Goswami, U., Lyytinen, H. (2009). Common variance in amplitude envelope perception tasks and their impact on phoneme duration perception and reading and spelling in Finnish children with reading disabilities. Applied Psycholinguistics, 30(3), 511-530. DOI 10.1017/S0142716409090250
"Our goal was to investigate auditory and speech perception abilities of children with and without reading disability (RD) and associations between auditory, speech perception, reading, and spelling skills. Participants were 9-year-old, Finnish-speaking children with RD (N = 30) and typically reading children (N = 30). Results showed significant group differences between the groups in phoneme duration discrimination but not in perception of amplitude modulation and rise time. Correlations among rise time discrimination, phoneme duration, and spelling accuracy were found for children with RD. Those children with poor rise time discrimination were also poor in phoneme duration discrimination and in spelling. Results suggest that auditory processing abilities could, at least in some children, affect speech perception skills, which in turn would lead to phonological processing deficits and dyslexia."

"one- and two-ramp rise time discrimination and AM [amplitude modulation] detection thresholds were associated in children with RD, and the interaction between group status and rise time sensitivity explained significant additional variance in spelling performance." 

In plain English, amplitude modulation is important for speech perception. Children must learn to discriminate speech sounds that they hear to identify meaningful speech units. Children with dyslexia show evidence of insensitivity to speech sounds. 

"Further, performance in the rise time tasks was associated with phoneme duration discrimination, which in turn, was associated with spelling. This could indicate a possible developmental route whereby basic auditory skills could affect spelling performance in children with RD, as indicated by the path analysis. However, the current study measured only a limited number of speech perception and auditory processing skills. Further studies are needed to fully understand the relationship between auditory processing and reading disabilities, taking into account the development of auditory, speech perception, phonological, and reading and spelling skills, using both behavioral and brain activation measures."

Note on this study: Perhaps children with well-developed orthographic knowledge do better on phoneme discrimination tasks because they have the aid of spelling knowledge. Back to the question - is it phoneme sensitivity that matters or phoneme identity in learning to read?

Fraser, J., Goswami, U., Conti-Ramsden, G. (2010). Dyslexia and specific language impairment: The role of phonology and auditory processing.  Scientific Studies of Reading, 14(1), 8–29 DOI: 10.1080/10888430903242068

"We explore potential similarities between developmental dyslexia (specific reading disability [SRD]) and specific language impairment (SLI) in terms of phonological skills, underlying auditory processing abilities, and nonphonological language skills. Children aged 9 to 11 years with reading and/or language difficulties were recruited and compared to chronological-age controls on phonological skills (rhyme awareness, rhyme fluency, phoneme awareness, phonological short-term memory), nonphonological language skills (vocabulary, grammatical morphology, sentence processing) and auditory processing of rise time and intensity. The SRD children performed poorly on all phonological awareness tasks and had significantly poorer rise time perception. The SLI children showed consistent impairments in phonological and nonphonological but not auditory skills. The SLI/SRD group showed consistent impairments across phonological and nonphonological skills and auditory processing. It is concluded that there is substantial overlap between these disorders at the level of phonological skills and auditory processing, and shared variance with nonphonological language skills."

Strengths of SRD students: 
average to high intelligence
average - good vocabulary scores (Richardson, Thomson, Scott, & Goswami, 2004)
sufficient semantic-processing skills (Nation & Snowling, 1998)
accurate at recall (Kahmi&Catts, 1986)

-some found to have poor grammatical morphology skills (perhaps linked to insensitivity to inflected endings). (Joanisse & Seidenberg, 1999) hmm. . . 
-poor orthographic knowledge
-Rise times in speech envelope correlated with  onsets of syllables, particularly stressed syllables (p. 11).


