Thursday, December 22, 2011

Effects of Rhyming, Vocabulary, and Phonemic Awareness Instruction on Phoneme Awareness

Yeh, S., and Connell, D. B. (2008). Effects of rhyming, vocabulary and phonemic awareness instruction on phoneme awareness. Journal of Research in Reading, 31(2), 243-256.

Head Start curricula use rhyme and vocabulary activities to promote phoneme awareness in young children. The authors hypothesize that preschool children are better prepared for reading if they are directly taught segmentation and blending. To test this hypothesis, three conditions were examined 1) direct instruction in phoneme segmentation and blending, 2) rhyming activities, and 3) vocabulary activities. Since research demonstrates a strong causal link between reading ability and demonstrated ability to segment and blend phonemes in spoken language, this was the outcome measure.

128 preschool children ages 4 yrs 3 mos - 5 yrs 2 mos, 16 Head Start classrooms.
All from low income households. Racially diverse but mostly Black (72%). All were non-readers with low levels of phonemic awareness before the study. 14 weeks of intervention instruction under three different conditions.

Phonemic Awareness  (Phonological Awareness Test, Robertson & Salter, 1995)
Letter-sound knowledge (gramphemes subtests of  Phonological Awareness Test )
Decoding (Subtest of Phonological Awareness Test)
Word recognition (Woodcock-Johnson,R)
Rhyming (Phonological Awareness Test)
Vocabulary (PPVT-III)

Phoneme segmentation group instruction:
Used three letter words; focused on segmentation, blending, and substitution; manipulated spellings of words to form new words, read sentences based on words, used materials from Phono-Graphix programme (McGuinness, 1999).

Other two groups,  provided only incidental exposure to letter-sound relationships ththrough normal story reading and invented spelling activities. Segmentation group emphasized phonemic activities where phonemes were modelled and exaggerated, and response was reinforced until children learned to match sounds and graphemes and sound out short words.

Rhyming group has rhyming activities as outlined in the regular curriculum (Adams, Foorman, Lundberg, and Beeler, 1998). Children would be asked to provide a rhyming word to finish a sentence, for example. They would also provide words to complete sentences with the same initial consonant rather than a rhyme.

Vocabulary development group: Teachers preinstructed vocabulary, read books aloud, emphasized words and reread stories. They asked about the features of the words and questions using the words.  This group also traced letters and used invented spelling to "write" stories.

Instruction emphasizing phoneme segmentation and blending was more effective in developing these two abilities than the rhyming or vocabulary group. Phoneme segmentation skill appears to be a clear predictor of a future ability to read.

Children as young as 4 who are minority, low income children can be taught phoneme segmentation, blending, and letter-sound relationships. The finding contradicts prevailing views among Head Start staff that systematic instruction in complex tasks such as segmentation and blending and letter-sound relationships is developmentally inappropriate. The study is consistent with prior research suggesting the importance of teaching segmentation tasks.

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