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Orientacion Educativa sobre el vocabulario y el acceso a la alfabetizacion. Evaluacion del impacto de un programa de intervencion en las familias y la escuela.

ORIENTACAO EDUCATIVA SOBRE O VOCABULARIO E O ACESSO A ALFABETIZACAO. AVALIACAO DO IMPACTO DE UM PROGRAMA DE INTERVENCAO NAS FAMILIAS E A ESCOLA

Educational orientation regarding vocabulary and literacy access. Evaluating the impact of an intervention program designed to promote early learning at home

Las investigaciones que se llevaron a cabo desde la decada del '60 pusieron de manifiesto que los ninos que aprenden a leer y escribir tempranamente (Durkin, 1966; Snow, 1983; Taylor, 1983; entre otros), tienen desde muy pequenos la oportunidad de participar de situaciones compartidas de lectura y escritura junto a adultos y ninos mayores. En estas situaciones, los ninos desarrollan una serie de conocimientos y habilidades que pueden ser considerados precursores de la alfabetizacion.

Tambien las investigaciones que abordan las dificultades en el aprendizaje de la lectura y la escritura en relacion con la problematica del fracaso escolar (Beals, 2001; Borzone & Rosemberg, 2000; Weizman & Snow, 2001) senalan que el exito o el "fracaso" en el aprendizaje de la lectura y la escritura estan asociados al desarrollo de esos precursores, que aparecen muy tempranamente, a partir de las interacciones con adultos alfabetizados del entorno cercano.

Estos conocimientos y habilidades, considerados criticos para la alfabetizacion, comprenden informacion especifica acerca del nombre de las letras y del establecimiento de correspondencias entre las grafias y los sonidos, asi como otros que responden a dominios conceptuales y linguisticos, que se interrelacionan tempranamente en el curso del desarrollo (Dickinson, McCabe & Essex 2006). En efecto, el lenguaje constituye un catalizador del cambio cognitivo en los primeros anos (Nelson, 1996; 2007). El lenguaje posee no solo funciones en la comunicacion humana. Las habilidades linguisticas permiten, ademas, representar y aproximarse heuristicamente al mundo. Por otra parte, como sostienen Dickinson, McCabe y Essex (2006) el desarrollo que alcance el lenguaje en las experiencias tempranas--aspectos fonologicos, lexicos, semanticos, sintacticos y pragmaticos--resulta de gran importancia porque los diversos aspectos que configuran la funcion comunicativa y representacional en la modalidad oral seran luego capitalizados para la alfabetizacion.

El vocabulario, aspecto subestimado hasta los ultimos anos (Biemiller, 2006), ha mostrado en investigaciones recientes un papel relevante en el aprendizaje de la lectura y de la escritura. La amplitud y la diversidad lexica estan asociadas con el desempeno en lectura y escritura en los primeros anos de la escuela primaria. En efecto, en algunos estudios se ha encontrado una correlacion fuerte entre vocabulario y reconocimiento de palabras (Snow, Tabors, Nicholson, & Kurland, 1995). Otros estudios senalan que la relacion entre estas variables es indirecta: la amplitud del vocabulario esta asociada a la calidad de la representacion fonologica de las palabras, que incide en el desarrollo de la conciencia fonologica y esta, a su vez, en el aprendizaje de la lectura y la escritura de palabras, objeto de la ensenanza en primer ano de la escuela primaria (Goswami, 2003).

Por otra parte, la amplitud del vocabulario tiene efectos directos y a largo plazo en tercer y cuarto grado de la escuela. El vocabulario que poseen los ninos en el jardin de infantes constituye un predictor significativo de la comprension lectora en los grados medios de la escuela primaria (Senechal, Oulette, & Rodney, 2006). La comprension de textos escritos depende en gran parte de las habilidades lexicas de los ninos para decodificar y leer fluidamente las palabras (Protopapas, Sideridis, Mouzaki, & Simos, 2007). Asimismo, un vocabulario amplio conlleva una base de conocimientos configurada por representaciones de significado flexibles, precisas, interrelacionadas y facilmente recuperables (Biemiller, 2006; Joshi, 2005; Perfetti, 2007).

Las diferencias entre los ninos en amplitud de vocabulario se gestan en los anos preescolares. En esta etapa el vocabulario de los ninos puede diferir en varios miles de palabras (Biemiller, 2006). Aun cuando puede haber diferencias individuales, estas diferencias parecen deberse mas a las oportunidades del contexto que a capacidades individuales (Biemiller, 2003). En este sentido, las investigaciones de Hart y Risley, (1995) y Weizman y Snow (2001) han mostrado que a los 4 anos el tamano del vocabulario de un nino, en gran medida, esta determinado por el numero total de palabras, por el numero de palabras diferentes y por la calidad del vocabulario abstracto, complejo y sofisticado que utilizan los padres (Weizman & Snow, 2001). Asimismo, las intervenciones de los adultos que aclaran, explican y expanden el significado de las palabras abstractas y complejas durante las conversaciones que mantienen con los ninos, tambien se encuentran asociadas con la posterior amplitud de vocabulario infantil (Weizman & Snow, 2001).

Consecuentemente las diferencias en el vocabulario infantil, atribuibles al lenguaje caracteristico de su entorno (input linguistico) no se distribuyen al azar: las diferencias entre grupos de distintos niveles socioeconomicos son muy marcadas.

Cuando esas diferencias que se observan al comienzo de la escolaridad no son atendidas, se amplian, de modo tal que los alumnos con un vocabulario reducido tienden a leer menos y aprenden una menor cantidad de palabras nuevas, mientras que los alumnos con un vocabulario amplio tienden a leer mas, incrementan su caudal lexico y mejoran su comprension (Joshi, 2005).

Los programas de alfabetizacion temprana que, desde la decada del '60, se implementan en Estados Unidos y otros paises para reducir los riesgos de fracaso en la alfabetizacion, asociados con las diferencias de experiencias entre los ninos producto de la pobreza y del estatus minoritario de grupo, contemplan la importancia de promover el aprendizaje de vocabulario. Las diferentes estrategias que emplean estos programas varian segun la edad de la poblacion destinataria, los servicios que ofrecen, el lugar de implementacion y las personas involucradas (Britto, Fuligni & Brooks-Gunn, 2006).

Uno de los modelos de intervencion, que incluye visitas a los hogares de los ninos, contempla la consecucion de acciones dirigidas a los padres, quienes son orientados por profesionales o paraprofesionales sobre las formas de contribuir a la alfabetizacion de sus hijos. Asi por ejemplo, el programa Early Access to Success in Education (Snow, Dickinson & Tabors, 1989-en curso) lleva a cabo talleres con los padres, actividades de alfabetizacion en el hogar y promueve la participacion de los padres en actividades escolares. Tambien los programas Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (Lombard, 1969-en curso) y Parents as Teachers y Nurse Home Visiting realizan acciones con las familias de los ninos.

Otros programas, en cambio, centran sus acciones unicamente en centros de educacion infantil. Dentro de esta modalidad se destaca el programa Abecedarian (Campbell & Ramey, 1994), destinado a ninos de hasta 3 anos de edad y focalizado en el desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo. Un tercer modelo de intervencion combina las dos estrategias anteriores: actividades en centros educativos y visitas periodicas a los hogares. Ejemplos de este modelo son los programas Head Start, Early Head Start, Parent-Child Development Centres.

Los programas difieren en las teorias en las que se basan y, consecuentemente, en la atencion y el enfasis que otorgan en sus estrategias a diversos componentes incluidos en la intervencion. Para algunos la conciencia fonologica y el conocimiento de las letras, poseen un alcance limitado en la alfabetizacion, y consecuentemente brindan mayor atencion al vocabulario y a otros componentes conceptuales y discursivos de mas amplio alcance. Sin embargo, como sostiene Snow (2006), la clave reside en superar las controversias y promover el aprendizaje de todos estos aspectos de modo integrado en actividades de lectura, escritura, conversaciones y juegos con el lenguaje que resulten significativas para el nino y en las que su participacion este adecuadamente guiada o andamiada por el adulto.

Atendiendo a estos planteos que surgen de las evaluaciones de los programas previos, se diseno en Argentina el Programa "Oscarcito. Promocion y desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo de ninos en contextos de pobreza" (1), como transferencia de resultados de investigaciones sobre diversos aspectos del desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo infantil (2). Las acciones del programa tienen por objeto optimizar las actividades habituales en los jardines de infantes y potenciar, particularmente a traves del trabajo con las familias, el impacto de las interacciones sobre el desarrollo infantil cognitivo y linguistico. Estas acciones, especialmente disenadas, recuperan los conocimientos y el lenguaje de los ninos y buscan, a partir de alli, ampliar su vocabulario, su conocimiento del mundo, sus estrategias discursivas, el aprendizaje de la variedad linguistica estandar y el ingreso al proceso de alfabetizacion.

Considerando los antecedentes mencionados, en el programa se enfatizan las acciones destinadas a promover el vocabulario y el aprendizaje de conceptos y de habilidades tempranas de escritura. Es por ello que el presente estudio tiene, precisamente, por objeto presentar los resultados de la evaluacion del impacto del programa en el aprendizaje de estos conocimientos en una muestra de ninos de 5 anos de la Provincia de Entre Rios, donde se esta implementando actualmente el programa (3).