  • Standardized tests Block Design and Picture Completion subtests of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (3rd ed. [WISC–III]; Wechsler, 1992)
  • Phoneme awareness. 
    • Phoneme  deletion task (McDougall, Hulme, Ellis, & Monk, 1994; see Pasquini et al., 2007).
    • Rhyme oddity. A rhyme oddity task (Thomson & Goswami, 2008)
    • Rhyme fluency. Rhyme fluency (Nation & Snowling, 1998b)
    • Phonological short-term memory. PSTM (Pickering and Gathercole, 2001)
  • Vocabulary. Receptive vocabulary was assessed using the British Picture Vocabulary Scale (BPVS; 2nd ed.; Dunn, Dunn, Whetton, & Burley, 1997). Expressive Vocabulary subtest of the WISC–III (Weschler, 1992).
  • Semantic skills. CELF–III  word associations task (semantic fluency).
  • Grammatical morphology.
    • generate past tense inflection
    • notice and correct grammatical errors in a sentence.
  • The past tense elicitation task (Marchman et al., 1999).
  • The sentence correction task was an adapted form (Kamhi and Catts (1986).
  • Sentence processing. Recalling Sentences subtest of the CELF–III (Semel et al., 2000)
  • Auditory Processing Skills Three (Richardson et al., 2004; Corriveau et al., 2007)
    • Intensity Task (AXB)
    • Rise Time From a Carrier Task (2 Ramp Rise)
    • Amplitude Envelope Onset Task (1 Ramp Rise)
  • Sentence correction task  (Kamhi and Catts, 1986).
"-Phonological measures played the greater predictive role in reading development . . .
-Basic auditory measures of rise time processing (2 Ramp Rise and 1 Ramp Rise) showed elevated thresholds in all three groups with developmental difficulties . . .
-The children with reading difficulties only were not impaired in the grammatical morphology,
sentence correction, and sentence recall tasks, or in receptive vocabulary" (p. 26)
-"Phonological skills were strong concurrent predictors of language skills, and nonphonological skills were significant predictors of reading ability" (p. 27).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Enhancing Phonological Awareness and Letter Knowledge in Preschool Children with Down Syndrome (2006)

van Bysterveldt, A. K., Gillon, G. T., & Moran, C. (2006). International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 53(3), 301–329. DOI: 10.1080/10349120600847706

Details and questions in this study:
  • Examines effectiveness of a phonological awareness intervention for 4-year-old children with Down syndrome. 
  • Subjects: Seven subjects with Downs (preschoolers aged 51-59 months) in an early intervention program and a randomly selected group of age-matched peers (with no developmental concerns).
  • Research is needed to clarify whether children with Downs acquire PA and reading separately or in relation to each other. 
  • Can intervention to facilitate early PA development be useful for children with Downs?
  • Can parents be effective in facilitating PA at the phoneme level and letter knowledge in preschool children with Downs?
Important information from the Literature:
  • Children become aware of sound structures and patterns in language through reading and talking with adults (e.g., Adams, 1990; Stadler & McEvoy, 2003). 
  • Researchers found significant relationships between home literacy environment and family to the development of phonological awareness, decoding, and oral language skills in preschool children, especially with parent attitude toward literacy and parent engagement in literacy-related activities.
  • Joint book reading with children had a positive effect on reading outcomes (Bennett, Weigel, & Martin, 2002; Burgess, Hecht, & Lonigan, 2002). 
  • Bus and van IJzendoorn (1988) found parent instruction in letter name and sound knowledge was positively correlated with children’s emergent literacy on five tasks including reading, letter knowledge, and concepts of print. 
  • A meta-analysis of studies found that joint parent–child book reading positively affected the development of emergent literacy skills, including letter and vocabulary knowledge (Bus, van IJzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995).
Performance measures:
  • initial phoneme identity
  • Letter name knowledge and letter sound knowledge for the 26 letters of the alphabet assessed using lower-case letters in the Gillon Preschool Phonology and Letter Knowledge Probes
  • Print Concepts task measured awareness of word, letter name, and letter sound
  • Standardized articulation measures - Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III
  • New Zealand MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory-Words & Sentences (NZCDI: WS)
  • Communicative Development Inventory-Words & Sentences (CDI: WS)
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals—Preschool (CELF-P) (Wiig, Secord, & Semel, 1992) assessed concepts, semantics, syntax, and morphology
  • pre-intervention and post-intervention measures compared in both groups
In a 6 week intervention, children’s parents were instructed to draw children's attention to targeted letters and sounds within words and initial phonemes in words during daily shared book reading activities.

