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Integration of letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting: a pilot study examining the effects of instructional sequence on word reading for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness.

Abstract. Research evidence indicates that integration of letter sounds with phonological blending and segmenting is critical for acquisition of beginning word reading skills. Yet, a review of kindergarten intervention studies revealed that the optimal sequence for integrating these two component skills has not been investigated empirically. In this pilot study, two sequences for integrating and teaching letter-sound correspondences and phonological blending and segmenting were compared to determine which sequence resulted in higher word reading and phonological awareness performance and higher rates of growth for kindergarten children with low phonemic segmentation skills. Fifty-five children, 36 with phonemic segmentation deficits, were randomly assigned to two instructional conditions: (a) parallel, integrated (PI), or (b) parallel, non-integrated (PN-I) sequence. At posttest, initial segmentation skills explained only 7% of the variance for the PI group and 36% of the variance for the PN-I group on segmentation fluency measures. The PI sequence "closed the gap" in phonemic segmentation between children with low segmentation skills and children with adequate skills by posttest. Children in the PI sequence also performed reliably higher on word reading generalization at posttest and maintenance, and the rate of change in the growth trajectory for letter-sound fluency was greater for the PI sequence.

Recent promulgation and implementation of the "Early Reading First" and the "Reading First" initiatives as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 represents a nationwide effort to help all students become readers by grade three (No Child Left Behind Act, 2001). These initiatives focus on early identification, intervention and prevention of reading failure for all children, but especially young children at risk of future reading disabilities.

Prior to these initiatives, more than two decades of research have investigated questions related to phonological and alphabetic awareness and successful acquisition of beginning reading skills (e.g., Adams, 1990; Ball & Blachman, 1988, 1991; Lewkowicz, 1980; Liberman & Shankweiler, 1985; National Reading Panel, 2000; Stanovich, 1986; Torgesen & Davis, 1996; Wagner, 1988; Wagner & Torgesen, 1987). Several "big ideas" (Kameenui & Carnine, 1998) have emerged from this research base.

First, in beginning reading, phonological awareness is critical, especially in kindergarten, because it forms the foundation for developing alphabetic understanding, a skill that requires children to map the individual sounds in words onto the letters of the alphabet in order to be able to read words (e.g., Adams, 1990; Ball & Blachman, 1991; Footman, Francis, Beeler, Winikates, & Fletcher, 1997; National Reading Panel, 2000; Smith, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1998).

Second, converging evidence suggests that specific phonological tasks, especially phonemic segmentation, are strong predictors of beginning reading ability (Muter, Hulme, Snowling, & Taylor, 1997; Kaminski & Good, 1996; O'Connor & Jenkins, 1999; Snider, 1997; Spector, 1992; Wagner, Torgesen, Rashotte, Hecht, Barker, et al., 1997; Yopp, 1988), and that the phonological awareness skills of phonemic segmentation and phonemic blending are necessary prerequisites for success in learning to read (Ball & Blachman, 1988, 1991; Davidson & Jenkins, 1994; Fox & Routh, 1984; O'Connor, Jenkins, & Slocum, 1995; Torgesen, Morgan, & Davis, 1992).

Third, phonological awareness skills are teachable (e.g., Adams, 1990; Ball & Blachman, 1988, 1991; Brady, Fowler, Stone, & Winbury, 1994; Cunningham, 1990; O'Connor et al., 1995; National Reading Panel, 2000; Smith et al., 1998). Thus, instruction often results in significant gains in phonological awareness skills for most children. Those who received phonological awareness instruction and subsequently demonstrated increases in these skills had higher scores on measures of reading achievement than children who did not receive phonological awareness instruction (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Cunningham, 1990; Fox & Routh, 1984; Davidson & Jenkins, 1994; O'Connor et al., 1995; O'Connor, Notari-Syverson, & Vadasy, 1996; Torgesen et al., 1992).

Finally, although phonological awareness is necessary, it is not sufficient for beginning reading acquisition. Phonological awareness instruction is most advantageous for learning to read words when combined with alphabetic skills, specifically letter-sound correspondences, to establish explicit links between letters and sounds in spoken words (e.g., Ball & Blachman, 1991; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1989, 1991; Ehri & McCormick, 1998; Foorman et al., 1997; National Reading Panel, 2000; Simmons & Kameenui, 1998; Vandervelden & Siegel, 1997).

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

This pilot study examined the sequence of integrating alphabetic and phonological awareness skills that best facilitated word reading performance for children in kindergarten with limited phonological awareness. A multistep process was used as outlined below.

First, kindergarten studies were identified that involved children with low phonological awareness skills and had investigated the integration of letter-sound correspondences and the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting to facilitate word reading. Second, a conceptual framework was developed to provide (a) a structure for organizing, describing, and codifying the relationship between two component skills--the integration of letter-sound correspondences and phonological blending and segmenting; and (b) a vehicle for analyzing and reporting how these component skills were integrated to attain specific instructional outcomes (i.e., word reading) in the kindergarten studies. These preliminary steps to achieve the purpose of the study are detailed in the subsequent sections.

Selection Criteria for Kindergarten Studies

Studies were selected for analysis if they met all of the following criteria. First, the study included kindergarten children with low phonological awareness skills. Second, the independent variable included only the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting or a combination of the two skills. This criterion was selected because converging evidence indicates that phonemic blending and segmenting are highly correlated with beginning reading acquisition. Third, letter-sound correspondences were included as part of the intervention. Fourth, a minimum of one word-reading measure was used as one of the dependent variables. Fifth, children were randomly assigned to treatment conditions Results of the Kindergarten Literature Search

The literature search identified 22 studies conducted with kindergarten children. A review of these studies revealed the following pattern. Five studies (Christensen, 1997; McClure, Ferreira, & Bisanz, 1996; Muter et al. 1997; Snider, 1997; Yopp, 1988) were correlation studies. Three studies were longitudinal studies that were initiated with a kindergarten cohort (Fielding-Barnsley, 1997; Foorman et al., 1997; Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1997) and continued over several years.

Eight studies were implemented with intact classrooms of children and taught by kindergarten teachers (Blachman, Ball, Black, & Tangel, 1994; Brady et al., 1994; Brennan & Ireson, 1997; Kersholt, Van Bon, & Schreuder, 1997; Kozminsky & Kozminsky, 1995; Kuby & Aldridge, 1997; Lundberg, Frost, & Peterson, 1988; O'Connor et al., 1996). In these eight classroom studies a variety of phonological awareness skills were taught during the intervention. Some studies included alphabetic skills (i.e., letters) (e.g., Blachman et al., 1994); others did not (e.g., Lundberg et al., 1988; Kozminsky & Kozminsky, 1995). Two studies included only typically achieving kindergarten children (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Cunningham, 1990). One study (Vandervelden & Siegel, 1997) included children with low phonological awareness. Instruction included a variety of phonological and print activities to help kindergarten children recognize printed matches of spoken words or syllables and to spell words.

Four studies involving children with low phonological awareness (Davidson & Jenkins, 1994; Fox & Routh, 1984; O'Connor et al., 1995; Torgesen et al., 1992) evaluated the children on word reading tasks that required the use of alphabetic skills, specifically letter-sound correspondences, and the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting. These four studies also met the final criterion of random assignment to treatment condition.

A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK ON INTEGRATION

Before developing the dimensions of a conceptual framework on integration in the specific context of letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness instruction, it was important to understand integration from a broad instructional perspective. To assist in conceptualizing integration from this broader perspective, a definition of integration and two examples of integration are provided.

An Instructional Perspective on Integration

Integration can be defined as the arrangement of separable component skills into a whole. To achieve certain outcomes, component skills must be taught to mastery in a specific order; that is, one component skill must be taught to mastery before another. For other outcomes, the order in which the component skills are taught to mastery may not matter. However, all component skills must be taught to mastery at some time to accomplish the outcome. The following examples provide a way to conceptualize integration from this broad instructional perspective.

Two instructional tasks, shoe tying and time telling, represent the extremes of what might be called order-specific integration (e.g., shoe tying) and order-neutral integration (e.g., time telling). When teaching shoe tying, four component skills must be taught: (a) lacing the shoe, (b) overlapping the laces, (c) knotting the laces, and (d) tying the bow. Each component skill must be taught to mastery in sequence to accomplish the outcome, a tied shoe.

When teaching time telling, four component tasks (i.e., preskills) must be taught to mastery to attain the outcome of accurate time telling: (a) knowledge of the direction in which the hands of the clock move; (b) the rule about the "little hand points and the big hand counts;" (c) the skill of counting by fives from 0-60; and (d) the ability to switch from counting by fives to counting by ones (Silbert, Carnine, & Stein, 1990). Any one of the first three component skills can be taught to mastery prior to teaching either of the other two. Counting by five, or the rule about the "little hand points and big hand counts" can be taught to mastery first. Neither component skill is a prerequisite for teaching the other skill to mastery. That is, unlike shoe tying, which requires that the component skills be taught to mastery sequentially (e.g., order-specific), the order for teaching the first three skills in time telling to mastery is not specified (i.e., order-neutral).