Por medio de un diseno pre-test, post-test con grupo control se realizo la evaluacion del impacto del programa en el desarrollo infantil de habilidades de vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias conceptuales y habilidades tempranas de escritura.

Se comparo el desempeno de ninos que participaron de la implementacion del programa en la provincia de Entre Rios segun dos modalidades: a) una modalidad extensiva que implicaba la participacion de los ninos en las acciones desarrolladas por el programa en las salas de jardin de infantes; b) una modalidad intensiva que involucraba ademas la consecucion de acciones de alfabetizacion familiar en los hogares de los ninos. El desempeno de ambos grupos de ninos fue comparado con el desempeno registrado en un grupo control de ninos de la Provincia de Buenos Aires que no participaron de la implementacion del programa.

Metodo

Participantes

Participaron de la evaluacion tres grupos de ninos de 5 anos: el Grupo A, conformado por 214 ninos que participaron del programa de acuerdo con la modalidad intensiva; el Grupo B, integrado por 69 ninos que participaron del programa de acuerdo con la modalidad extensiva y el grupo C o grupo control, compuesto por 46 ninos que no participaron del programa.

Los tres grupos que participaron de la evaluacion asistian a salas de 5 anos de jardines de infantes, que atendian a ninos de nivel socio-economico bajo. Los criterios de inclusion fueron descriptos atendiendo al nivel de escolaridad de sus madres y la asistencia al jardin de infantes previa la implementacion del programa. Respecto del nivel de escolaridad de la madre, el 50% de las madres de los ninos del GC, el 76,6% de las madres de los ninos del GB y el 67,7% de las madres de los ninos del GA alcanzo como maximo nivel educativo la primaria completa. El 50% de las madres de los ninos del GC, el 21,2% de las madres de los ninos del GB y el 31,8% de las madres de los ninos del GA un nivel educativo de secundario completo o incompleto. Solo un 2% de las madres de los ninos del GB y un 0,5% de las madres de los ninos del GA lograron finalizar el nivel terciario. En cuanto a la asistencia previa al jardin de infantes, se encontraban en esa situacion el 78% de los ninos del GC, el 44,9% de los ninos del GB y el 59,7% de los ninos del GA.

Procedimiento

La modalidad extensiva. Implico la realizacion de las acciones del programa en todas las salas de 5 anos de los jardines de infantes de la provincia de Entre Rios (23.800 ninos y 1.270 docentes). Los equipos de gestion--directoras y supervisoras-capacitaron en servicio a las docentes que tenian a cargo en las acciones especificamente destinadas a potenciar las actividades de los jardines de infantes para la promocion del desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo de los ninos.

Para concretar la capacitacion de los docentes, los equipos de gestion habian recibido previamente una formacion especifica sobre el desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo infantil (4) y contaron, ademas, con distintos materiales:

1. Una serie de modulos en los que se encuentran los conceptos teoricos que sostienen el programa de acciones para la promocion linguistica y cognitiva. Los modulos tratan sobre los procesos de interaccion verbal, el desarrollo de vocabulario, el aprendizaje del discurso narrativo y del discurso expositivo, el aprendizaje de la escritura y la relacion entre el desarrollo del lenguaje y el juego (5).

2. Guias con propuestas didacticas para las salas de jardin de infantes. La estructura de las guias comprende diversos momentos que buscan recuperar la organizacion de las actividades cotidianas, planteando estrategias especificas para promover la comunicacion oral, el desarrollo de los precursores de la alfabetizacion y el desarrollo discursivo y conceptual de los ninos. Las guias para cada sala estan organizadas por temas y contextos diversos (por ejemplo, animales, piratas, el espacio, la contaminacion, entre muchos otros). Las guias se acompanan de propuestas de actividades destinadas a promover el desarrollo de conocimientos y habilidades relacionadas con la adquisicion del sistema de escritura.

La modalidad intensiva. Se llevo a cabo con una poblacion de 628 ninos en situacion de vulnerabilidad que asistia a jardines de infantes de los Departamentos de Concordia, Federacion y Chajari. Esta modalidad de implementacion del programa contempla, ademas de las acciones en las aulas (descriptas en el apartado anterior) acciones con las familias de los ninos en el marco de la articulacion con las instituciones de nivel inicial. Las acciones que involucran a las familias comprenden la consecucion de 12 talleres en los que se aborda la promocion del desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo infantil en el contexto de situaciones de lectura de cuentos. En los talleres se entregaron ejemplares de la serie de libros infantiles "En la casa de Oscarcito", elaborados por Rosemberg, Borzone y colaboradores, en el periodo 2005-2008 (6), y se ejemplificaron diferentes estrategias destinadas a la promocion del desarrollo linguistico cognitivo. Entre ellas la lectura de cuentos a los ninos, los juegos con rimas, versos y poesias para promover el desarrollo de la conciencia fonologica, necesaria para la escritura; la importancia de aprender palabras nuevas y variadas y la manera de ayudar a los ninos en este aprendizaje; las interacciones necesarias para andamiar el desarrollo discursivo de los ninos y, finalmente la importancia de los intercambios que favorecen la escritura del nombre propio y de otras palabras familiares.

Obtencion y analisis de informacion

Los ninos de los tres grupos fueron evaluados a principio y a fin de ano por personal especificamente entrenado, en entrevistas individuales durante la jornada escolar empleando las siguientes pruebas:

Prueba estandarizada de vocabulario receptivo. Prueba Ilustrada de Vocabulario Espanol (Adaptacion del Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. Dunn y Dunn, 1981).

Prueba de produccion de categorias conceptuales. En esta prueba (adaptada de Lucariello, Kyratzys, & Nelson, 1992) el nino tiene que proporcionar items conceptuales basicos correspondientes a diferentes categorias superordinadas familiares, que comprenden animales, comidas, muebles, herramientas y partes del cuerpo. Se analiza la cantidad de items conceptuales de nivel basico que el nino puede producir para cada categoria superordinada. Se consideran los casos en los que los ninos puede producir la palabra que representa el concepto--por ejemplo, serrucho--y tambien cuando se refieren al concepto sin recuperar el termino linguistico correspondiente--por ejemplo, para cortar madera--, aunque en este caso de modo diferencial, atribuyendo un puntaje menor.

Prueba de escritura. Se solicito a los ninos que escribiesen su nombre y otras cinco palabras familiares y simples (mama, papa, pato, oso, mesa). El puntaje se asigno considerando los siguientes criterios: escritura de la palabra completa, escritura con omision de alguna letra, escritura utilizando letras al azar, escritura de la letra inicial unicamente, o escritura sin utilizacion de letras (escrituras inventadas).

Analisis de los datos

Se realizo el analisis comparativo de los puntajes obtenidos por los ninos en la pruebas en el pre-test y en el post-test y se evaluo la significacion estadistica de estas diferencias por medio de la prueba ANOVA. Tambien, a traves de la misma prueba se evaluo si se observaban efectos del nivel de escolaridad de la madre y de la asistencia previa al jardin de infantes sobre el desempeno de los ninos.

Asimismo, se realizo un analisis de correlaciones con el fin de estudiar las asociaciones entre las pruebas evaluadas utilizando como estadistico la prueba r de Pearson. Se realizo un analisis de predictores sobre las pruebas evaluadas a principio y a fin de ano a traves de un analisis de regresion multiple.

Resultados

El impacto del programa de intervencion en el desempeno infantil en vocabulario, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura.

Los resultados del analisis del desempeno de los tres grupos de ninos en vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura en las pruebas administradas a principio y a fin de ano mostraron puntos de partida muy similares en el pre-test de los dos grupos de ninos que participaron del programa bajo ambas modalidades (intensiva Grupo A y extensiva Grupo B). Por su parte, el grupo control (Grupo C) tuvo un desempeno mas bajo en las tres pruebas evaluadas.

A fin de ano se observaron diferencias entre los dos grupos de ninos que participaron de la intervencion. En efecto, los ninos que participaron de la modalidad intensiva (Grupo A) alcanzaron, en el post-test, un mejor desempeno que los ninos que participaron de la modalidad extensiva en las tres pruebas consideradas. Por otra parte ambos grupos, a su vez, tuvieron un mejor desempeno que el grupo control. Estos resultados se presentan en las figuras 1, 2 y 3.

Para poder ponderar el impacto en el aprendizaje de las dos modalidades de Intervencion--la intensiva y la extensiva--es necesario considerar el incremento en el desempeno de cada uno de los dos grupos que participaron en el programa respecto de los del grupo control, entre el pre-test y el post-test. En la tabla 1 se compara ese incremento en todos los grupos en cada una de las variables consideradas--vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura--.

La participacion en la modalidad intensiva (ninos del Grupo A) trajo aparejado un mayor incremento en habilidades de vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura, respecto de la participacion en la modalidad extensiva (Grupo B). A su vez, ambos grupos mostraron un mayor incremento que el Grupo C.