Parents were instructed to read to their child in their usual manner, but report the amount of time spent
reading to their child per day, on four randomly selected days for 2 weeks prior to the study to establish baseline measures (averaged10–20 min per day)  This determined the frequency and duration of the intervention, making it comparable to prior family schedules, minimizing the risk of spending an excessive amount of time on the intervention, and eliminating intervention effects of changes in the home literacy environment since the children were already read to regularly.

Parent procedure for intervention: Parents directed the child’s attention to a targeted letter and sounds during shared book reading using key strategies in this order:
" 1. state the letter name while pointing to the letter in a book;
  2. describe the sound it makes; and
  3. bring the child’s attention visually as well as orally to the target letter and corresponding phoneme in initial position in a word, while pointing to the word. For example, “This is the letter ‘S’ (letter name). It makes the ‘ssss’ sound (letter sound). ‘SSS’ is the first sound in the word ‘Spot’ (pointing to the word Spot).”'  (p. 314)

Results: Though the sample was small, groups differed significantly on the following tasks
  • Letter Name Knowledge at preintervention (t(1, 12) = −3.52, p = .004) and post-intervention (t(1, 12) = −3.70, p = .003)
  • Letter Sound Knowledge at pre-intervention (t (1, 12) = −3.07, p = .010) and post-intervention (t(1, 12) = −2.62, p = .022)
  • Initial Phoneme Identity at preintervention (t(1, 12) = −0.31, p < .001) and post-intervention
  • a significant treatment effect on phonological awareness and letter knowledge for children with Down syndrome
  • above-chance performance on  initial phoneme identity task, related to letter knowledge of the target phoneme. 

"Of the group of participants with Down syndrome, five participants made gains on all measures, with scores from the remaining two participants remaining stable . . . [A]t least five of the participants in the Down syndrome group demonstrated equal or greater change to that of their typically developing peers.
The results suggested that the print referencing techniques used in the intervention influenced the treatment outcomes." (p. 317)

"[T]he ability to identify initial phonemes in words emerged when phonemes were already familiar . . . (p. 318). Thus, for the children with Down syndrome, letter name/sound knowledge was, as suggested by the literature (Bowey, 1994; Johnston et al., 1996; Lundberg et al.,1988), likely to be a prerequisite for the development of phoneme awareness, demonstrated in this study by the Initial Phoneme Identity task. Such a finding suggests phoneme awareness needs to be taught in the context of known letter names and sounds in order for the child to make the connection between the letter names and sounds in isolation and in words" (p. 320). 

Abstracts of older but important studies (for reference purposes)

A. G. Bus and M. H. van IJzendoorn (1999). Phonological Awareness and early reading: A meta-analysis of experimental training studies. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91( 3). 403-414.

In a quantitative meta-analysis, the effects of phonological awareness training on reading were
shown. In a homogeneous set of U.S. studies with a randomized or matched design, the
combined effect sizes for phonological awareness and reading were d = 0.73 (r = .34,
N = 739) and d = 0.70 (r = .33, N = 745), respectively. Thus, experimentally manipulated
phonological awareness explains about 12% of the variance in word-identification skills. The
combined effect size for long-term studies of the influence of phonological awareness training
on reading was much smaller, d = 0.16 (r = .08, N = 1,180). Programs combining a
phonological and a letter training were more effective than a purely phonological training.
Furthermore, training effects were stronger with posttests assessing simple decoding skills
than with real-word-identification tests. In sum, phonological awareness is an important but
not a sufficient condition for early reading.

