Improving the Language Skills of Pre-kindergarten Students: Preliminary Impacts of the Let’s Know! Experimental Curriculum
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Improving children’s oral language skills is an important focus of educational research and practice; however, relatively few interventions have demonstrated impacts on these skills. This work makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the effects of language-focused interventions in pre-kindergarten settings by examining impacts on both lower- and higher-level language skills as well as overall language comprehension.
The goal is to assess the impacts of business-as-usual pre-kindergarten with implementation of two versions of an experimental curriculum supplement, Let’s Know!, designed to enhance three component language skills (vocabulary, comprehension monitoring, and text-structure knowledge) and overall language comprehension in pre-kindergarteners.
Eleven pre-kindergarten teachers and 49 low socioeconomic-status students participated. Teachers were randomly assigned to either business-as-usual, Let’s Know! Broad, or Let’s Know! Deep, unless they participated in a previous pilot study, in which case they were randomly assigned to either Let’s Know! Broad or Deep. The Broad version included five different lesson types, whereas the Deep version included three lesson types with additional practice. Children’s gains were assessed proximally with measures of vocabulary, comprehension monitoring, and text-structure knowledge and distally with a measure of language comprehension.
Children in both experimental versions significantly improved their vocabulary skills relative to children who received business-as-usual instruction. For comprehension monitoring, children who received the Deep and Broad versions improved their scores relative to BAU children for Units 1 and 3, respectively. Improvement in language comprehension was only found for children who received Let’s Know! Deep compared with business-as-usual.
This study provides initial evidence that the Let’s Know! curricula may serve to foster young children’s vocabulary, comprehension monitoring, and language comprehension skills.
KeywordsOral language intervention Vocabulary Comprehension monitoring Text-structure Pre-kindergarten
This paper was prepared by a Task Force of the Language and Reading Research Consortium (LARRC) consisting of Laura M. Justice (Convener), The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, The Ohio State University; Megan Johanson, The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, The Ohio State University; Ann Y. Arthur, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Ann O’Connell, Department of Educational Studies, The Ohio State University; Shayne B. Piasta, Department of Teaching and Learning, The Ohio State University; Shelley Gray, Department of Speech and Hearing Science, Arizona State University. LARRC project sites and investigators are as follows: The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio): Laura M. Justice (Site PI), Richard Lomax, Ann O’Connell, Jill Pentimonti, Stephen A. Petrill, Shayne B. Piasta. Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona): Shelley Gray (Site PI), Maria Adelaida Restrepo. Lancaster University (Lancaster, UK): Kate Cain (Site PI). University of Kansas (Lawrence, Kansas): Hugh Catts (Site PI), Mindy Bridges, Diane Nielsen. University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Lincoln, Nebraska): Tiffany Hogan (Site PI), Jim Bovaird, J. Ron Nelson. Stephen A Petrill was a LARRC co-investigator from 2010 to 2013. Hugh Catts is now at the School of Communication Science and Disorders at Florida State University. Tiffany Hogan is now at MGH Institute of Health Professions. J. Ron Nelson was a LARRC co-investigator from 2010 to 2012. This work was supported by Grant # R305F100002 of the Institute of Education Sciences’ Reading for Understanding Initiative. The research reported here was also supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305B12008 to the Children’s Learning Research Collaborative at The Ohio State University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education. We are deeply grateful to the numerous staff, research associates, school administrators, teachers, children, and families who participated. Key personnel at study sites include: Lisa Baldwin-Skinner, Garey Berry, Beau Bevens, Jennifer Bostic, Shara Brinkley, Janet Capps, Beth Chandler, Lori Chleborad, Willa Cree, Dawn Davis, Michel Eltschinger, Kelly Farquharson, Tamarine Foreman, Rashaun Geter, Sara Gilliam, Miki Herman, Trudy Kuo, Gustavo Lujan, Junko Maekawa, Carol Mesa, Denise Meyer, Maria Moratto, Kimberly Murphy, Marcie Mutters, Amy Pratt, Trevor Rey, Amber Sherman, Shannon Tierney, Stephanie Williams, and Natalie Koziol. The views presented in this work do not represent those of the federal government, nor do they endorse any products or findings presented herein.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences’ Reading for Understanding Initiative (Grant R305F100002). The research reported here was also supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, to the Children’s Learning Research Collaborative at The Ohio State University (Grant R305B12008).
Conflict of interest
LARRC has received research grants from the Institute of Education Sciences.
Statement of Human Rights
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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