Incremento en las habilidades de vocabulario receptivo. Alcanzaron significacion estadistica las diferencias entre los ninos del Grupo A y los ninos del Grupo Control ([F.sub.(1:236)] = 5, 616, p< .019 prueba: ANOVA de un factor). Pero no resultaron estadisticamente significativas entre los ninos del Grupo B y los del Grupo de Control y entre los Grupos A y B, (respectivamente, [F.sub.(1,90)] = 1,256, p< .265; [F.sub.(1:251)] = 1,463, p<. 228, Prueba: ANOVA de un factor).

Incremento en las habilidades para producir categorias conceptuales. La diferencia encontrada entre los ninos que participaron del programa en la modalidad intensiva y extensiva es estadisticamente significativa ([F.sub.(1,249)] = 1,880, p< .003, Prueba: ANOVA de un factor). Tambien son significativas las diferencias entre los incrementos de estos dos grupos que participaron de la intervencion y los del grupo control (respectivamente, [F.sub.(1234)] = 72,952, p< .001; F(1,90) = 33,816, p< .001, Prueba: ANOVA de un factor). Cabe senalar, como se observa claramente en la tabla 1, que practicamente no se registro un incremento en las habilidades de produccion de categorias conceptuales por parte del grupo de ninos que no participo de la intervencion.

Escritura. En relacion con esta variable, el incremento registrado entre el pre-test y el post-test en el grupo que participo del programa de acuerdo con la modalidad intensiva (Grupo A) es significativamente mayor que el registrado tanto en la modalidad extensiva (Grupo B) como en el grupo de control (Grupo C) (respectivamente, F(1,252) = 21,426, p< .001, Prueba: ANOVA de un factor; [F.sub.(1,238)] = 29,773 p< .001, Prueba: ANOVA de un factor). Pero la diferencias entre los incrementos registrados por el Grupo B y el Grupo Control no es estadisticamente significativa ([F.sub.(1,91)] = 1,462, p< .2336, Prueba: ANOVA de un factor).

En la figura 4 se presenta un analisis mas detallado de los logros observados a fin de ano en el desempeno en escritura de palabras por parte de los tres grupos de ninos.

Como puede observarse existen diferencias de porcentaje que alcanzan significacion estadistica en la escritura de la palabra completa u omitiendo una letra, entre los grupos que participaron en la modalidad intensiva (p <.000) y extensiva (p< 0.002) respecto del grupo control.

El desempeno de los ninos de los tres grupos respecto de la escritura puede interpretarse mas acabadamente atendiendo a los resultados que se presentan en la tabla 2 en la que se especifican los resultados cuando se trata de la escritura del nombre propio y de la escritura de otras palabras simples (oso, pato, mesa, mama, papa).

Como se observa en la tabla 2, un gran porcentaje de ninos de cada grupo podia escribir su propio nombre a fin de ano. Sin embargo, cuando se atiende al porcentaje de ninos que pueden escribir las otras palabras solicitadas, se observa que puede hacerlo la mayoria del grupo que participo de la modalidad intensiva (Grupo A), menos de la mitad del grupo que participo de la modalidad extensiva (Grupo B), y solo un porcentaje mas exiguo de los ninos del grupo de control (Grupo C). Las diferencias en el incremento de porcentajes en la escritura del nombre propio alcanza significacion estadistica entre los grupos A-C (z= 3,21,p < 0,05), B-C (z= 1,89,p< 0,05). En cuanto a la escritura de otras palabras, esas diferencias se observan entre los grupos A-B (z= 4,31,p < 0,000), A-C (z= 8,94, p< 0,000) y B-C (z = 3,06,p< 0,002).

El impacto de la escolaridad de la madre y de la asistencia previa al jardin de infantes en el desempeno de los ninos

Escolaridad materna. Para controlar que los cambios registrados a lo largo del ano en el desempeno de los ninos se debieron principalmente al efecto de la implementacion del programa de desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo y no reflejaban diferencias atribuibles a la incidencia de otras variables se realizaron otros analisis. Con ese proposito se evaluo el impacto de la escolaridad de la madre del nino y la asistencia previa al jardin de infantes en los puntajes en las pruebas de vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura. Para ello se realizo un analisis de varianza tomando como variables el nivel de escolaridad de la madre y los puntajes obtenidos en cada una de las pruebas consideradas. Los resultados mostraron diferencias significativas entre los puntajes a principio y a fin de ano (vocabulario receptivo: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 390.23, p < .001; produccion de categorias: [F.sub.(1,237)] = 247.79, p < .001; escritura: [F.sub.(1,240)] = 500.52, p < .001), pero no se detectaron efectos del nivel de escolaridad de la madre (vocabulario receptivo: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 2.55, p = .11; produccion de categorias: 237) = 0.33, p = .57; escritura: [F.sub.(1,240)] = 0.49, p = .49) ni tampoco efectos de interaccion (vocabulario receptivo: 239) = 0.12, p = .73; produccion de categorias: 237) = 3.64, p = .06; escritura: [F.sub.(1,240)] = 0.00, p = .97).

Asistencia previa a jardines de infantes. Se procedio del mismo modo respecto del posible efecto de la asistencia previa al jardin de infantes en los puntajes obtenidos en cada una de las pruebas evaluadas. Los resultados del analisis de varianza considerando conjuntamente la asistencia al jardin de infantes y el desempeno en la evaluacion a principio y a fin de ano, mostraron que hubo diferencias significativas entre los puntajes a principio y a fin de ano para cada una de las pruebas (vocabulario receptivo: 278) = 538.00, p < .001; produccion de categorias: 277) = 332.41, p < .001; escritura: [F.sub.(1,280)] = 575.43, p < .001), pero no se detectaron diferencias en los puntajes producto de la asistencia o no a un jardin de infantes (vocabulario receptivo: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 0.21, p = .65; produccion de categorias: [F.sub.(1,277)] = 0.04, p = .83; escritura: [F.sub.(1,280)] = 0.05, p = .82), ni tampoco efectos de interaccion (vocabulario receptivo: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 0.51, p = .48; produccion de categorias: F(i 277) = 1.08, p = .30; escritura: [F.sub.(1,280)] = 0.41, p = .52).

A partir de esos resultados es razonable atribuir el incremento observado en los grupos considerados a su participacion en el Programa implementado.

Las relaciones entre el desempeno en vocabulario, categorias conceptuales y aprendizaje de la escritura

Con el objetivo de estudiar las relaciones entre el desempeno en las pruebas de vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura a principio de ano se realizo un analisis de correlaciones cuyos resultados se presentan en la tabla 3.

Como puede observarse, a principio de ano la prueba de vocabulario receptivo presenta una correlacion de mediana intensidad, positiva y significativa con el puntaje en la prueba de produccion de categorias y una correlacion de mediana-baja intensidad, positiva y significativa con el puntaje de escritura. Del mismo modo, la prueba de produccion categorias conceptuales mostro una correlacion de mediana-baja intensidad, positiva y significativa con la prueba de escritura.

A fin de ano, tal como aparece en la tabla 4, que se presenta a continuacion, las correlaciones entre estas variables son mas elevadas.

Los resultados del analisis correlacional motivaron la realizacion de un analisis de regresion multiple destinado a testear la hipotesis de prediccion del desempeno de los ninos en vocabulario, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura evaluado a principio de ano respecto del desempeno en esas mismas variables a fin de ano.

Los resultados de ese analisis, que se presentan en la tabla 5, muestran que tanto las habilidades de los ninos en vocabulario receptivo como sus habilidades en produccion de categorias conceptuales predicen las habilidades de los ninos en vocabulario receptivo evaluado al finalizar el ano.

Por su parte, como se observa en la tabla 6, el analisis de regresiones mostro que las habilidades de produccion de categorias conceptuales a principio de ano y la prueba de escritura de principio de ano, predicen las habilidades de produccion de categorias conceptuales a fin de ano.

Por ultimo, las tres variables introducidas en el analisis de regresion, puntuaciones de vocabulario receptivo, puntuaciones de produccion de categorias y las puntuaciones de escritura a principio de ano, predicen el desempeno en escritura a fin de ano, tal como se observa en la tabla 7.

Discusion general

Los resultados del analisis realizado en este trabajo mostraron que el programa de desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo infantil trajo aparejado para los ninos que participaron en ambas modalidades un mayor incremento en sus habilidades de vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura respecto de los ninos del grupo control que no participaron del programa. Sin embargo, la participacion de los ninos en la modalidad intensiva implico un aumento mayor en todas las variables analizadas cuando se comparan los resultados obtenidos con los encontrados en la participacion en la modalidad extensiva.

Las diferencias entre los incrementos del Grupo A (modalidad intensiva) y respecto de los del Grupo C (control) en todas las pruebas evaluadas--vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias conceptuales y escritura--son significativas en terminos estadisticos. Las diferencias entre los incrementos registrados en el Grupo A (modalidad intensiva) y en el Grupo B (modalidad extensiva) son significativas en la prueba de produccion de categorias conceptuales y de escritura, pero no en vocabulario receptivo. Por su parte, las diferencias entre los incrementos del Grupo B (modalidad extensiva) y el Grupo C (grupo control, sin intervencion) son solo significativas en la variable produccion de categorias conceptuales.