B. Byrne & R. Fielding-Barnsley. (1991). Evaluation of a program to teach phonemic awareness to young children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(4). 451-455.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate a new program designed to teach young children about phonological structure. The program emphasizes recognition of phoneme identity across words.
The experimental group of 64 preschoolers was trained with the program for 12 weeks, and the
62 controls were exposed to the same materials, stripped of reference to phonology. Comparison
of pretraining and posttraining measures of phonemic awareness showed greater gains by the
experimental group in comparison with controls. The increased levels of phonemic awareness
occurred with untrained as well as trained sounds. A forced-choice word-recognition test showed
that most of the children who possessed phonemic awareness and who knew relevant letter
sounds could use their knowledge to decode unfamiliar printed words. The results are consistent
with the claim that phonological awareness and letter knowledge in combination are necessary
but not sufficient for acquisition of the alphabetic principle.

Byrne, B. and Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1995). Evaluation of a program to teach phonemic awareness to young children: A 2- and 3-year follow-up and a new preschool trial. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87(3). 488-503. DOI: 0022-0663/95/S3.00.

This article reports a follow-up study of children in Grades 1 and 2 who had been instructed
in phonemic awareness in preschool. Compared to a control condition, the trained children
were superior in nonword reading 2 and 3 years later and in reading comprehension at 3 years.
Control children furnished a disproportionate number of readers dependent on sight word
reading. The superiority of the experimental condition did not extend to measures of
automaticity in reading. W. A. Hoover and P. B. Gough's (1990) "simple view" of reading
(Reading Comprehension = Listening Comprehension X Decoding) was supported. In a
supplementary experiment, preschool children were trained with the program by their regular
teachers and showed greater progress in aspects of phonemic awareness than the control
condition from the main experiment. However, they did not gain as much as those in the more
intensely trained experimental condition.

The Development of Phonological Awareness in Preschool Children (2003)

J. M. Carroll, M. J. Snowling, C. Hulme & J. Stevenson. (2003). Developmental Psychology 39(5), 913-923.  DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.5.913

Longitudinal study of preschool children's development of phonological awareness.

A total of 67 3- and 4-year-old children were tested three times within a year on a range of phonological
awareness tasks. Forced-choice tasks measuring syllable, rime, and initial phoneme awareness were used. Goswami and Bryant’s theory (1990) predicts that the syllable matching task will be easiest for children while rime and initial phoneme tasks will be equally difficult because they both require sensitivity to the onset–rime, a more complex level of phonological awareness.

Lexical restructuring theory proposes that children begin to develop phonological awareness incrementally, and that children’s phonological awareness is tied to the development of "increasingly
segmentalized lexical phonological representations." First they become aware of entire words, then they develop the representation of the sounds within words. Since PA tasks measure a child’s knowledge of the individual sound units within words, it follows that PA is highly dependent on the development of a child’s lexical representations.

This study examined three research questions:
1. Does the development of phonological awareness follow the progression of syllable, then onset and rime, then phoneme?
2. Are language skills such as vocabulary, detection of mispronunciations, and articulation related to the development of phoneme awareness?
3. What role does letter knowledge play in the development of phonological awareness? (p. 915)


Time 1, (age avg = 3 yr 10 mo) the letter knowledge, vocabulary, and phonological matching tasks given.
Time 2, (4 months later) same tasks and two additional tasks: mispronunciation detection and articulation. 
Time 3, (8 months after T2 age 4 yrs 9 mo) All prior tasks were given again (except for syllable matching)  and explicit phoneme awareness tasks added: syllable matching first, rime matching, then initial-phoneme matching tasks. All PA tasks presented in separate sessions.
Language tasks were interspersed with PA tasks, consisting of 1) a mispronunciation task (used a puppet to mispronounce), 2) receptive language (British picture vocabulary knowledge), and 3) an articulation task scoring the percentage of correct phonemes pronounced by children identifying pictures by naming them (some large polysyllabic words like caterpillar).

Results indicate that children detected syllables at higher levels than phonemes and children had learned many of the alphabet letter names by the end of the testing period.