Development of the Dimensions of a Conceptual Framework

A conceptual framework on integration includes at least two dimensions: (a) the order for sequencing sets of activities that will be integrated, and (b) the amount of time that is allocated for mastery of a skill or activity to a specific criterion level of performance. In the conceptual framework for examining the integration of the two component skills, letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness, order refers to the sequence of letter-sound correspondence activities and the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting.

Order dimension. The relationship between sets of activities can be classified into four categories: successive, parallel, integrated, and non-integrated. A relationship between sets of activities that is successive requires one set of activities to follow another set of activities, while a parallel relationship requires the two sets of activities to be taught within a specified period of time (e.g., within the same training session). The relationship between integrated sets of activities requires the two sets of activities to be systematically linked with explicit connections made between component skills. In contrast, the relationship between non-integrated sets of activities is discrete and kept separate from each other; that is, the two sets of activities are not linked. Naturally, there are various combinations of these four categories when integrating the sets of activities during instruction.

The order dimension for the conceptual framework combines these four categories for organizing the relationship between sets of activities to form six primary instructional sequences, as follows: (a) successive, (b) parallel, non-integrated, (c) parallel, integrated, (d) successive/parallel, non-integrated, (e) successive/ parallel, integrated, and (f) parallel, non-integrated/ successive/parallel, integrated. A generic description of these classifications for integrating sets of activities involving component skills is provided in Table 1. Because of space constraints, examples in which the description is applied to the integration of letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness instruction are provided for only two of the order sequences: parallel non-integrated and parallel integrated.

A parallel, non-integrated order refers to sets of activities that are taught within the same training session, but as discrete and separate activities in which no connection is made between the two sets of activities. In this order, phonological awareness and letter-sound correspondence are taught within the same training session, but as separate activities. No connection is developed between print and speech.

In a parallel non-integrated order children are taught the letter name and sound for m in the first activity during a lesson. In the second activity, children are taught to segment (i.e., say the individual sounds in the word map as /m/ /a/ /p/) and blend the individually pronounced sequences of phonemes (i.e., /m/ /a/ /p/ together to form the word map). The activities for letter-sound correspondences and the phonological awareness activities of blending and segmenting are taught within the same training session but separately. The activities for letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness activities of blending and segmenting were not integrated because no explicit connection was made between the print (i.e., m = /m/) during the blending and segmenting activities. Although the first sound of the words used in the blending and segmenting was /mmmm/, no explicit connections were made between the print (i.e., the letter m that represents letter-sound correspondence) and speech (i.e., the auditory blending and segmenting activities).

A parallel integrated order, on the other hand, refers to a sequence in which two sets of activities are taught within the same training session, and the sets of activities are integrated and linked systematically with each other to establish explicit connections between activities. For example, phonological awareness and letter-sound correspondence activities are taught within the same training session and are integrated systematically and linked with each other to establish explicit connections between the two sets of activities. An example of a parallel integrated order follows.

The letter name and sound for m is taught, and the auditory skills of blending and segmenting are taught within the same training session. The two sets of activities are integrated when the teacher gives each child a card with the letter m on it and two blank cards. While pointing to the m letter card, the teacher says, "The name of this letter is m. The sound for this letter is /mmmm/. I'm going to say the sounds in the word map." The teacher now moves the letter card for m as s/he says the first sound in map. As the teacher moves each blank card, s/he pronounces the middle and last sound in the word map. The teacher then points to the letter card for m and says, "/Mmmm/ /aaaa/ /p/ begins with the letter m. The first sound in /Mmmm/ /aaaa/ /p/ is /mmmm/." Explicit connections between the two sets of activities are made.

Time dimension. Time as a dimension of integration refers to the amount of actual time needed to master a skill or activity to a specified criterion level. Time needed for mastery may be based on either (a) a fixed-time criterion, or (b) a criterion level of performance. A fixed-time criterion involves a predetermined amount of time to perform a task to a particular criterion level. The assumption is that the amount of time allotted for mastery is sufficient for successfully completing the task at an acceptable level of mastery. For example, if phonological awareness skills are taught 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 3 weeks, before beginning instruction in letter-sound correspondences, a fixed-time criterion is employed. The predetermined number of total minutes is assumed to be sufficient for successfully completing the phonological awareness tasks to an acceptable level of mastery.

In contrast, a criterion level of performance sets a standard of performance for mastery. The amount of time it takes to master a task is determined by the performance of a person executing the task. Achievement of mastery occurs when a person meets the criterion set as the standard to indicate mastery. For example, the performance level criterion that indicates proficiency in phonemic segmentation is 35-45 phonemic segments per minute (Kaminski & Good, 1998). The amount of time it takes to reach mastery depends on a child's phonemic segmentation scores. Achievement of mastery in phonemic segmentation occurs when a child reaches 35-45 phonemic segments per minute, the predetermined criterion set as the standard to indicate mastery.

ANALYSIS OF KINDERGARTEN STUDIES USING THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

In this section, each of the four kindergarten studies that met the selection criteria (Davidson & Jenkins, 1994; Fox & Routh, 1984; O'Connor et al., 1995; Torgesen et al., 1992) will be analyzed using the conceptual framework on integration to identify and describe which instructional sequence it used to integrate letter-sounds with the phonological skills of segmenting and blending. Each analysis includes (a) a brief statement of the study's purpose to determine if it examined the effect of instructional sequence on word--reading performance for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness; and (b) a description of the instructional sequence that was used in the study.

O'Connor, Jenkins, and Slocum (1995)

This study investigated the amount and kind of phonological instruction necessary to produce levels of phonological awareness and letter knowledge comparable to those of good readers. The researchers employed a successive/parallel, non-integrated order of integrating letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness instruction with a fixed-time criterion for the two experimental treatment conditions. Specifically, O'Connor et al. taught only phonological awareness activities (successive) for 15 minutes, twice weekly for 4 weeks (fixed-time). After letter-sound correspondence instruction was introduced in Week 5 of the 10-week study, both phonological awareness activities and letter-sound correspondences were taught in the same training session (parallel), but separately (non-integrated), with no explicit connections developed between the two sets of activities. Beginning in Week 5, after 4 weeks of instruction in only phonological awareness tasks, the researchers added 3 minutes of instruction in letter-sound correspondences to each lesson for the two treatment conditions. However, instruction in the phonological activities of auditory segmenting and blending or a variety of phonological awareness tasks also continued at this time. The letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness activities were taught within the same training session, but as separate activities during the lessons. No explicit connections were made between print (i.e., the letters representing the letter-sound correspondence) and speech (i.e., the phonological awareness activities of blending and segmenting).

Fox and Routh (1984)

This study examined the effects of phonological awareness training in phonemic segmentation and phonemic blending on word reading. Fox and Routh employed a successive order dimension and a time criterion, but they did not integrate the phonological awareness activities of blending and segmenting and letter-sound correspondences activities during the intervention. For example, segmenting-blending or segmenting-only activities were taught fully and completely until children produced two correct responses on either the last segmenting activity for the segmenting-only group or on the last blending activity (i.e., the time criterion). When children met this criterion level of performance, the intervention ended. Although Fox and Routh included instruction in letter-sound correspondences (i.e., alphabetic understanding), the main intent of alphabetic instruction was "to facilitate performance on the final word learning task" given as a posttest (p. 1061).

Torgesen, Morgan, and Davis (1992)

This study examined the effects of phonological awareness instruction in phonemic segmenting and blending or blending-only on the development of phonological awareness skills and word learning ability. Students in the intervention groups were taught either blending-only or segmenting and then blending, whereas the control group was taught a variety of phonological awareness tasks. After completing instruction in either blending-only or segmenting-blending, or a variety of reading activities (the intervention phase), and prior to administration of the word reading posttest, all children were taught letter-sound correspondences during the last two weeks of the study.

Like Fox and Routh (1984), Torgesen et al. (1992) used a successive order to teach the phonological skills. They did not integrate phonological awareness activities and alphabetic skills during the intervention phase. The purpose of instruction in letter-sound correspondences was to prepare children for the post-intervention word reading tasks.

Davidson and Jenkins (1994)

This study investigated the effects of instruction in the phonological awareness tasks of segmenting or blending, or a combination of the two tasks on children's ability to transfer phonologic skills to an untaught phonological task, word reading, and spelling. Children were taught either segmenting-only, blending-only, or segmenting and blending for 10 minutes daily, for a minimum of 8 weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks. When children reached a criterion level of performance (i.e., less than 2 errors on the phonemic generalization tasks), the phonological awareness intervention phase ended. Instruction in letter-sound correspondences was initiated to prepare children for the final word reading tasks.

Like Fox and Routh (1984) and Torgesen et al. (1992), Davidson and Jenkins (1994) used a successive order in which one phonological awareness activity followed another. Phonological awareness activities and alphabetic skills were not integrated during the intervention. The sole purpose of the letter-sound correspondence instruction was to prepare children for the post-intervention word reading tasks.