En relacion con el desempeno de los ninos en la prueba de escritura, el analisis realizado mostro que los ninos que participaron del programa difieren de los ninos del grupo control fundamentalmente por sus mayores habilidades para escribir algunas palabras simples y familiares distintas de las de su propio nombre. La diferencia que se observa en el grupo de control entre el elevado porcentaje de ninos que puede escribir su nombre y el bajo porcentaje de ninos que puede escribir otras palabras, parece revelar el sesgo de la ensenanza en la escuela de Buenos Aires a la que asistian los ninos de este grupo. En efecto, la escritura del nombre propio constituye un objetivo de la sala de 5 anos, y para alcanzarlo las maestras parecen promover estrategias globales (escritura de memoria de la forma completa) en lugar de un trabajo analitico, que les permitiria desarrollar habilidades de conciencia fonologica y conocimiento de las correspondencias fonemas-grafemas para escribir otras palabras (Borzone & Signorini, 2002; Burgess, 2006; Snow, 2006).

En ambas modalidades de intervencion--intensiva y extensiva--, aunque se observan importantes diferencias entre ellas, un porcentaje mucho mas elevado de ninos (cerca del 70% en el grupo A y del 40% en el Grupo B) puede, en cambio, emplear estrategias analiticas, mostrando un mayor dominio del sistema de escritura que los ninos del grupo de control. De este modo, el presente estudio corrobora los resultados de las investigaciones cuasi experimentales que muestran que la ejercitacion, los juegos para desarrollar conciencia fonologica asi como el andamiaje del adulto que conduce a los ninos a atender a la estructura sonora del lenguaje en las situaciones de escritura compartida, promueve el desarrollo de la conciencia fonologica (Ehri & Roberts, 2006; Burgess, 2006).

En coincidencia con investigaciones realizadas en otras lenguas, especialmente en ingles, los resultados de este estudio muestran una estrecha relacion entre las habilidades de vocabulario, de produccion de categorias conceptuales y el desempeno temprano en la escritura. Asimismo, ponen en evidencia que las habilidades de vocabulario en un cierto momento del desarrollo (a comienzo de la sala de 5 anos) predicen la amplitud del vocabulario infantil al finalizar la sala de 5 anos y tambien sus habilidades de escritura (Goswami, 2003; Snow, Porche, Tabors, & Harris, 2007).

El incremento en el vocabulario y la produccion de categorias conceptuales registrado en los ninos que participaron del programa debe ponderarse considerando que el conocimiento del vocabulario contribuye a la ampliacion y a la estabilidad de las relaciones entre las representaciones ortograficas, fonologicas y semanticas. Estas relaciones facilitan el acceso al lexico durante el procesamiento de textos escritos (Perfetti, 2007), contribuyen al establecimiento de relaciones conceptuales entre los items lexicos y mejoran, de ese modo, la comprension de textos (Bast & Reitsma, 1998; Senechal, Oulette, & Rodney, 2006). El lexico puede, por ello, constituir un vinculo entre los dos tipos de niveles de habilidades de lectura--decodificacion y comprension--(Protopapas, Sideridis, Mouzaki, & Simos, 2007).

Las diferencias que se observan entre el desempeno de los ninos que participaron del programa solo en los jardines de infantes--modalidad extensiva--y el de los ninos que, en la modalidad intensiva, participaron tambien de situaciones sistematicas de alfabetizacion familiar corroboran los afirmaciones de Britto, Fuligni y Brooks-Gunn (2006) y de Snow (2006) respecto de la importancia de colaborar con las familias en la generacion de situaciones de lectura de cuentos y de actividades de alfabetizacion que promuevan el aprendizaje de los ninos. Estos resultados tambien proporcionan nuevas evidencias empiricas respecto de la importancia de la lectura de cuentos en los hogares para desarrollar el vocabulario, expandir y complejizar la base conceptual de los ninos y promover su ingreso temprano al proceso de alfabetizacion (Ninio & Bruner, 1978; Whitehurst & Valdez-Menchaca, 1992; Borzone, 2005).

El hecho de que no se observe un impacto significativo de la escolaridad de la madre en el desempeno de los ninos en las pruebas, tal como se habia observado en otras investigaciones realizadas en Estados Unidos (Weizman & Snow, 2001) debe interpretarse atendiendo a la conformacion de los grupos de ninos evaluados. La mayor parte de ellos provenia de familias en las que los adultos poseian un nivel bajo o basico de escolaridad (menos del 17 % de las madres de los ninos de los 3 grupos habian alcanzado o superado la educacion secundaria). En las investigaciones en las que se observa, en cambio, un efecto del nivel de escolaridad de las madres en el desempeno infantil, este se extiende al menos a los 12 anos de escolaridad (Weizman & Snow, 2001) o se trata de madres que poseen educacion terciaria o cuaternaria (Hoff, 2006).

Por otra parte, el hecho de que no se observe un impacto de la asistencia previa del nino al jardin de infantes a los 4 anos de edad sobre el desempeno de los ninos a los 5 anos puede ser solo interpretado como evidencia de la ausencia o insuficiencia de actividades que involucren a los ninos de manera frecuente y sistematica, especialmente disenadas para ensenarles vocabulario, ampliar su base de conceptos y promover el aprendizaje de habilidades tempranas de escritura.

La ausencia de impacto de estas dos variables, por una parte, y muy especialmente la comparacion entre el desempeno de los ninos que participaron del programa de intervencion y el grupo control, ponen de relieve la importancia de una intervencion planificada y sistematica para alcanzar logros observables en el desempeno de los ninos. Estos resultados conducen a resaltar la importancia de fortalecer las oportunidades de aprendizaje que brindan los contextos de ensenanza en el jardin de infantes particularmente en articulacion con las familias de los ninos.

Recibido:

Revision recibida:

Aceptado:

Referencias

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Biemiller, A. (2003). Using stories to promote vocabulary. Ponencia presentada en el Simposio "Fostering Early Narrative Competency: Innovations in Instruction", International Reading Association, Orlando, FL.

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Borzone, A. M. (2005). La lectura de cuentos en el jardin infantil: un medio para el desarrollo de estrategias cognitivas y linguisticas [Story book reading in the kindergarten: a mean to the development of linguistic and cognitive strategies]. Psykhe, 14, (1), 193-207.

Borzone, A. M., & Rosemberg, C. R. (2000). Leer y escribir entre dos culturas. El caso de las comunidades collas. Buenos Aires: Aique.

Borzone, A. M., & Signorini, A. (2002). El aprendizaje inicial de la lectura. Incidencia de las habilidades fonologicas, de la estructura de la lengua, de la consistencia de la ortografia y del metodo de ensenanza. Linguistica en el Aula, 5, 29-48.

Britto, P. R.; Fuligni, A .S., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2006). Reading Ahead: Effective interventions for young children's early literacy development. En D.K. Dickinson & S.B. Neuman (Eds.), Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Vol. 2 (pp. 311-332). New York: The Guilford Press.

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Protopapas, A., Sideridis, G. D., Mouzaki, A., & Simos, P. G. (2007). Development of lexical mediation in the relation between reading comprehension and Word reading skills in Greek. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11 (3), 165-197.

Rosemberg, C. R. et al. (2005, 2008). En la Casa de Oscarcito. Serie de libros infantiles. Buenos Aires: Fundacion Care, Fundacion Arcor.

Senechal, M., Oulette, G., & Rodney, D. (2006). The misunderstood giant: On the predictive role of early vocabulary to future reading. En D.K. Dickinson & S.B. Neuman (Eds.), Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Vol. 2 (pp. 173-182). New York: The Guilford Press.

Snow, C. E. (1983). Literacy and language: relationships during the preschool years. Harvard Educational Review, 53, 2, 165-189.

Snow, C. E. (2006). What counts as literacy in early childhood? En K. McCartney & D. Phillips (Eds.), Handbook of early child development (pp. 274-294). Oxford: Blackwell.

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Taylor, D. (1983). Family Literacy. Exeter, NH: Heineman.

Weizman, Z. O., & Snow, C. (2001). Lexical input as related to children's vocabulary acquisition: Effects of sophisticated exposure and support for meaning. Developmental Psychology, 17, 265-279.

Wells, C. G. (1985). Language development in the preschool years. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Whitehurst, G. J., & M. C. Valdez-Menchaca (1992). Accelerating Language Development through Picture Book Reading: A Systematic Extensions to Mexican Day Care. Developmental Psychology, 28, 6, 1106-1114.

(1) C. R. Rosemberg y A. M. Borzone (2004--en curso) con el apoyo y el financiamiento de las fundaciones Care de Alemania y Arcor de Argentina.

(2) proyecto "El desarrollo linguistico y cognitivo en la primera infancia. Un estudio psicolinguistico y sociocultural en barrios urbano marginales de Buenos Aires" (CONICET; SECyT--Direccon: A. M. Borzone, Codireccion: C. R. Rosemberg).