Conclusions: "It was clear in the present study that children tended to develop syllable and rime awareness before phoneme awareness. However, there was little sign of any difference in levels of performance between syllable and rime awareness tasks. It is also notable that in our confirmatory factor analysis of data from
Time 2, both syllable and rime awareness loaded highly on a single underlying latent variable (large-segment awareness). It seems, therefore, that a better way of characterizing development might simply be as a progression from awareness of large units (syllables and rimes) to awareness of small units (phonemes). This characterization is broadly in line with Gombert’s (1992) separation between epilinguistic and metalinguistic phonological awareness (p. 920)."

Further comments worth noting: "It should be noted that in line with a number of previous studies, the present one provides evidence that rime awareness and phoneme awareness are separable skills (920)."

"Implicit, large-segment sensitivity is a skill that grows out of normal language development. In fact, it seems to
interact closely with receptive lexical knowledge and might therefore be better considered a part of normal linguistic, rather than of metalinguistic, development. The later development of the explicit awareness of phonemes appears to build on the foundation of earlier large-segment awareness and to depend, in addition, on the accuracy of a child’s articulation skills. We propose that the development of these two types of phonological awareness reflects the development from global to segmental phonological representations." (922)

Thoughts on this study: No type of instruction was provided within the study to induce learning but children were tested over a year's time to see if they "naturally" developed PA in the course of a typical preschool curriculum. Since we know absolutely nothing about the learning environments of the children, we really can't comment with any degree of certainty on the progression of levels of "phonological sensitivity."

My questions remains unanswered after looking at the evidence in this study: If preschool children are given explicit directions to help them successfully identify phonemes, is instruction in syllable detection necessary? Can children infer other concepts of print through phoneme identity instruction? Will phoneme identity instruction initiate an understanding of the alphabetic principle in preliterate children? Is it necessary for them to begin to apply their knowledge in literacy tasks and what might these be without formal reading instruction?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Phonological sensitivity: A quasi-parallel progression of word structure units and cognitive operations (2003)

J.  L. ANTHONY, C. J. LONIGAN, K.Y. DRISCOLL, B. M. PHILLIPS, S. R. BURGESS (2003) Reading Research Quarterly, 38 (4),  470-487.


This study examined phonological sensitivity on four levels in preschoolers, aged 2-5, and focused on the order of acquisition of phonological sensitivity skills.  PS levels were assessed by order of linguistic complexity: words, syllables, onsets and rimes, phonemes. Complexity of the tasks ranged from blending detection, elision detection, blending, and elision.   947 children (2-5 yrs) participated. Data were analyzed using a hierarchical loglinear analysis that provided evidence of a “quasi-parallel pattern of development corresponding to a hierarchical model of word structure and a working memory model of task complexity.”  Findings suggest developmental phases of phonological sensitivity.


Experimental studies show that phonological sensitivity training for children with reading disability result in positive effects on their reading. These studies support a causal role for phonological sensitivity in reading acquisition (Brady, Fowler, Stone, & Winbury, 1994; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsiey, 1991, 1993).

Phonological Sensitivity 
Stanovich (1992) described  phonological sensitivity along a continuum from a shallow sensitivity of large phonological units to a deep awareness to small phonological units. Phonological sensitivity is viewed by Stanovich and others (e.g., Adams, 1990; Anthony et al., 2002; Bradley. 1988; Bryant et al., 1990; Goswami & Bryant, 1990) as a single, developing phonological ability in which there is continuity between lower and higher levels of ability. In early stages of development, phonological sensitivity manifests itself in the ability to detect large phonological units such as words and syllables. In later stages, phonological sensitivity manifests itself in the ability to manipulate phonemes. Rudimentary or shallow phonological sensitivity skills set the stage for more advanced or deep phonological sensitivity skills like phoneme awareness. (p. 473)
(*Important theory to challenge in my study)

Participants: 947 children, ages 24 months to 72 months

·         -The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R, 1981) and the Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (EOWPVT-R, 1990) formed a composite of estimated general language ability by averaging the standard scores from the PPVT-R and the EOWPVT-R.
·        -A composite of estimated nonverbal intelligence acquired by averaging the standard age scores from the Bead Memory, Pattern Analysis, and Copying subtests of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (4th edition, 1986).
·        -Blending skills and elision skills assessed with 3 measures. Items on 6 measures examined four levels of linguistic complexity (i.e., word, syllable, onset/rime, and phoneme) with each of four tasks (i.e., detection of blending, detection of elision, blending, and elision).