Limitations of the Kindergarten Research Studies

Converging research suggests that integrating alphabetic skills, specifically letter-sound correspondences, and phonological awareness skills has a positive effect on word reading (e.g., Ball & Blachman, 1991; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1989, 1991; Vandervelden & Siegel, 1997). Despite this evidence, however, a search of the literature revealed that only four studies involving kindergarten children with low phonological awareness had evaluated children's performance on word reading tasks that required integration of the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting and alphabetic skills, specifically, letter-sound correspondences.

An analysis of these studies using the dimensions of the conceptual framework developed for this study, order and time, identified two important limitations. First, three studies used a successive order for teaching the phonological skills during the intervention, but instruction in letter-sound correspondences was provided only after children had attained a performance criterion in phonological awareness skills. Alphabetic instruction was not included in the intervention, and no integration of letter-sound correspondences and phonological blending and segmenting skills occurred.

Second, O'Connor et al. (1995) investigated how readily children transferred letter-sound correspondences to beginning word reading following explicit instruction in phonological awareness skills. To do so, the researchers used a successive/parallel, non-integrated order with a fixed-time dimension to integrate the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting and alphabetic skills, specifically, letter-sound correspondences during instruction. The phonological skills of blending and segmenting and letter sounds were taught in the same training period (i.e., parallel), but the skills were taught as discrete and separate activities (i.e., non-integrated).

The results of the analysis suggest that only two of the order sequences for integrating letter-sounds with phonological blending and segmenting were used in kindergarten intervention research, and that none of the kindergarten studies examined the effect that an instructional sequence for integrating alphabetic skills, specifically letter-sound correspondences, and phonological blending and segmenting had on word reading performance and rates of growth in word reading. Thus, it appears that the optimal sequence for integrating letter-sound correspondences and the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting to increase word reading performance for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness has not been investigated empirically, but remains a substantive and real "blank spot" (Wagner, 1993) in kindergarten research.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The research questions for this pilot study were developed based on (a) the analysis of kindergarten studies using the conceptual framework for integration, and Co) prior research evidence. First, as revealed by the analysis of the kindergarten studies, the successive and the successive, parallel non-integrated order sequences for integrating letter-sounds and the phonological skills of blending and segmenting had been used in previous kindergarten interventions. Second, research evidence suggests that it is important to establish links between letters and sounds in spoken words (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1989, 1991; Ehri & McCormick, 1998; Foorman et al., 1997; Simmons & Kameenui, 1998; Vandervelden & Siegel, 1997) for successful acquisition of beginning word reading. Establishing these links during instruction may best be achieved by developing lessons that use the two sequences in which phonological blending and segmenting and letter-sounds instruction were taught within the same training session (i.e., parallel) with the two component skills being explicitly linked together (i.e., integrated) or linked by being taught within the same training session but not integrated.

Thus, in this pilot study, two instructional sequences--parallel, integrated (PI) and parallel, non-integrated (PN-I)--were compared to determine which instructional sequence resulted in higher performance and rates of growth on word reading and phonological awareness for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness. Five research questions were formulated.

1. Does a parallel, integrated (PI) sequence of instruction result in higher word reading performance for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness skills than a parallel, non-integrated (PN-I) sequence of instruction?

2. Were the effects of instruction maintained for word reading performance after the intervention was discontinued?

3. Does a parallel, integrated (PI) sequence of instruction result in higher phonological awareness performance for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness skills than a parallel, non-integrated (PN-I) sequence of instruction?

4. Were the effects of instruction maintained for phonological awareness performance after the intervention was discontinued?

5. Does a parallel, integrated (PI) sequence of instruction result in higher rates of growth in word reading and phonological awareness for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness skills than a parallel, non-integrated (PN-I) sequence of instruction?

METHODOLOGY

The following sections describe the methods used to address the research questions, including design, setting and subjects, independent and dependent measures, procedures, and data analysis.

Design

A pretest-posttest, comparison group design with random assignment of participants to groups was used to examine the effects of two instructional sequences for integrating the teaching of letter-sound correspondences and the teaching of the phonological skills of blending and segmenting on word reading performance for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness.

The between-groups factor was instructional sequence with two levels: (a) parallel, integrated (PI) and (b) parallel, non-integrated (PN-I). The within-groups, repeated factor was time of test with two levels (a) posttest and (b) delayed posttest, or three levels (a) posttest, (b) delayed posttest, and (c) maintenance. In addition, formative data from bi-weekly progress monitoring probes were used to assess the rate of change in learning trajectory as defined by slope of performance for individuals and groups beyond that typical of pretest-posttest designs.

Setting

Five kindergarten classrooms in three elementary schools in a Pacific Northwest school district participated in this study. School A, with a total school population of 192 children, had a morning kindergarten session with 16 children and an afternoon session with 7 children. The same classroom teacher taught both sessions. School B served a total school population of 141 children with a morning and afternoon kindergarten session. The morning session was a kindergarten and first-grade combination classroom with 9 kindergarten children. The afternoon session was a kindergarten-only classroom with 19 children. Different classroom teachers taught the morning and afternoon kindergarten sessions. School C served a total school population of 129 children with one morning kindergarten session of 12 children. Schools A and B were classified as Title 1 schools. School C also had Title 1 standing prior to the school year during which the study took place, but did not qualify for the current academic year.

Children in Schools A and B attended half-day kindergarten (i.e., 2.5 hours per day) 5 days a week. Children in School C attended half-day kindergarten 4 days per week, Tuesday-Friday, for approximately 3 hours 10 minutes per day. Table 2 shows the number of children in each classroom and the number of treatment groups per classroom across schools.

Kindergarten classes in all three schools participated in music, physical education, library story time, and the SMART reading program, a volunteer reading-aloud program. Prior to intervention, the investigator met with the classroom kindergarten teachers to obtain information about each teacher's early literacy program. Each teacher was asked to describe the focus of her early literacy instruction and the types of activities she used during instruction. Furthermore, in mid-February, the investigator formally observed one early literacy lesson for each classroom kindergarten teacher to validate their self-report regarding kindergarten literacy instruction and activities. During the observation the investigator noted the instructional setting (i.e., large or small group) and the content of the lesson. Early literacy activities included story reading, letter name and sound instruction, and writing instruction. Story reading sessions used predictable books and big books that fit a particular theme to develop print awareness. Group discussions during story time were used to develop listening comprehension skills and to emphasize the importance of reading.

Participant Selection

In late November, a norm-referenced, individually administered, standardized test, the Word Identification Subtest of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised [WRMT-R] (1987), was administered to all children in the five kindergarten classrooms (n = 63) as a screening measure to identify nonreaders. A child was classified as a nonreader if s/he read 5 or fewer words on the WRMT-R. (The WRMT-R will be described fully in the dependent variables section.) Approximately 94% of the children (n = 59) met the nonreader criterion and, therefore, were eligible to participate in the study. Approximately 6% of the children (n = 4) read 9, 18, 22, and 50 words, respectively. These children were considered readers and were not eligible to participate in the study. Parental permission was obtained for 55 of the eligible children.

Assignment to Treatment Conditions

A four-step process was used to randomly assign children within each classroom to treatment conditions. First, pretests that assessed phonological awareness skills, language ability, and alphabetic skills were administered in mid-December. Second, children's scores on the Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) measure were ranked and ordered from highest to lowest score. Third, children were paired using the LNF rank order. Children with the two highest scores formed the first pair, children with next highest scores formed the second pair, and so on. Fourth, pairs of children were assigned randomly, one member of the pair to the parallel, integrated (PI) instructional sequence, the other to the parallel, non-integrated (PN-I) instructional sequence.

Participant Characteristics

Because converging research evidence suggested that children with low phonological awareness in kindergarten could be at risk of future reading disability, children's initial phonological awareness skills were of interest. An examination of children's performance on the Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) pretest measure revealed that approximately 65% (n = 36) of the eligible 55 children produced 10 or fewer phoneme segments per minute. According to Good, Simmons, and Smith (1998), scores within these ranges on the PSF in winter of the kindergarten year could signal difficulties in successful reading acquisition if not remediated. The remainder of the eligible children's pretest scores (n = 19) indicated that phonemic segmentation skills were emerging (i.e., between 11 and 34 phoneme segments per minute). These scores were considered adequate at this time of the kindergarten year. Since the only requirement for participation in the study was being a nonreader (i.e., reading 5 or fewer words correctly on the Word Identification Subtest of the WRMT-R), it was decided that all the eligible children in the kindergarten classrooms could benefit from the explicit phonemic segmentation instruction provided during this study.

INDEPENDENT VARIABLE: TREATMENT CONDITIONS

The purpose of this study was to determine which sequence of integrating alphabetic skills and phonological awareness best facilitates word reading performance for kindergarten children with low phonological awareness skills. Two instructional sequences (a) parallel, non-integrated (PN-I), and (b) parallel-integrated (PI) were employed as the independent variable.