(3) Programa de Promocion del Desarrollo Linguistico y Cognitivo para los Jardines de Infantes de la Provincia de Entre Rios (Realizado en el marco de un convenio entre la Fundacion Arcor y el Consejo General de Educacion de la Provincia de Entre Rios, Direccion: C. Rosemberg, Codireccion: A. M. Borzone--CONICET).

(4) La formacion y preparacion teorica metodologica de los de equipos gestion se llevo a cabo en la ciudad de Parana (Entre Rios) durante el ano 2009 a traves de un ciclo de 6 seminarios y 2 talleres, con el apoyo de la Fundacion Arcor.

(5) Los modulos se encuentran publicados en: https://www.fundacionarcor.org/esp_biblioteca.asp

(6) Estos libros se editan y entregan a las familias de los ninos con el apoyo y el financiamiento de la Fundacion Arcor.

Celia Renata Rosemberg, Investigadora independiente del CONICET. Dra. en Educacion. Profesora de la Facultad de Fisolofia y Letras, UBA. E-mail: crrosem@hotmail.com.

Alejandra Stein, Becaria posdoctoral CONICET. Dra. en Ciencias del Lenguaje. Docente de la Facultad de Fisolofia y Letras, UBA.

Alejandra Menti, Becaria posdoctoral CONICET. Dra. en Ciencias del Lenguaje. Docente de la Facultad de Fisolofia y Letras, UBA.
Tabla 1 Comparacion de los incrementos en los puntajes obtenidos
en las pruebas de vocabulario receptivo, produccion de categorias
conceptuales y escritura en las dos modalidades de implementacion
(intensiva, extensiva) y el grupo control.

Variables               Intensiva   Extensiva   Control
                         Grupo A     Grupo B    Grupo C

Vocabulario Receptivo     16,05       14,15      10,56

Produccion                44,88       31,76      0,36
de categorias
conceptuales

Escritura                 12,01       7,67        6,3

Tabla 2 Porcentaje de ninos que escriben palabras de modo
convencional, de forma completa u omitiendo alguna letra
en el pre y post test

Variables        Modalidad intensiva Grupo A

                 Pre.      Post.     Incre.

Nombre propio    33,8%     91,3%     57,5%
Otras palabras    7,7%     69,46%    61,76%

Variables        Modalidad extensiva Grupo B

                 Pre.      Post.     Incre.

Nombre propio    27,5%     76,8%     49,3%
Otras palabras    6,32%    39,78%    33,38%

Variables              Control Grupo C

                 Pre.      Post.     Incre.

Nombre propio    54,3%     86,3%     32%
Otras palabras    1,74%    12,72%    10,98%

Tabla 3 Correlacion entre las pruebas a principio de ano

                                       Produccion
Variables                    Peabody   categorias     Escritura
                                       conceptuales
Peabody                      1
P. categorias conceptuales   .49 **    1
Escritura                    .36 **    .33 **         1

** p< .001

Tabla 4 Correlacion entre las pruebas a fin de ano

                                        Produccion
                                        categorias
Variables                    Peabody   conceptuales   Escritura

Peabody                         1
P. categorias conceptuales   .51 **         1
Escritura                    .46 **       .50 **          1

** p< .001

Tabla 5 Betas estandarizados del analisis de regresion sobre
las puntuaciones de la prueba de vocabulario Peabody a fin de ano

                                Peabody a fin de ano
Predictores
B
Peabody a principio de ano             .67 **
Categorias a principio de ano          .15 **
Escritura a principio de ano           .04

[R.sup.2] = .59, (p < .001)

** p< .001

Tabla 6 Betas estandarizados del analisis de regresion sobre las
puntuaciones de la prueba de produccion de categorias conceptuales
a fin de ano

Predictores                     Produccion de categorias
                                conceptuales a fin de ano

                                           B

Peabody a principio de ano                .07
Categorias a principio de ano             .49 **
Escritura a principio de ano              .11 *

[R.sup.2] = .32, (p < .001)
** p < .001, * p < .05

Tabla 7 Betas estandarizados del analisis de regresion sobre las
puntuaciones de la prueba de escritura a fin de ano

                                Escritura a fin de ano

Predictores                               B

Peabody a principio de ano              .22 **
Categorias a principio de ano           .12 *
Escritura a principio de ano            .35 **

[R.sup.2] = .28, (p < .001)

** p< .001, * p < .05

Figura 1 Puntajes de vocabulario receptivo (pre-test y post-test)
en los ninos que participaron de la implementacion en la modalidad
intensiva, extensiva y el grupo control.

                 Pre-test     Post-test

Control          24,6         35,3

Modalidad        28           42,1
 extensiva

Modalidad        29,2         45,2
 intensiva

Nota: Tabla derivada de grafico de barra.

Figura 2 Puntajes de produccion de categorias conceptuales
(pre-test y post-test) en los ninos que participaron de la
implementacion en la modalidad intensiva, extensiva y el grupo
control.

                 Pre-test     Post-test

Control          31,9         32,3

Modalidad        50,6         82,3
 extensiva

Modalidad        51,3         96,2
 intensiva

Nota: Tabla derivada de grafico de barra.

Figura 3 Puntajes de escritura (pre-test y post-test) en los ninos
que participaron de la implementacion en la modalidad intensiva,
extensiva y el grupo control.

                 Pre-test     Post-test

Control          3,61         9,91

Modalidad        5,19         12,86
 extensiva

Modalidad        5,81         17,82
 intensiva

Nota: Tabla derivada de grafico de barra.

Figura 4 Habilidades de escritura de palabras a fin de ano
(Post-test) en los ninos que participaron de la implementacion en
las modalidades intensiva y extensiva y el grupo control.

                  No escriben     Escriben letras     Escriben la
                                  al azar o la        palabra
                                  letra inicial       completa u
                                  letra               omiten una

Grupo control     17%             58%                 25%

Modalidad          8%             46%                 46%
 extensiva

Modalidad          2%             26%                 72%
 intensiva

Nota: Tabla derivada de grafico de barra.


Since the 1960s, studies have been carried out in homes in which children learn to read and write at an early age (Durkin, 1966; Snow, 1983; Taylor, 1983; among others). The aforementioned studies have shown that starting at an early age, the children in these homes have the opportunity to participate in shared reading and writing situations together with adults and older children. In these situations the children develop a series of skills and abilities that can be considered precursors to literacy.

Studies that address reading and writing learning difficulties in relation to the issue of school failure (Beals, 2001; Borzone & Rosemberg, 2000; Weizman & Snow, 2001) indicate that success or "failure" in terms of reading and writing are associated with the skills and abilities that the child develops at a very young age as part of their interactions with the literate adults in their immediate environment.

These skills and abilities, which are considered critical to literacy, include specific information about the names of the letters, the establishment of correlations between the written symbol and the sound, as well as a series of conceptual and linguistic skills and abilities that interact in early development (Dickinson, McCabe & Essex 2006). In effect, language functions as a catalyst for cognitive change in the first years of one's life (Nelson, 1996; 2007). Language does not only play a role in human communication; linguistic abilities also allow one to represent and heuristically approach the world. Moreover, Dickinson, McCabe and Essex claim that the reach of language development (the phonological, lexical, semantic, syntactic and pragmatic aspects) in early experiences is very important because the diverse aspects that comprise the communicative and representational function of oral language will later become an integral support for literacy.

Among these skills and abilities, vocabulary, an aspect that was underestimated until just a few years ago (Biemiller, 2006), has proven to have a role relevant to learning to read and write, according to recent studies. The diversity and extent of a child's vocabulary are associated with their reading and writing performance in the first few years of primary school. In fact, some studies have found a strong correlation between vocabulary and word recognition (Snow, Tabors, Nicholson & Kurland, 1995). Other studies show that the relationship between these variables is indirect: the extent of one's vocabulary is associated with the quality of the phonological representation of words, which affects the development of phonological awareness. At the same time, vocabulary is an important learning objective in students' first year at primary school, as it is an essential part of learning to read and write words (Goswami, 2003).

Moreover, the extent of one's vocabulary has long-term and direct effects in the third and fourth grades at school. A child's vocabulary knowledge in preschool is a significant predictor of their reading comprehension level in the middle years of primary school (Senechal, Oulette & Rodney, 2006). Reading comprehension depends in large part on the child's lexical abilities to decode and fluently read the words (Protopapas, Sideridis, Mouzaki & Simos, 2007). In addition, an extensive vocabulary implies a knowledge base consisting of flexible, precise, interrelated, and easily retrievable representations of meaning (Biemiller, 2006; Joshi, 2005; Perfetti, 2007).

Differences between children in terms of breadth of vocabulary develop during the preschool years. At this stage, the children's vocabulary can differ by several thousands of words (Biemiller, 2006). Even though there may be individual differences, these differences seem to be more due to the opportunities of context than to individual abilities (Biemiller, 2003). Along this line, studies by Hart and Risley (1995), and Weizman and Snow (2001), have shown that at 4 years old, the size of a child's vocabulary is determined, in great part, by the number of different words that their parents use and by the total number of words that they use, as well as by the parent's use of sophisticated, abstract, or complex vocabulary (Weizman & Snow, 2001). In addition, adult interventions that clarify, explain, and expand upon the meaning of complex and abstract words used in conversations are also associated with the subsequent range of children's vocabulary (Weizman & Snow, 2001).