Results and Discussion

     Hierarchical loglinear analyses (HLA) used to study the order of acquisition of phonological sensitivity skills according to linguistic and task difficulty. There were consistent patterns in the order of skills acquired. There did not appear to be discrete stages of development but some skills were acquired simultaneously.

Controlling for task complexity, children mastered
word-level skills before syllable-level skills
syllable-level before onset/rime
onset/rime before phoneme-level
Results "support the developmental theory of phonological sensitivity proposed by Adams (1990) and Goswami and Bryant (1990) that children's progression of sensitivity to linguistic units follows a hierarchical model of word structure (p. 481)."

Example overlap of skills: a child learning to blend onset-rimes could also be blending phonemes. Skills at one stage did not need to be mastered before moving to another stage.

Numerous limitations to this study: however, it may suggest development of more refined PA task assessment instruments and help practitioners in determining level of word reading (Ehri stages).

Explicit versus Implicit Instruction in Phonemic Awareness

 Cunningham, Anne. (1990) Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 50. 429-444.

Early (pre-NRP report) study of phonemic awareness instruction, using two forms: 1) a metalevel approach (emphasized applying knowledge, the the utility of PA knowledge, and its value in relation to reading) and 2) skill and drill - procedure of segmenting and blending phonemes. 42 K and 42 first-graders in the 10 week training study. Results supported causal relationship between PA and reading achievement. Both groups showed significant improvement in reading, however, the meta-level group performed significantly better on transfer tasks (untaught correspondences). [Control group listened to a story, answered questions, and discussed story.]

-Achievement test of reading ability (Metro Rdg. Achievement Test L1 & Primer)
-Aptitude (Otis-Lennon)
-Phonemic Awareness  (selected from previous studies - including Bradley & Bryant, and Stanovich et al '84)
     -phoneme deletion task ( 3 practice and 10 test items)
     -phoneme discrimination task (Lindamood Auditory Conceptualization test)
         Discriminating sounds, perceiving how many and in what order in spoken words (used colored blocks.)
     -phonological oddity rhyme task (Bradley & Bryant, '78, '83)
         Initial, medial, final sounds in words compared.

Results and Discussion
     The level of PA for both grades and treatments as the same except the K meta-level group were statistically better on phoneme deletion. First grade reading achievement improved significantly as the children were receiving reading instruction in the classroom and were much better at applying PA knowledge on reading tasks than the skill and drill group.  Hierarchical multiple regression analyses with PA tests and IQ combined as the predictor variables with the Metro scores as the criterion variable.  PA measures accounted for 60% of the variance in K and 51% in first grade reading in the spring.

     Results indicate that training in PA improves children's reading. The hypothesis that PA is a consequence of learning to read was rejected since training had a significant effect on reading achievement.  Both training groups performed significantly better on PA tasks and reading than the control group who had ordinary reading instruction in their respective grades.
     The metalevel instruction that emphasized "interrelations between phonemic awareness and the process of reading, motivation to use phonemic awareness in decoding, and specific strategic behaviors to implement phonemic awareness was a more effective program of instruction than a skill and drill approach that taught the component skill in isolation." Explicit instruction in segmenting and blending helped children transfer and apply PA skills to reading. While both groups learned PA, only one (metalevel) could effectively transfer their knowledge to the reading task. Skill & drill may teach the component skills but children don't make connections to apply them without a metacognitive rationale for them.