Common Curriculum Features

Forty 15-minute instructional lessons that included instruction in letter names and letter-sound correspondences and the phonological awareness skills of sequential phoneme blending and segmentation were developed for each of the two instructional sequences. Each 15-minute instructional session contained 7.5 minutes of instruction that required print (i.e., letters) and 7.5 minutes of phonological awareness instruction in sequential phoneme blending and segmentation of two- and three-phoneme words that did not involve print (i.e., letters). All activities were scripted to ensure consistency of instructional language across groups.

Both instructional sequences provided clear, unambiguous strategies for teaching letter names and sounds, and phonological blending and segmenting skills. All lessons contained carefully sequenced examples, practice, corrective feedback, and review. Letter names and sounds were taught simultaneously during print activities, and the amount of time children were engaged in print activities was the same for both instructional groups. For activities involving no print (i.e., letters), the amount of time and the content of the sequential blending and segmenting activities were identical for both instructional groups.

During activities that involved print (i.e., letters), the letter name and the most common sound for each letter were taught simultaneously (e.g., "The name of this letter is--. The sound for this letter is /--/."). The name and sound of letters that appear most often in words (i.e., more useful letters) were introduced in the teaching cycle first. Letters with more auditorily similar (e.g., /d/ and /t/) or more visually similar (e.g., m and n) letter names and sounds were separated. For example, the letter name and sound for m were taught in Lesson 4, and the letter name and sound for the letter n were introduced in Lesson 24. A new letter name and its sound were introduced every 2 days and were reviewed systematically in the following lessons. Children in both treatment conditions were taught the letter names and sounds for 13 consonants (m, t, s, f, d, r, p, n l, c, b, g, h) and 4 vowels (a, i, o, u).

Within each 15-minute lesson, children in both treatment conditions were engaged in 7.5 minutes of phonological awareness instruction that taught sequential phoneme blending and segmentation and required no print (i.e., letters). In Lessons 1-20, the phoneme blending and segmentation skills were taught as separate activities but within the same lesson. During the phoneme blending activity the teacher said the individual sounds in a word slowly and then directed children to say the word "fast" (e.g., "I'll say the sounds in a word slowly, then you say it fast. Listen, /fffff/ /iiiii/ /zzzzz/. Say it fast. Fizz."). The teacher used the same word sets for the phoneme segmentation activity in which children were taught to say the sounds in each word slowly (e.g., "We're going to say the sounds in the word fizz slowly. /fffff/ /iiiii/ /zzzzz/. Say the sounds in the word fizz slowly.").

In Lesson 21, the phoneme blending and segmentation activities were combined. That is, children were taught to say the sounds in a word slowly, and then say the word "fast" within the same activity. The following example demonstrates this combined activity.
 Teacher: "Listen. /Sssss/ /aaaaa/ /mmmm/."
 Teacher: "Say it slowly."
 Children: "/Sssss/ /aaaaa/ /mmmm/."
 Teacher: "Say it fast."
 Children: "Sam."


Word sets for the phoneme blending and segmentation activities included 4-6 regular (i.e., each letter in a word represents its most common sound) words with the consonant-vowel (e.g., am) and/or consonant-vowel-consonant (e.g., mat) pattern. To avoid predictability, only 2 words with a phoneme in the same position (e.g., sad, sat) were included in each word set.

Several types of instructional materials were used to scaffold the complexity of a phoneme blending and segmentation task. Cards with a picture representation of the word were used whenever possible. When a word did not have a picture representation (e.g., am), a sentence that contained the target word was used during the blending and segmentation activities to provide a context for the word (e.g., I am hungry.). A plastic coiled spring (i.e., a "Slinky") was used to help children represent physically the process of (a) "stretching out" the sounds as a word was said slowly (i.e., segmented), and (b) "putting together" the sounds as a word was said the "fast way" (i.e., blended). During some activities children moved a blank card or chip onto a three-square template to represent each phoneme as it was said slowly (Ball & Blachman, 1991; O'Connor et al., 1995). All lessons included a game that reviewed and reinforced phoneme blending and segmentation skills.

Differences Between Treatment Conditions

The critical difference between treatment conditions occurred during the 7.5 minutes of each 15-minute lesson when children were engaged in activities that required print (i.e., letters). The two sequences differed on a single variable--the presence or absence of explicit connections between letter-sound correspondences and the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting during activities involving print. In the parallel integrated (PI) sequence, the alphabetic skills of letter naming and letter-sound correspondences and the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting were systematically and explicitly linked during instruction involving print (i.e., letters). In the parallel non-integrated (PN-I) sequence, letter names and letter-sound correspondences and the phonological blending and segmenting skills were taught as separate activities. No explicit connections were made between the alphabetic activities that taught letter names and letter-sound correspondences and the phonological blending and segmenting activities during instruction involving print.

Parallel integrated (PI) sequence. In the PI sequence, explicit connections were made between the sounds represented by the printed letters and the phonemes in the words that were taught during the phoneme blending and segmentation activities. The 7.5 minutes of instruction that involved print was divided into two activities. In the first, children were taught the names and sounds for letters (e. g., m = /m/). In the integration activity, the letter names and sounds were systematically integrated with words that children were taught during the phonological blending and segmenting activities. Specifically, letters were used to represent the phonemes in some words children were taught only to blend and segment during the 7.5 minutes of instruction in the phonological awareness activities that involved no print. Either a blank card or a letter was used to represent the phoneme in a word during the integration activity, determined by when a letter name and sound were introduced or reviewed in the lesson sequence. For example, when a letter's name and sound had been taught for two consecutive lessons during the first print activity, a blank card was used to represent the phoneme in the word during the integration activity. However, after a letter's name and sound had been taught explicitly in four consecutive lessons, a letter card was used to represent the phoneme in a word during the integration activity.

The following example illustrates how letters were used to represent the phonemes during an integration activity after the letter name and sound for the letter a was taught expli-citly during four consecutive lessons in the first print activity.

Children were given a 3 X 3 card with the letter a on it and two blank 3 X 3 cards. While pointing to the letter card for a, the teacher said, "The name of this letter is a. The sound for this letter is /aaaaa/. I'm going to say the sounds in the word mat." The teacher moved the blank card as she pronounced the first phoneme /mmmm/. The teacher likewise moved the letter card for a as she pronounced the /aaaaaa/ sound. Finally, the teacher moved a blank card as she pronounced the phoneme /t/ in the word mat. Next, she pointed to each card in the sequence and said, "The first sound in /mmmm/ /aaaaa/ /t/ is /mmmm/. The middle sound in /mmmm/ /aaaaa/ /t/ is /aaaaa/. The last sound in the word /mmmm/ /aaaaa/ /t/ is /t/." When a letter was used to represent all the phonemes in a word (i.e., after its letter name and sound had been taught explicitly in four consecutive lessons), the word was printed on a large card. The teacher directed children to "say the sounds in the word slowly" as she moved her finger under each letter on the word card. After children said the sounds for each letter slowly, the teacher told them to say the word "fast." Only regular words (i.e., each letter in a word represents its most common sound) with a consonant-vowel (e.g., am) and consonant-vowel-consonant (e.g., mat) pattern were used during the integration activity.

Parallel non-integrated (PN-I) sequence. In the PN-I sequence, the activities involving print and the phonological awareness activities of phoneme blending and segmenting that involved no print were taught within the same lesson (i.e., parallel) but as separate activities. No explicit connections were developed between the two sets of activities. Letter-sound correspondences and phonological blending and segmenting were not integrated. For example, during the 7.5 minutes of instruction involving no print (i.e., during the phoneme blending and segmenting activities), children were taught to blend and segment words containing the /m/ phoneme (e.g., mat). In the same lesson, children also were taught the letter name for m and the sound /m/ (e.g., "The name of this letter is m. The sound for this letter is /m/) during the 7.5 minutes of instruction involving print. However, no explicit connections were made between the sound for /m/ represented by the letter m and the /m/ phoneme in the words that were taught during the phonological blending and segmentation activities.

In Lessons 1-20, the 7.5 minutes of instruction involving print occurred during three separate activities: (a) at the beginning of the lesson, (b) between the phonological blending and segmenting activity, and (c) at the end of the lesson. In Lessons 21-40, the activities involving print were divided into two activity periods: (a) one at the beginning of the lesson, prior to the phonological blending and segmentation activity; and (b) one at the end of the lesson after the phonological blending and segmentation. Although both the print activities and the phonological blending and segmenting activities contained the /m/ phoneme, no connections were made between the alphabetic and the phonological blending and segmenting activities

IMPLEMENTATION PROCEDURES

Four project teachers hired specifically for the study taught the lessons for 10 weeks, 15 minutes per day, 4 days a week, to groups of 3-4 children. These teachers varied in levels of experience. Teachers 1 and 2 had completed a teacher education program but had no teaching experience except the practicum experiences in their training program. Teacher 3 had a degree but not in education, and Teacher 4 had over 20 years of teaching experience. All project teachers delivered instruction for both treatment conditions to control for teacher effects that could result from the varying degrees of teaching experience during implementation. Project teachers within each classroom also changed instructional groups at Lesson 21 to control for teacher effects within classrooms. See Table 3 for teachers in school, classroom, treatment condition, and lessons.