The differences between children attributable to the language that they hear in their environment (linguistic input): the quantity and diversity of words, as well as the scaffolding coming from adult interventions are not randomly distributed: differences between those from different socioeconomic levels are particularly striking. If the differences that are observed at the beginning of the child's schooling are not attended to they will only become more pronounced: students with a reduced vocabulary tend to read less and learn a smaller quantity of new words, while students with an extensive vocabulary tend to read more, therefore improving their comprehension (Joshi, 2005).

Early literacy programs that have been implemented in the United States and other countries since the 1960s have aimed to reduce the risks of literacy failure associated with experiential differences between children (such as poverty or minority group status), taking the importance of promoting vocabulary learning into account. The different strategies employed by these programs vary based on the age of their target population, the services that they offer, the program implementation site, and the people involved (Britto, Fuligni & Brooks-Gunn, 2006; Snow, 2006).

Intervention models that include home visits also incorporate actions directed at the parents, who are taught by professionals or paraprofessionals about the different ways that they can contribute to their children's literacy. For example, the Early Access to Success in Education program (Snow, Dickinson & Tabors, 1989-present) carries out workshops with parents, literacy activities in the home, and promotes parental involvement in school activities. The Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters program (Lombard, 1969-present) and Parents as Teachers and Nurse Home Visiting programs also conduct activities with the children's families.

On the other hand, several programs focus their activities only on preschool centers. The Abecedarian (Campbell & Ramey, 1994) program stands out among those that follow this condition. This program is directed toward children up to three years of age and focuses on their linguistic and cognitive development. A third intervention model combines the two previous strategies: activities in educational centers and periodic home visits. Examples of this model are the Head Start, Early Head Start, Parent-Child Development Centers programs.

Programs differ in terms of the theories that they are based upon, and consequently in terms of the emphasis that their strategies place on different components such as phonetic awareness and letter knowledge, which have a more limited impact on literacy, in comparison to the amount of attention that is paid to vocabulary and other conceptual and discursive components that have a more significant impact on literacy. As Snow (2006) asserts, the key is to overcome controversies and to promote the learning of all of these aspects in an integrated manner. This can be done through reading and writing activities, conversations, and language games that are meaningful to the child and in which the child's participation is properly guided or scaffolded by the adult.

In response to the aforementioned programs' evaluations, the "Oscarcito: Linguistic and Cognitive Promotion and Development for Low-Income Children" (1) program was created in Argentina. The program was designed to transfer research findings on various aspects of child cognitive and language development (2). The program aims to optimize habitual activities taking place in preschools and use the work with the families to maximize the impact that interactions have on the children's linguistic and cognitive development. These specially designed activities retrieve the children's knowledge and language abilities and seek to increase their vocabulary, their knowledge of the world, their discourse strategies, their learning of the standard linguistic variation, and to facilitate their entrance into the literacy process.

The program takes the results of the previously mentioned studies into account and therefore places special emphasis on actions intended to promote vocabulary and the teaching of early writing concepts and skills. Consequently, the present study aims to report the evaluation results of the program's impact on children's ability to learn these skills and abilities. The sample group is comprised of 5-year-old children from the Entre Rios province of Argentina, where the program is currently being implemented (3).

Methodology

Subjects

Three groups of children participated in the evaluation: Group A was comprised of 214 children who participated in the intensive condition of the program, Group B contained 69 children who participated in the extensive program condition, and Group C was a control group composed of 46 children who attended two separate preschool classes in Buenos Aires province where the linguistic and cognitive development program was not implemented.

The children in all three groups evaluated were students in the 5-year-old classrooms at preschools whose populations were comprised of socio-economically disadvantaged children. The children's descriptions take their mother's education level and the child's previous preschool attendance into account. With respect to the mother's level of education, 50% of the children's mothers in the control group had completed primary school. 76.6% of the children's mothers in the extensive group and 67.7% of the children's mothers in the intensive group were able to reach this level. 50% of the mothers in the control group, 21.2% of the mothers in the extensive group, and 31.8% of the mothers in the intensive group had graduated from or attended high school. Only 2% of the mothers included in the extensive condition and 0.5% of the mothers in the intensive condition had completed university. 78% of children in the control group had previously attended preschool, while 44.9% of the children in the extensive condition, and 59.7% of those in the intensive condition had previously attended.

Procedure

Extensive implementation included carrying out program activities in every 5-year-old preschool classroom in the province (impacting 23,8000 children and 1,270 teachers). Management teams of school principals and supervisors trained the teachers in their charge on actions specifically designed to strengthen preschool activities that promote children's linguistic and cognitive development.

In order to be able to properly conduct teacher training, management teams had previously received special training on linguistic and cognitive development in children (4). Management teams also used:

1. A series of modules that explain the theoretical concepts underpinning program actions designed to promote child linguistic and cognitive development. Modules discuss the processes of verbal interaction, vocabulary development, narrative and expositive discourse learning, and learning to write and the relationship between language development and play (5).

2. Teams also used guides with pedagogical proposals for the preschool classrooms. The guides' organization takes into account various situations that seek to recreate the organization of daily activities through proposing specific strategies that teachers can use to promote oral communication, the development of literacy precursors, and children's discursive and conceptual development. Each classroom's guides are organized by various themes and contexts (for example, animals, pirates, space, and pollution, among others). The guides are accompanied by activity proposals designed to promote the development of skills and abilities related to writing acquisition.

Intensive implementation is carried out with a group of 628 at-risk children who attend preschools in the Concordia, Federacion and Chajari regions of Entre Rios province. In addition to actions carried out in their preschools (described in the previous section), this program implementation condition also includes activities with the children's families, which are carried out in coordination with the activities taking place at their early learning institution. Activities involving the families are comprised of completing 12 workshops that address the promotion of child linguistic and cognitive development in the context of story reading situations. During the workshops, families are given samples of the "At Oscarcito's House" children's book series (Rosemberg, Borzone & collaborators, 2005, 2008) (6), and are presented with strategies for reading stories to children, as well as rhyming, verse, and poetry games used to promote the development of phonetic awareness, which is necessary for writing. They also discuss the importance of learning new and varied words and how to help the children learn them. Additionally, workshops cover strategies to promote children's discursive development as well as learn to write their own names and familiar words. Procedure for Obtaining and Analyzing Information

The 3 groups of children were evaluated at the beginning and at the end of the year by specially trained staff, in individual interviews during the school day, using the following tests:

Standardized Receptive Vocabulary Test: Picture Vocabulary Test in Spanish (Adapted from the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. Dunn & Dunn, 1981).

Production of Conceptual Categories Test: in this test (adapted from Lucariello, Kyratzys & Nelson, 1992), the child has to provide basic conceptual items pertaining to several familiar high-order conceptual categories such as animals, foods, furniture, tools, and parts of the body. The quantity of basic-level items that the child can produce for each high-order category is analyzed. Cases in which the child can produce the word that represents the concept, for example, saw, are considered. Cases in which the child refers to the concept without recovering the corresponding linguistic term, for example, to cut wood, instead of producing the basic-level category name are also considered, although in a different way (receiving a lower score).

Writing Test: children are asked to write their name and 5 other simple words that they are familiar with (ex: mom, dad, duck, bear, table). Scores are assigned based on if the child wrote the whole word, if any letters were omitted, if they wrote the word using random letters, if they only wrote the first letter, or if they didn't write any letters. Data Analysis

The children's pre-test and post-test scores were comparatively analyzed and the statistical significance of these differences was evaluated using the ANOVA test. Additionally, we evaluated if the mother's education level and the child's previous preschool attendance were observed to have any effects on the child's development (test used: ANOVA).

In order to study the connections between the tests, a correlations analysis was performed, using Pearson's r test as a statistic. An analysis of predictors for the tests evaluated at the beginning and end of the year was performed through multiple regression analysis.

Results

The Impact of the Intervention Program on the Child's Performance in Vocabulary, Production of Conceptual Categories, and Writing.

The 3 groups' performance on the receptive vocabulary, production of conceptual categories, and writing tests taken both at the beginning and end of the year was analyzed. Results show that the two groups who participated in the program, either in the intensive condition (Group A) or in the extensive condition (Group B), had similar starting points on the pre-test. The control group (Group C) did not perform as well on the three initial tests evaluated. At the end of the year differences could also be observed between the two groups of children who participated in the program. The children who participated in the intensive condition (Group A) performed better on the three tests than the children who participated in the extensive condition (Group B). Both Groups A and B performed better than the control group. These results are presented in Charts 1, 2, and 3.

To assess the impact on learning of the two types of intervention (the intensive condition and the extensive) one must consider the performance increase seen in each one of the two experimental groups and the control group between the pre-test and posttest. Table 1 compares the increase that the different groups of children show on each one of the variables considered: receptive vocabulary, production of conceptual categories, and writing.

For the children in Group A, participation in the intensive condition led to a greater increase in their receptive vocabulary, production of conceptual categories, and writing skills than participation in the extensive condition did for the children in Group B. Both groups experienced a greater improvement than the children in Group C.

Increase in receptive vocabulary skills. The difference between the increase in receptive vocabulary skills shown by Group A (intensive condition) and by the control group is statistically significant ([F.sub.(1,236)] = 5.616, p< .019 test: One-factor ANOVA). On the other hand, the differences in the increase in receptive vocabulary between the group that participated in the extensive condition (Group B) and the control group (Group C), and between the group that participated in the extensive condition (Group B) and the group that participated in the intensive condition (Group A) are not statistically significant ([F.sub.(1,90)] = 1.256, p< .265; [F.sub.(1,251)] = 1.463, p<. 228, respectively. Test: One-factor ANOVA).

Increase in the ability to produce conceptual categories. At the end of the year, the difference between the children who participated in the intensive condition of the program and those that participated in the extensive condition in terms of the increase in their ability to produce conceptual categories is significant ([F.sub.(1,249)] = 1.880, p< .003, Test: One-factor ANOVA). There are also significant differences between the increases experienced by the two experimental groups and by the control group ([F.sub.(1,234)] = 72.952, p< .001; [F.sub.(1,90)] = 33.816, p< .001, respectively. Test: One-factor ANOVA). It is important to note that the children who did not participate in the intervention program demonstrated almost no increase in their abilities to produce conceptual categories. This can be clearly seen in the table.

Writing. With regards to the writing variable, the recorded increase between Group A and Group B's pre-test and the post-test scores have a statistically significant difference. The difference is even greater when comparing Group A's scores with Group C's scores ([F.sub.(1,252)] = 21.426, p< .001 Test: One-factor ANOVA; [F.sub.(1,238)] = 29.773 p< .001, respectively. Test: One-factor ANOVA). Differences between the increases demonstrated by the extensive condition group (Group B) and the control group (Group C) are not statistically significant ([F.sub.(1,91)] = 1.462, p< .2336, Test: One factor ANOVA).

Chart 4 (shown below) presents a more detailed analysis of the gains observed at the end of the year in terms of the three groups of children's word writing performance.

The children's writing performance can be interpreted more fully by taking into account the results presented in Table 2, which specify and differentiate the children's performance on the task of writing their own name and their performance on attempts to write other simple words (such as bear, duck, table, mom, dad).

As seen in Table 2, a large percentage of the children in each group could write their own name at the end of the year. Nevertheless, when looking at the percentage of children who could write other words (such as bear, duck, table, mom, dad), one can see that the majority of the children in the intensive condition group (Group A) could do so, and less than the half of the children in the extensive condition group (Group B) could do so, while only a little percentage of the children in the control group (Group C) were able to write words other than their own name. The differences regarding the increase in the percentage of children that are able to write their own name are statistically significant when considering groups A-C (z= 3,21, p < 0,05), B-C (z= 1.89, p< 0.05). With respect to the writing of other words, those differences are observed between groups A-B (z= 4.31,p < .000), A-C (z= 8.94, p< .000) and B-C (z = 3.06,p< .002).

The impact of the mother's level of education and the child's previous preschool attendance on the child's performance

Mother's level of education. It is important to verify that the changes in the children's performance, evaluated over the course of the year, were mainly due to the effects of the linguistic and cognitive development program's implementation and that they did not reflect differences attributable to the impact of other variables such as the mother's level of education and the child's previous preschool attendance. In order to do so, the impact that these two variables had on children's receptive vocabulary, production of conceptual categories, and writing test scores was statistically evaluated.

A variance analysis was performed, using the mother's education level and the child's scores obtained on each of the tests as variables. Statistical analysis of the results revealed significant differences between the scores at the beginning and the end of the year (Receptive Vocabulary: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 390.23, p < .001; Category Production: [F.sub.(1,237)] = 247.79, p < .001; Writing: [F.sub.(1,240)] = 500.52, p < .001). The results did not show any effects based on the mother's level of education (Receptive Vocabulary: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 2.55, p = .11; Category Production: F(1t 237) = 0.33, p = .57; Writing: [F.sub.(1,240)] = 0.49, p = .49), or based on interaction (Receptive Vocabulary: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 0.12, p = .73; Category Production: [F.sub.(1,237)] = 3.64, p = .06; Writing: [F.sub.(1,240)] = 0.00, p = .97).

Previous preschool attendance. In order to study the effect of previous preschool attendance on the child's test scores, another variance analysis was performed, this time jointly considering preschool attendance and the child's performance at the beginning and end of the year. The results showed that there were significant differences between the scores on each of the tests at the beginning and end of the year (Receptive Vocabulary: [F.sub.(1,278)] = 538.00, p < .001; Category Production: [F.sub.(1,277)] = 332.41, p < .001; Writing: [F.sub.(1,280)] = 575.43, p < .001). Whether or not the child had previously attended preschool made no difference in their test scores (Receptive Vocabulary: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 0.21, p = .65; Category Production: [F.sub.(1,277)] = 0.04, p = .83; Writing: [F.sub.(1,280)] = 0.05, p = .82), and no interaction effects were detected (Receptive Vocabulary: [F.sub.(1,239)] = 0.51, p = .48; Category Production: [F.sub.(1,277)] = 1.08, p = .30; Writing: [F.sub.(1,280)] = 0.41, p = .52).

Considering these results it is reasonable to attribute the increase observed in the groups to their participation in the program implemented.

Relationships between vocabulary development, production of conceptual categories, and learning to write

A correlation analysis was performed in order to study the relationships between performance on the receptive vocabulary, production of conceptual categories, and writing tests at the beginning of the year. The results of this analysis are presented in Table 3.

As can be seen in Table 3, at the beginning of the year the receptive vocabulary test correlated positively and significantly (at medium intensity) with the category production test score. The receptive vocabulary test had a positive, significant, medium-low intensity correlation with writing test scores. Similarly, the production of conceptual categories test was also revealed to have a medium-low intensity, positive and significant correlation with the writing test.

As can be seen below in Table 4, the correlations between these variables are stronger at the end of the year.

The results of the correlation analysis led us to perform a multiple regression analysis to test the hypothesis predicting the children's performance on the vocabulary, production of conceptual categories, and writing tests taken at the end of the year based on the measurements of those same variables taken at the beginning of the year.

The results of the multiple regression analysis are presented below in Table 5. They show that both the children's receptive vocabulary and production of conceptual category scores at the beginning of the year predict their receptive vocabulary abilities at the end of the year.

[R.sup.2] = .59, (p<.001) *** p<.001

Moreover, the regression analysis on the production of conceptual categories test scores from the end of the year showed that the children's production of conceptual categories abilities at the beginning of the year, and the writing test scores from the beginning of the year predicted their abilities to produce conceptual categories at the end of the year.

Finally, we studied the variables that predict performance on the end-of-year writing test by performing a multiple regression analysis on the end-of-year test scores. Receptive vocabulary scores, and scores on the production of conceptual categories and writing tests taken at the beginning of the year were used in the model as predicting variables. The P values for each test and the model's [R.sup.2] can be seen below, in Table 7.

As can be observed in Table 7, the regression analysis on the end-of-year writing test scores shows that the three variables evaluated in the analysis that predict performance are: receptive vocabulary scores at the beginning of the year, category production scores at the beginning of the year, and writing scores at the end of the year.

General discussion

The results of the analysis showed that the child linguistic and cognitive development program led to a greater increase in receptive vocabulary, production of conceptual categories, and writing skills for participating children than for children in the control group. This was true for both children who participated in the program's intensive condition (in preschools and at their homes), and children who participated in the extensive condition (only in their preschools). However, participation in the intensive condition did lead to a greater increase on each of the variables analyzed.

The differences in score increases between the group of children who participated in the intensive condition and the children in the control group are statistically significant for all tests evaluated (receptive vocabulary, production of conceptual categories, and writing). The differences in score increase between Group A (intensive condition) and Group B (extensive condition) are statistically significant for the production of conceptual categories test and the writing test, but not for the receptive vocabulary test. For their part, the differences in increases between Group B (extensive condition) and Group C (control group) are only statistically significant for the production of conceptual categories variable.

With regards to the children's performance on the writing test, the analysis showed that the children who participated in the program had much greater abilities to write simple and familiar words (besides their own name) than did the children in the control group. The difference observed in the control group between the high percentage of children who could write their own name and the low percentage of children who can write other words seems to reveal an educational bias that exists at the school these children attend in Buenos Aires. Being able to write one's own name is a learning goal for the 5-year-old classroom and teachers appear to promote global learning strategies (writing the complete word from memory) in order to achieve it. This is in contrast to analytic work, or work that would allow them to develop their phonological awareness and knowledge of correspondences to be able to write other words (Borzone & Signorini, 2002; Burgess, 2006; Snow, 2006).

Although important differences were observed between the groups, a much higher percentage of children who participated in either intervention condition (around 70% in Group A and around 40% in Group B), could use analytical strategies, showing greater mastery of the writing system than the children in the control group. Therefore, our study corroborated the results of previous quasi-experimental research that demonstrated that exercises, games designed to develop phonological awareness, and scaffolding provided by adults that led the child to pay attention to the sound structure of language in shared writing situations all promote the development of phonological awareness (Burgess, 2006; Ehri & Rosberts, 2006).