Treatment fidelity. To ensure integrity of treatment implementation, project teachers participated in six hours of training. Three hours of training on implementation of Lessons 1-20 occurred prior to beginning the study. Three additional hours of training was provided prior to implementation of the activities in Lessons 21-40. During training the investigator modeled lessons and provided opportunities for the teachers to practice delivering the lessons. Training sessions focused on helping teachers to develop a conceptual understanding of the critical instructional design features of the lessons and emphasized the similarities and the important differences in the lesson procedures between the two treatment conditions.

Throughout the study, the investigator conducted both full and partial lesson observations to ensure implementation fidelity. Specifically, during a full lesson observation, the investigator observed one teacher for the entire 15-minute lesson and used a checklist containing the critical lesson features to assess implementation fidelity. During a partial fidelity of implementation observation, the investigator used the scripted lesson to monitor lesson delivery and observed more than one teacher during a 15-minute lesson.

Fifty-four full lesson observations, representing approximately 27% of the total number of lessons taught during the intervention period, and 67 partial lesson observations, representing approximately 61% of the total number of lessons taught were conducted during the 10-week study. Following the observations, the investigator provided feedback, modeled activities, or offered additional training if necessary.

Inter-observer reliability. Results of the data collected from the full fidelity of implementation observations indicated that the percentage of correct implementation procedures for both treatment conditions ranged from 81 to 100% per lesson (M = 98%). No significant differences in fidelity of implementation for treatment conditions, t (52) = -1.25, p > .05, were found.

To establish inter-observer reliability, a second person observed 20 (approximately 37%) of the 54 lessons with the investigator. Reliability was calculated by dividing the total number of agreements by the number of agreements plus disagreements. Reliability scores on observations ranged from 87% to 100% agreement, with a mean inter-rater reliability of 96%.

DEPENDENT VARIABLES

The study included measures of (a) alphabetic knowledge, (b) phonological awareness, (c) language ability, and (d) rapid retrieval of information. Data were collected during six periods of the study: (a) screening, (b) pretest, (c) formative progress monitoring, (d) posttest, (e) delayed posttest, and (f) maintenance. Posttests were administered at the end of the week in which the study ended, and delayed posttests were administered approximately 10 instructional days later. Maintenance tests were administered 6 weeks after the study ended. Formative progress monitoring measures were administered during Weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8 of the study to assess growth on Phonemic Segmentation Fluency and Nonsense Word Fluency (DIBELS). The following sections describe the dependent variables. Table 4 summarizes the relation of the dependent measures to the research questions

Assessment of Alphabetic Skills

Four measures were used to assess alphabetic skills. Two subtests of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) (Good & Kaminski, 1998) were used to assess letter and word reading fluency. First, the Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) measure was administered to assess the accuracy and speed with which children named the letters of the alphabet. The ability to name letters of the alphabet rapidly and accurately has been identified as a significant predictor of future reading achievement (Kaminski & Good, 1996). Children who cannot meet the demands to quickly, accurately, and repeatedly access the symbol system (e.g., printed letters) often make limited progress in acquiring beginning word reading (e. g., Blachman, 1994; Manis, Seidenberg, & Doi, 1999).

Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) was used to measure children's ability to use letter-sound correspondences to read nonsense (e.g., rob) words. Nonsense word reading is the most rigorous test of alphabetic knowledge because correct responses rely primarily on a child's ability to use letter-sound correspondences to read the word correctly (Chard, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1998). In addition to the DIBELS fluency measures, the Word Identification subtest (Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised [WRMT-R], 1987) was used to evaluate children's decontextualized word identification skills. The WRMT-R subtest contains both phonetically regular (e.g., ten) and irregular (e.g., house) words.

Finally, an experimenter-developed Word Reading Generalization measure was administered to determine the extent to which the letter-sound correspondences that children were taught during the lessons in the absence of print generalized to word reading. The following sections describe the administration procedures for each assessment.

The Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) subtest of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) (Good & Kaminski, 1998). The LNF is an individually administered test that assesses children's ability to name upper- and lower-case letters of the alphabet rapidly and accurately. The child is expected to tell only the name of the letter, not whether it is capital or lower case. Letters are randomly arranged in 11 lines per 8-1/2 x 11 paper with 10 letters per line. The examiner instructs the child to "Tell me the names of as many letters as you can. When I say 'begin,' start here (point to first letter) and go across the page (point). Point to each letter and tell me the name of that letter. If you come to a letter you don't know, I'll tell it to you. Put your finger on the first letter. Ready, begin." The examiner tells the child to stop at the end of 1 minute. The score is the number of correct letter names stated per minute. Reliability and validity for LNF are high (.99) with kindergartners (Kaminski & Good, 1996). One-year predictive validity coefficients with reading criterion measures range from .59 to .90 (Kaminski & Good, 1996).

Nonsense Word Reading Fluency (NWF) subtest of Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) (Kaminski & Good, 1996). The NWF measure combines high-utility and high-frequency sounds to form the nonsense words (e.g., rom). Both accuracy and fluency are measured. The examiner presents each student with an 8-1/2 X 11 sheet with 80 two- and three-letter nonsense words (e.g., lut) and instructs the child to read either the sounds in the word or the whole word. The number of correct letter sounds produced within 1 minute is recorded. Even though the correct letter sounds per minute is reported, the scoring procedures allow the examiner to note whether the child has (a) produced only an individual letter sound in the word, (b) blended two sounds together, or (c) decoded the entire word. Because it is timed, the NWF test is an indicator of how automatically children can translate the print to sounds and sounds into words. Alternate-form reliability ranges from .67 to .87. The NWF correlation with the Woodcock Readiness Subtest (concurrent validity) ranges from .35 to .55.

Word Identification subtest of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised (WRMT-R) (1987). The WRMT-R Word Identification subtest is an in-dividually administered, norm-referenced test with alternate forms. Children are asked to orally pronounce "real words," which are arranged in order of graduated difficulty. The examiner points to the first word on the page and says, "What is this word?" If the child does not respond to the first word, the examiner scores the item as zero, tells the child the word and asks the child to repeat it. The examiner does not tell the child any other words during the remainder of the test. The test is discontinued after 6 consecutive incorrect responses. The time for administration is approximately 5-10 minutes. The WRMT-R subtest was standardized on 6,089 students in 60 geographically diverse communities.

Word Reading Generalization Test. This test consists of a list of 20 words that children in both treatment conditions were taught to blend and segment orally (i.e., with no print). Only words that (a) included letters that children were taught during the study, (b) had a consonant-vowel-consonant (e.g., mat) pattern, and (c) contained letters that represented the common sound for the letter were included. Words were arranged 5 words per line, 4 lines per 8-1/2 X 11 sheet of paper. During administration, the examiner placed the word list in front of the child and provided the following directions: "Read these words the best you can. Start here (examiner points to the first word) and go across the page (examiner moves finger across the words). Ready. Read these words." If a child hesitated for 5 seconds on a word or letter sound, the examiner pointed to the next word and said, "Try this word." The examiner did not provide the correct letter sound. When a child did not blend the sounds into word, the examiner provided the prompt, "What word?" This prompt was allowed twice during the assessment.

As a child read the words, the examiner (a) underlined any correct letter sounds a child produced in a word (e. g., /m/ /a//n/), and (b) indicated whether the child blended the sounds into the correct word. The examiner recorded the total time when the child had completed the task. Completion was defined as (a) when the child finished reading the last word or (b) when the child read 5 consecutive words incorrectly. The underlined words were counted and divided by the total time to obtain the correct number of words read per minute. The number of correct words read per minute was used as the indicator of children's ability to generalize letter-sound correspondences they had been taught in the absence of print to reading words. The individual letter sounds produced by the children were used only to provide diagnostic information about children's letter-sound knowledge.

Assessment of Phonological Awareness

The ability to access the sound structure of a word by segmenting it into its individual phonemes has been identified as a strong predictor of successful beginning reading acquisition and a necessary prerequisite for learning to read (e.g., Ball & Blachman, 1988, 1991; Kaminski & Good, 1996; Muter et al., 1997; National Reading Panel Report, 2000; O'Connor & Jenkins, 1999; Wagner, Torgesen et al., 1997; Yopp, 1988). Two reliable and valid instruments were used to assess children's ability to segment words.

Onset Recognition Fluency (OnRF) subtest of Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) (Kaminski & Good, 1996). The OnRF measure is individually administered and assesses the fluency of onset (i.e., the sounds in a word preceding the vowel) recognition and production. The examiner asks the child to identify which item in a group of four pictures begins with a specified sound or to produce the sound for a picture labeled by the examiner.

The following is an example of an onset-recognition task. The examiner points to each of four pictures and says, "This is a sink, a cat, gloves, and a hat. Which picture begins with/gl/?" The child can respond by pointing to the picture or saying the word gloves. Every fourth response requires the child to produce the sound for a picture labeled by the examiner. For example, the examiner says, "What sound does cat begin with?" The examiner records the child's responses and calculates the number of correct onsets per minute. Norms for the OnRF have been established for children in late preschool through the middle of kindergarten, and reliability ranges from .65 to .90 (Kaminski & Good, 1998). Concurrent validity with the DIBELS Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF) measure ranges from .44 to .60.

Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) subtest of Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) (Good & Kaminski, 1998). The PSF is a 1-minute timed measure in which the child is presented a word orally and asked to produce the individual sounds in the word. For example, the examiner asks the child to say the sounds in the word sat. The child should respond with the sounds, /s/ /a/ /t/. Directions for the PSF measure include a model of the task (e.g., "I am going to say a word. After I say it, you tell me all the sounds in the word. So, if I say, Sam, you would say /Sss/ /aaa/ /mmm/."). Following the model, the examiner asks the child to practice, "Tell me the sounds in mop." If a child responds incorrectly, the examiner provides corrective feedback, "The sounds in mop are /mmm/ /ooo/ /p/." The words are arranged in 12 lines, 2 words per line. The number of phonemes contained in each word determines the number of phonemes per line. For example, a line with the words prize and sighed has 7 phonemes per line, whereas a line with the words helped and stood contains 9 phonemes per line. The total number of phonemes per form ranges from 74 to 229. At the end of 1 minute the examiner stops presenting words and adds up the number of correctly identified phonemes to obtain the number of correct phoneme segments per minute.

The PSF provides a quick, reliable and valid indication of phonemic segmentation skills (Kaminski & Good, 1996) with alternate-form reliability of .88 for kindergartners, criterion-related validity ranges from .43 to .67, and predictive validity ranges from .60 to .91 (Johnson, 1996). There are 20 alternate forms of the PSF.

Assessment of Rapid Retrieval of Information

Rapid naming of objects has been identified as a significant predictor of reading achievement that appears to be independent of phonological awareness skills (e.g., Blachman, 1994; Torgesen et al., 1994; Wolf & Bowers, 1999). One measure of rapid naming, the Picture Naming Fluency (PNF), was administered at pretest to provide an index of group comparability on rapid naming tasks and to help understand students' response to instruction (Blachman, 1994; Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1994; Wolf & Bowers, 1999).

Picture Naming Fluency (PNF) (Kaminski, 1996). The PNF is an individually administered, 1-minute timed test that assesses a child's ability to rapidly name objects. A set of 42 drawings of objects (e.g., sheep, pin, teacher, and top) is arranged, 6 objects per line, 7 lines per 8-1/2 X 11 sheet of paper. The examiner asks the child to verbally identify each of the pictures as quickly as s/he can. When a child (a) names a picture incorrectly, (b) stops or struggles with a picture for 3 seconds, or omits a picture, it is counted as an error. The student is not penalized for imperfect pronunciation due to dialect, articulation, or second language. For example, if a child consistently says /t/ for /k/ and pronounces /tat/ for /cat/, he/she receives credit for correct picture naming. At the end of 1 minute the examiner records the number of correctly identified objects.

Assessment of Verbal Language Ability

Many intervention studies have used a measure of language ability as an index of general intelligence that may influence student response to instruction (e.g., Ball & Blachman, 1991; O'Connor et al., 1995, 1996). One measure of receptive language skills was administered at pretest to provide an indicator of group comparability on language ability and information for individual student profiles.

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R) (Dunn & Dunn, 1981). The PPVT-R is an individually administered test of receptive language that assesses a child's ability to comprehend single word meanings. The PPVT-R was administered at pretest only as a means to determine whether children in both treatment conditions had comparable language skills prior to beginning instruction. During administration, the examiner shows a child a set of four pictures and asks the child to. point to the picture that represents a verbally stated target word. Words on the PPVT-R are presented in order of graduated difficulty. Test administration is discontinued when a child misidentifies 6 of 8 consecutive items. The PPVT-R is a norm-referenced test. Retest and alternate form reliability scores range from .77 to .82. Estimated administration time is 10 minutes.

DATA ANALYSIS

Descriptive statistics were computed for the two instructional groups on all dependent variables at pretest, posttest, delayed posttest, and maintenance points in time. A 2 X 2 between-groups analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted on each pretest measure to assess the effect of attrition on group equivalence. No pretest differences were found, and group equivalence was not affected by attrition.

When assumptions were met (e.g., homogeneity of regression), each dependent variable was analyzed using a separate analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) to examine whether there were statistically significant differences between the two instructional groups on word reading and phonological awareness performance at posttest. When the analysis resulted in a significant interaction between the covariate and the intervention, the nature of the interaction was examined using a regression analysis.

An effect size (ES) was calculated using the posttest adjusted means and actual standard deviations for each dependent variable. The formula used to calculate effect size was Cohen's d, the difference in mean scores on posttest between the experimental and alternate-treatment comparison group divided by a pooled standard deviation for the treatment conditions (Cohen, 1988).

Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) procedures (Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992) were used to examine the relation between instructional group and children's learning trajectories on the Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) and Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) measures, respectively.

Finally, a chi-square analysis was used to examine whether there were statistically significant differences between the two instructional sequences in the number of children who reached proficiency in phonemic segmentation skills by posttest. A score of 35-45 phoneme segments per minute on the Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) represents proficient segmentation skill (Good & Kaminski, 1998). However, children had to maintain 35-45 segments per minute for two consecutive progress monitoring sessions (i.e., for 4 weeks) on the PSF to be considered proficient in phonemic segmentation skills.

RESULTS

Posttest Differences on Alphabetic Measures (Research Question #1)

A separate analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted to examine whether there were statistically significant posttest differences between the two instructional groups on the Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) and the Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF). No statistically significant differences were found for either dependent variable. The effect size for LNF was negligible (.06)--an effect size of .20 is considered small (Cohen, 1988). The effect size for NWF was moderate, .54 (Cohen, 1988).

Pearson correlation revealed that initial PSF scores were a significant predictor, F(1) = 12.515, p = .002, of posttest performance on the Word Identification measure, explaining approximately 37% of the variance in posttest scores for the PI group. However, initial PSF scores were not a significant predictor, F(1) = .498, p = .4894, of posttest performance on the Word Identification measure, explaining only 3% of the variance in posttest scores for the PN-I group. Results of a multiple-regression analysis revealed a statistically significant interaction, F(1, 39) = 5.471, p = .024, between instructional group and initial phonemic segmentation skills, indicating that performance on the Word Identification posttest was differentially affected by pretest phonemic segmentation skills. Children in the PI sequence with higher initial scores in phonemic segmentation read more words on the Word Identification posttest than children in the PN-I sequence with higher initial segmentation skills.

To examine the effect of instructional group on children's ability to generalize their letter-sound correspondences to word reading, the Word Reading Generalization posttest was used as the dependent variable and the Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) pretest score as the covariate. The correlation between pretest PSF scores and Word Reading Generalization posttest scores was .66. Results revealed a statistically significant difference between instructional groups, F(1, 40) = 6.540, p = .0146, after adjusting for initial differences in phonemic segmentation skills. The effect size for the Word Reading Generalization Test at posttest was moderate, .73; an effect size of .80 is considered high (Cohen, 1988). Figure 1 illustrates that several children with initially low phonemic segmentation skills in the PI sequence, including scores of 0 and 1, were able to use their letter-sound knowledge and blending and segmenting strategies to read words.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Posttest Differences on Phonological Measures

An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used to examine the effect of instructional group on children's ability to quickly recognize and produce the onset of a word (i.e., the sounds in a word preceding the vowel). No statistically significant differences were found between instructional groups on the OnRF. The effect size for OnRF was .30.

Pearson correlation revealed that initial Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) scores were a significant predictor, F(1) = 10.06, p = .005, of posttest performance on the Phonemic Segmentation Fluency measure, explaining 36% of the variance in posttest scores for the PN-I group. However, initial PSF scores were not a significant predictor, F(1) = 1.615, p > .05, for the PI group, explaining only 7% of the variance in posttest scores for the group. Results of the multiple-regression analysis revealed a statistically significant interaction between instructional groups and initial phonemic segmentation skills, F(1,39) = 4.844, p = .0337, indicating that performance on the Phonemic Segmentation Fluency posttest was differentially affected by pretest phonemic segmentation skills. Figure 2 illustrates the interaction between instructional group and pretest PSF skills. Children in the PI sequence with initially low PSF skills demonstrated posttest PSF skills comparable to those of children with emerging and adequate phonemic segmentation skills at pretest.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Posttest, Delayed Posttest, and Maintenance Performance on Alphabetic and Phonological Measures (Research Questions #2 and #4)

Separate two-way analyses of variances (ANOVAs) with one between-groups factor and one within-groups factor were conducted for each dependent variable to examine whether the effects of instruction on word reading and phonological awareness were maintained after the intervention. No statistically significant interaction was found between instructional group and time of test, nor were the main effects for instructional group or time of test for Letter Naming Fluency and Nonsense Word Fluency statistically significant. Further, no statistically significant interaction was found between instructional group and time of test, nor were the main effects for instructional group or time of test for Letter Naming Fluency and Nonsense Word Fluency statistically significant. No statistically significant interaction was found between instructional sequence and time of test for the Word Reading Generalization Test. However, statistically significant main effects were found for instructional sequence, F(1, 39) = 7.020, p = .0116, and time of test, F(1.39) = 9.027, p = .0046. The mean scores of the PI sequence were higher than those of the PN-I sequence at posttest and maintenance on the Word Reading Generalization Test.