The results of this study are consistent with research performed in other languages, especially in English, in showing that there is a direct relationship between vocabulary skills, the ability to produce conceptual categories, and early writing development. In addition, they demonstrate that vocabulary skills at a specific moment in child development (at the beginning of the school year in which they turn 5), predict both the extent of their vocabulary at the end of the school year and their writing abilities (Goswami, 2003; Snow, Porche, Tabors & Harris, 2007).

The increase seen in participating children's vocabulary and ability to produce conceptual categories should be assessed considering the fact that vocabulary knowledge contributes to the increased quantity and to the stability of the relationships between orthographic, phonological, and semantic representations. These connections facilitate lexical access while processing written texts (Perfetti, 2007), contribute to the establishment of conceptual relationships between lexical items, and thus improve text comprehension (Bast & Reitsma, 1998; Senechal, Oulette & Rodney, 2006). The lexicon can therefore create a link between the two types of skill levels associated with reading: decoding and comprehension (Protopapas, Sideridis, Mouzaki & Simos, 2007).

The performance differences observed between children who only participated in the program in their preschool classrooms (extensive condition) and those who also participated in systematic family literacy situations as part of the intensive condition confirm Britto, Fuligni and Brooks-Gunn (2006) and Snow's (2006) claim that it is very important to collaborate with the child's family to generate story reading situations and literacy activities that promote learning. These results also provide new empirical evidence on the importance of story reading at home to develop vocabulary, expand the children's conceptual base and make it more complex, and promote their early entry into literacy process (Borzone, 2005; Ninio & Bruner, 1978; Whitehurst & Valdez Menchaca, 1992).

The fact that the mother's education level was not observed to have a significant impact on the child's test scores, as had been seen in previous studies conducted in the United States (Weizman & Snow, 2001), should be interpreted taking the conformity of the groups evaluated into account. The majority of the children assessed came from families in which the adults had a low or basic level of education (less than 17% of all the children's mothers had reached or exceeded high school). On the other hand, in studies that did see a performance effect as a result of the mother's level of education, these mothers had at least 12 years of schooling (Weizman & Snow, 2001), or were mothers that had university or even post-grad educations (Hoff, 2006). On the other hand, the fact that preschool attendance at age 4 was not observed to have an impact on performance at age 5 can only be interpreted as evidence of the fact that in the period before they attended preschool the children were not involved in frequent and systematic activities designed to teach them vocabulary, increase their knowledge base, and promote early writing skills.

The absence of an impact based on these two variables, on one hand, and the comparison between the performance of the children who participated in the intervention program and those in the control group, on the other, highlight the importance of planned and systematic intervention to achieve observable gains in the children's performance. These results stress the importance of strengthening learning opportunities provided by teaching contexts in the preschools by working in coordination with the children's families.

(1) C. R. Rosemberg and A. M. Borzone (2004-present) with support and funding from the Care Foundation of Germany and Arcor Foundation of Argentina.

(2) "Linguistic and Cognative Development in Early Childhood: A Psycholinguistic and Sociocultural Study in the Martinalized Urban Neighborhoods of Buesos Aires" Program. (CONICET; SECyT Director: A. M. Borzone, Co-director: C. R. Rosemberg).

(3) Promotion of Linguistic and Cognitive Development in the Preschools of Entre Rios Province Program. (Carried out under an agreement between the Arcor Foundation and the General Education Council of Entre Rios Province, Director: C. Rosemberg, Co-director A. M. Borzone--CONICET).

(4) The management teams' theoretical and methodological training and preparation was carried out in Parana, Entre Rios during the year 2009. Training was conducted through a cycle of 6 seminars and two workshops, and with the support of the Arcor Foundation.

(5) Modules are available online at: https://www.fundacionarcor.org/esp_biblioteca.asp

(6) These books are editied and given to the children's familes with the support and financing of the Arcor Foundation.

Celia Renata Rosemberg, Researcher of the National Council of Scientific and Tecnological Investigation (CONICET). Phd. Education. Professor at the National University of Buenos Aires (UBA). E-mail: crrosem@hotmail.com.

Alejandra Stein, Scholar holder, National Council of Scientific and Tecnological Investigation (CONICET). Phd. Language Sciences. Professor at the National University of Buenos Aires (UBA)

Alejandra Menti, Scholar holder, National Council of Scientific and Tecnological Investigation (CONICET). Phd. Language Sciences. Professor at the National University of Buenos Aires (UBA)
Table 1: Comparison of the increase in scores obtained in receptive
vocabulary, production of conceptual categories and writing in the
intensive condition, the extensive condition and the control group.

                           Intensive   Extensive   Control
                           condition   condition    group
                            Group A     Group B    Group C

Receptive vocabulary         16.05       14.15      10.56

Production of conceptual     44.88       31.76      0.36
categories

Writing                      12.01       7.67        6.3

Table 2: Percentage of children that write words in a conventional
way, either completely or omitting a letter.

                 Intensive condition        Extensive condition
                    Group A N=214              Group B N=69

Variables     Pre.    Post.    Incre.   Pre.    Post.    Incre.

Own name      33.8%   91.3%    57.5%    27.5%   76.8%    49.3%
Other words    7.7%   69.46%   61.76%    6.32   39.78%   33.38%

              Control group Group C N=46

Variables     Pre.     Post.    Incre.

Own name      54.3%    86.3%     32%
Other words    1.74%   12.72%   10.98%

Table 3 Correlation between the tests in the beginning of the year

             Peabody   Production of conceptual   Writing
                              categories

Peabody         1
P. of
conceptual    49 ***               1
categories
Writing      .36 ***           .33 ***               1

*** p< .001

Differences of the increase between the three groups

Variables     Group A-B   Group A-C   Group B-C

Own name      z = 1.19    z = 3.32    z = 1.89
              p < 0.23    p < 0.05    p < 0.05

Other words   z = 4.31    z = 8.94    z = 3.06
              p < 0.000   p < 0.000   p < 0.002

Table 4 Correlation between the tests in the end of the year

             Peabody   Production of   Writing
                        conceptual
                        categories

Peabody         1
P. of
conceptual   .51 ***         1
categories
Writing      .46 ***      .50 ***         1

*** p< .001

Table 5 Standardized Betas of the regression analysis on receptive
vocabulary scores obtained at the end of the year

                                       Peabody at the end of the
                                                 year

Predictors                                      [beta]

Peabody at the beginning of the year            .67 ***
Categories at the beginning of the              .15 ***
year
Writing at the beginning of the year              .04

[R.sup.2] = .59, (p < .001)

*** p< .001

Table 6 Standardized Betas of the regression analysis on production
of conceptual categories scores obtained at the end of the year

                                             Prod. of conceptual
                                        categories at the end of the
                                                    year

Predictors                                            P
Peabody at the beginning of the year                 .07
Prod. of conceptual categories at the
beginning of the year                              .49 ***
Writing at the beginning of the year                .11 *

[R.sup.2] = .32, (p < .001)

*** p< .001, * p < .05

Table 7 Standardized Betas of the regression analysis on writing
scores obtained at the end of the year

                                        Writing at the end of the
                                                  year
Predictors                                       [beta]

Peabody at the beginning of the year             .22 ***
Prod. of conceptual categories at the
beginning of the year                             .12 *
Writing at the beginning of the year             .35 ***

[R.sup.2] = .28, (p < .001)

*** p< .001, * p < .05

Figure 1: Scores obtained in receptive vocabulary (pre-test and
post-test) by children who participated in the intensive condition,
in the extensive condition and the control group.

                 Pre-test     Post-test

Control          24,6         35,3
 group

Extensive        28           42,1
 method

Intensive        29,2         45,2
 method

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 2: Scores obtained in production of conceptual categories
(pre-test and post-test) by children who participated in the
intensive condition, in the extensive condition and the control
group.

                 Pre-test     Post-test

Control          31,9         32,3
 group

Extensive        50,6         82,3
 method

Intensive        51,3         96,2
 method

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 3: Scores obtained in writing (pre-test and post-test) by
children who participated in the intensive condition, in the
extensive condition and the control group.

                 Pre-test     Post-test

Control          3,61         9,91
 group

Extensive        5,19         12,86
 method

Intensive        5,81         17,82
 method

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 4: Writing abilities at the end of the year (Post-test) in
the children that participated in the intensive condition, the
extensive condition and the control group. As can be seen in the
chart, there are statistically significant differences regarding
the percentage of words written either completely or omitting a
letter between the groups that participated in the intensive (p
<.000) and extensive condition (p< 0.002) with respect to the
control group.

              Don't write     Write random     Write the word
                              letters or       completely or
                              initial          omitting a
                              letter           letter

Control       17%             58%              25%
 group

Extensive     8%              46%              46%
 method

Intensive     2%              26%              72%
 method

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:Renata Rosemberg, Celia; Stein, Alejandra; Menti, Alejandra
Publication:Orientacion y Sociedad: Revista internacional e interdisciplinaria de orientacion vocacional ocupaci
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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