The results of the 2 x 3 mixed-effects ANOVA for OnRF revealed no statistically significant interaction between instructional group and time of test, indicating that instructional group was not affected differentially by time of test. Similarly, the results of the 2 x 3 mixed-effects ANOVA for Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) revealed no statistically significant interaction between instructional group and time of test, indicating that instructional group was not differentially affected by time of test. However, statistically significant differences were found for instructional group and time of test favoring the PI group. Specifically, the mean scores of the PI group on the PSF measure were higher at posttest, delayed posttest, and maintenance than the scores of the PN-I sequence.

Effect of Instructional Sequence on Rate of Growth (Research Question #5)

To examine the relationship between instructional group and children's learning trajectories on the Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) and Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) measures, hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) procedures (Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992) were conducted on each measure at two levels. When instructional sequence was added to the Level 2 model, there were no reliable differences, t = .239, p > .05, between PI and PN-I groups in the predicted intercept on the NWF. Further, at posttest, the two groups were not significantly different from each other on the number of letter sounds produced per minute. However, the slopes (i.e., rate of change per 2 weeks of instruction) were significantly different on the NWF, t = 2.411, p = .021, favoring the PI group.

When instructional sequence was added to the Level 2 model for PSF, results indicated that there were no statistically significant differences, t = 1.746, p = .08, between the PI and PN-I groups for the predicted intercept. However, the rate of change in the learning trajectory was statistically significant, slope, t = 12.301, p = .000, for both instructional sequences, although there were no reliable differences between the PI and PN-I sequences, t = .860, p = .395.

In addition to rate of growth for Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF), the amount of time that was required to reach proficiency in phonemic segmentation skills was calculated. The PSF measure was administered bi-weekly (at Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) during the intervention and at posttest. Children were considered proficient in phonemic segmentation if they maintained the criterion of 35-45 phoneme segments per minute on the PSF measure for 2 consecutive data collection periods (i.e., for 4 weeks). The results of a chi-square analysis revealed statistically significant differences, chi-square (1, N = 43) = 4.08, p < .05, between instructional sequence groups for the number of children who attained this criterion by posttest. The number of children who reached proficiency was significantly higher for the PI group than for the PN-I group. (See Figure 3.)

DISCUSSION

The Effect of Instructional Sequence on Phonological Awareness Performance

Several major findings emerged when the results of Onset Recognition Fluency (OnRF) and Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) measures were examined. First, no reliable differences between PI and PN-I sequence were found on the OnRF posttest, suggesting that the PI and PN-I sequences were equally effective for teaching first sound skills and that both sequences provided enough instructional support to maintain first sound skills after intervention.

Second, only 7% of the differences in posttest PSF scores were explained by initial phonemic segmentation skill for children in the PI sequence. However, initial segmentation skill explained 36% of the posttest differences in the PN-I sequence. This pattern prompts an important conclusion about the effect of instructional sequence on phonemic segmentation fluency for kindergarten children with low segmentation skills in January. That is, they benefited from being in the PI sequence. The explicit connections made between letter sounds and phonological blending and segmenting in the PI sequence helped children who entered the study with low segmentation skills attain posttest PSF skills that were comparable to those of children who entered the study with adequate skills. In essence, the PI sequence was effective in "closing the gap" in phonemic segmentation between children with low segmentation skills and children with adequate skills by posttest.

A third major finding indicates that explicit instruction in letter sounds and phonological blending and segmenting works. Three different analyses were used to examine the effects of instructional sequence on phonemic segmentation skills for kindergartners. Although the results appear to be somewhat contradictory for determining which instructional sequence resulted in increased phonological awareness skills, it is important to consider the nature of the different statistical analyses used to answer the research question.

First, the chi-square analysis examined how many children in each instructional sequence reached proficient segmentation skills based on an established benchmark at posttest. Results indicated that more children reached proficiency on the PSF measure (i.e., attained 35-45 phoneme segments per minute for two consecutive progress monitoring sessions) in the PI sequence (n = 20) than in the PN-I sequence (n = 12) at posttest. According to Good and Kaminski (1998), children who are proficient (i.e., can produce 35-45 segments per minute) on the PSF in winter of kindergarten have a better chance of becoming successful readers in first grade.

Next, the results of a repeated-measures ANOVA showed that children in the PI sequence demonstrated higher skills in phonemic segmentation fluency at posttest, delayed posttest, and maintenance than children in the PN-I sequence. This finding suggests that not only was the PI sequence more effective than the PN-I sequence for increasing PSF skills, but its effects were strong enough for children to maintain gains in segmentation skills even after the intervention ended.

Finally, the results of the HLM procedure indicated that the rate of change in phonemic segmentation skills as defined by slope was statistically significant for both the PI and the PN-I sequence. The average rate of change in slope per week of instruction was 3.33 correct phonemes per minute, suggesting that children's ability to segment words into individual phonemes was increasing at a reasonably high rate as a result of the explicit instruction that both the PI and PN-I sequences provided. The results of the HLM also suggest that given a longer intervention (i.e., > 10 weeks) and the continued rate of growth, children in the PN-I sequence could also meet the proficiency benchmark criterion for PSF.

In summary, the findings of this pilot study suggest that both the PI and the PN-I sequence were effective in helping children develop an understanding of the sound structure of spoken words at the most difficult level--the phoneme. Although it is beyond the range of the data to "guarantee" that the kindergarten children in this study will become successful readers in first grade, the findings suggest that both instructional sequences were instrumental in helping children reach a critical phonemic segmentation goal by the end of the study. Although the PI sequence may have strengthened the reciprocal benefit of alphabetic instruction on phonological awareness skills, the most concise way to summarize the effect of instructional sequence on phonological awareness skills is to note that explicit instruction in alphabetic skills and phonological blending and segmenting works.

The Effect of Instructional Sequence on Word Reading Performance

Several major findings regarding the effect of instructional sequence on word reading performance also emerged from the analyses. First, the PI and PN-I sequences were equally effective in teaching children the letter names and sounds in isolation. These results may have occurred for two reasons. First, the instructional design similarities between the PI and PN-I sequences may have been sufficient for children to make comparable progress on isolated alphabetic skills such as letter naming fluency and letter-sound identification fluency. For example, both instructional sequences provided clear, unambiguous strategies for teaching letter names and sounds, and phonological blending and segmenting, and required children only to produce the letter names and or sounds in isolation. Second, the one critical difference between the PI and PN-I sequences--the presence or absence of instruction that made explicit connections between letter-sound correspondences and phonological blending and segmenting during print activities--may not have been necessary for children to show gains in fluent letter naming and letter-sound production.

Third, the PI sequence was reliably more effective in helping children apply their letter-sound knowledge to word reading regardless of initial phonemic segmentation skills. Thus, children in the PI sequence read significantly more words per minute on the Word Reading Generalization Test at posttest than the children in the PN-I sequence. Lack of group differences on the LNF and NWF at posttest suggests that the word reading skills demonstrated on the generalization test were attributable to the instructional sequence and not the result of differences in letter naming fluency and letter-sound fluency skills.

The results of this pilot study are not trivial, especially for children with low phonological awareness. The findings suggest that when the connections between letter-sound correspondences and phonological blending and segmenting skills were made explicit, children with low phonological awareness were able to successfully map the sounds to letters in a word and then blend the sounds together to read the word.

Finally, the results of the HLM analysis indicated that the PI sequence led to a higher rate of change in the growth trajectory for letter-sound fluency. This finding suggests that if the rate of change in letter-sound fluency continues, the difference between the PI and PN-I in letter-sound fluency would increase over time. It is important to note that the increased learning trajectory was the result of instruction after only 10 weeks. If the learning trajectory was to increase over time with additional instruction, the assumption is that instruction will be similar to that provided in the PI sequence during the 10-week intervention period.

This finding suggests two things. First, letter-sound fluency is not an end in itself. It is a critical component of early reading development that is required for efficient and accurate decoding, a reading skill that is highly correlated with comprehension (Stanovich, 1986). Perhaps extending the intervention to the end of the kindergarten year might result in fluency levels on letter sounds that could substantially increase success in first-grade reading for all children. Second, the explicit connections made between print and phonological blending and segmenting were more efficient in helping children acquire the alphabetic principle and learn to translate letters into sound rapidly. While efficiency of instruction is important for all kindergarten children, it is especially critical for children with low phonological awareness, who may be at risk of reading disability unless their learning trajectory changes in a more positive direction.

LIMITATIONS

Limitations in this study include time of year, representativeness of the two instructional sequences used, intensity of instruction, and small-group setting. First, the results are based on a winter term intervention in kindergarten. The alphabetic and phonological awareness skills that were taught in the two instructional sequences were chosen because they were ecologically valid for a January-through-March kindergarten intervention study. Second, the instructional sequences represent only two of many possible instructional sequences for integrating the alphabetic skills and phonological skills of blending and segmenting. Any combination of instructional sequences other than the PI and PN-I sequences may provide a very different pattern of results in terms of the effects of instructional sequence on reading performance in kindergarten. Third, the children received intensive instruction that included (a) small-group instruction, (b) carefully sequenced examples, (c) consistent instructional language, (d) many opportunities to respond, and (e) immediate feedback from teachers who were hired specifically for this study. For these reasons, the findings may not generalize to large-group instruction in the kindergarten classroom with different curricula and procedures.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE

The importance of an instructional sequence that systematically and explicitly links letter-sound correspondences and phonological blending and segmenting cannot be overemphasized. Based on the results of this pilot study, kindergarten teachers who have developed their own curriculum for teaching early literacy skills may need to consider including a 15-minute instructional period beginning in January that systematically and explicitly links letter-sound correspondence instruction with phonological blending and segmenting. Also, kindergarten teachers who are required to use a basal reading textbook to teach early literacy skills may need to carefully evaluate the content and sequencing of critical skills by asking the following questions and making instructional adjustments accordingly.

First, when is instruction in phonemic blending and segmenting taught? Instruction in these two component skills should begin early enough so that children can reach the 35-45 segments per minute benchmark by the end of kindergarten. Second, is instruction in letter sounds and phonemic blending and segmenting integrated systematically and taught explicitly? If they are not, the teacher must make the connections between the alphabetic skills and phonemic blending and segmenting skill activities explicit, choosing instructional language and examples carefully. Third, do kindergarten teachers need to determine if there is sufficient time allotted for instruction in these critical skills in the text? Kindergarten teachers are key people who can make explicit those processes that are essential to beginning reading acquisition but that are not typically attended to by kindergarten children with low phonological awareness--the connections between print and the sounds of spoken language. The greater effectiveness of the PI sequence in strengthening the word reading ability of children with low phonological awareness skills suggests that how kindergarten teachers teach the two component skills of letter sounds and phonological blending and segmenting is as important to children's progress in becoming readers as what they teach.

DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH

This pilot study has only begun to explore the effect of instructional sequence for integrating letter-sound correspondences with the phonological awareness skills of blending and segmenting on word reading and phonological awareness performance in kindergarten. The future direction for research includes replicating the findings of this study with different groups of kindergarten children and conducting a series of studies to extend the generalizability of the results.

The findings of this study offer evidence that the instructional sequence for integrating alphabetic and phonological skills affects reading and phonological awareness performance. However, more research is needed to examine whether the same pattern of results would occur if (a) children received instruction in a larger group, or (b) an educational assistant or classroom teacher taught the lessons. It is important to note that only two of the six instructional sequences that were identified as part of the conceptual framework were compared. An ambitious research agenda might also include systematically studying other combinations of instructional sequences and their effect on word reading performance and phonological awareness performance for kindergarten children

CONCLUSION

The PI sequence helped kindergarten children make sense of the alphabetic writing system when learning to read. The sequence made explicit those processes that are essential to beginning reading acquisition and the implicit strategies that good readers use to recognize sounds in words, relate sounds to letters, and blend sounds into words. It was more effective in strengthening early reading and phonological awareness skills.
Table 1
Summary of Order Dimensions for Conceptual Framework

Order Dimension Sequence of Activity Sets

Successive * Set "A" activities are taught
 fully and completely before Set "B"
 activities are introduced.

 * Set "B" activities are introduced
 only after all Set "A" activities
 have been taught.

Parallel, non-integrated * Set "A" and Set "B" activities
 are introduced and taught within
 the same training session but as
 discrete and separate activities.

Parallel, integrated * Set "A" and Set "B" activities
 are taught within the same training
 session, and the sets of activities
 are integrated and linked
 systematically to establish
 explicit connections between the
 sets of activities.

Successive/parallel, * Set "A" activities are taught
non-integrated fully and completely before Set "B"
 activities are introduced.

 * After Set "B" activities are
 introduced, Set "A" and Set "B"
 activities are taught within the
 same training session but as
 discrete and separate activities.

Successive/parallel, integrated * Set "A" activities are taught
 fully and completely before Set "B"
 activities are introduced.

 * After Set "B" activities are
 introduced, Set "A" and Set "B"
 activities are taught within the
 same training session and the sets
 of activities are integrated and
 linked systematically to establish
 explicit connections between the
 sets of activities.

Parallel,non-integrated/ * Set "A" and Set "B" activities
successive/parallel, integrated are taught within the same training
 session but as separate activities
 for a period of time.

 * After instruction in both Set "A"
 and Set "B" activities, the two
 sets of activities are integrated
 and linked systematically within
 the same training session to
 establish explicit connections
 between the two sets of activities.

Table 2
Number of Children in Each Classroom and Number of
Treatment Groups Per Classroom Across Schools

 School A School A School B
 Classroom Classroom Classroom
 1 2 3

PI
Sequence 7 (2) 3 (1) 2 (l)

PIN
Sequence 8 (2) 4 (1) 3 (1)

Total Number
of Children 15 (4) 7 (2) 5 (2)

 School B School C Total
 Classroom Classroom Number of
 4 5 Children

PI
Sequence 9 (2) 7 (2) 28 (28)

PIN
Sequence 8 (2) 4 (1) 27 (7)

Total Number
of Children 17 (14) 11 (3) 55 (15)

Note. The number in () represents the number of treatment groups.

Table 3
Teachers in School, Classroom, Treatment Condition, and Lessons

 School A School A School B
 Classroom 1 Classroom 2 Classroom 3

Lessons 1-20 21-4 1-20 21-40 1-20 21-40

Teacher 1 PI PNI PNI PI PI PNI
Teacher 2 PI PNI PI PNI PNI PI
Teacher 3 PNI PI -- -- -- --
Teacher 4 PNI PI -- -- -- --

 School B School C
 Classroom 4 Classroom 5

Lessons 1-20 21-40 1-20 21-40

Teacher l PNI PI PNI PI
Teacher 2 PNI PI PI PI
Teacher 3 PI PNI PI PNI
Teacher 4 PI PNI -- --

Note. Dashes indicate that teacher did not teach an
instructional group in the classroom.

PI = Parallel, integrated sequence; PN-I = Parallel,
non-integrated sequence.

Table 4
Relation of Measures to Research Questions

Research Question Measured By

1. Does a parallel, integrated Posttest, delayed post,
(PI) sequence of instruction maintenance measures of:
result in higher word reading * Letter Naming Fluency (LNF)
performance for kindergarten * Woodcock Reading Mastery
children with low phonological Test-Revised (WRMT-R)
awareness skills than a * Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF)
parallel, non-integrated (PN-I) * Word Reading Generalization
sequence of instruction? Test

2. Were the effects of Posttest, delayed post,
instruction maintained for word maintenance measures of:
reading performance after the * Letter Naming Fluency (LNF)
intervention was discontinued? * Woodcock Reading Mastery
 Test-Revised (WRMT-R)
 * Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF)
 * Word Reading Generalization
 Test

3. Does a parallel, integrated Posttest measures of:
(PI) sequence of instruction * Onset Recognition Fluency
result in higher phonological (OnRF)
awareness performance for * Phonemic Segmentation
kindergarten children with low Fluency (PSF)
phonological awareness skills
than a parallel, non-integrated
(PN-I) sequence of instruction?

4. Were the effects of Posttest, delayed post,
instruction maintained for maintenance measures of:
awareness performance after the * Onset Recognition Fluency
intervention was discontinued? (OnRF)
 * Phonemic Segmentation Fluency
 (PST)

Does a parallel, integrated (PI) Pretest, progressing monitoring,
sequence of instruction result and posttest measures of:
in higher rates of growth in * Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF)
word reading and phonological * Phonemic Segmentation Fluency
awareness for kindergarten (PSF)
children with low phonological
awareness skills than a parallel,
non-integrated (PN-I) sequence?

Figure 3 Number of children who reached proficiency at
posttest in each instructional group.

 Number of Children
 Reaching Proficiency

Data Collection Parallel, Parallel,
Periods integrated non-integrated

PM 1-2 0 0
PM 2-4 5 2
PM 3-6 9 5
PM 4-8 17 12
Post 12 12

Note. P.M. 1-2 = Progress monitoring #1 (Week 2);
P.M. 2-4 = Progress monitoring #2 (Week 4);
P.M. 3-6 = Progress monitoring #3 (Week 6);
P.M. 4-8 = Progress monitoring #4 (Week 8);
Post = Posttest.

Note: Table made from bar graph.


NOTE

The author would like to acknowledge the expert guidance and feedback of Edward J. Kameenui, Ph.D., University of Oregon, for his untiring support during the conceptualization and implementation of this dissertation study.

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Requests for reprints should be addressed to: Sr. Mary Karen Oudeans, School of Education, Silver Lake College, 2406 S. Alverno Rd., Manitowoc, WI 54220.

SISTER MARY KAREN OUDEANS, Ph.D., is chair, Department of Special Education, Silver Lake College, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
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