Tricia Zucker, Ph.D.
Sonia Cabell, Ph.D., Florida State University
Description of the Project:
The purpose of this project is to examine the efficacy of the Teaching Together program for pre-kindergarten (pre-k) children who are at risk of academic difficulties due to limited oral language skills. This project is unique in its focus on oral language supports in both the classroom and home settings. In early childhood classrooms serving low-income students, up to 50% of children may exhibit language difficulties, which are associated with long-term challenges for reading and academic success. Yet evidence demonstrates that early language difficulties can be reduced or ameliorated by providing universal/Tier 1 or targeted/Tier 2 language interventions at school and home. Tiered language supports may ameliorate language difficulties for many pre–k children who need increased opportunities to build language skills, including English learners (ELs).
The 20-week DT classroom intervention includes four Tier 1 whole-group and four Tier 2 small-group lessons per week delivered by the classroom teacher. Teachers will also complete general language support online modules for 3 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) credits. In addition to the classroom supports, the TT family intervention includes:
- family engagement online modules for teachers (1.5 CPE hours)
- Tier 1 after- school family events/workshops
- Tier 1 parent-teacher conferences to create action plans to support learning at home and school
- four Tier 2 remote coaching sessions.
The interventions emphasize shared book reading, vocabulary explanations, multiple-turn conversations, and language support strategies. Teachers and parents receive aligned, weekly text messages with activity videos and tips to support children’s oral language.
- In Year 1, researchers will first train research staff and recruit the study sample.
- In Years 2 and 3, the randomized control trial (RCT) will take place with identical procedures across two cohorts. For each cohort, classrooms will be assigned to a business as usual (BAU) control group or one of two intervention groups. Specifically, the research team will train half of the intervention teachers to deliver a classroom only intervention, Developing Talkers (DT). In the other half of intervention classrooms, researchers will train teachers to deliver DT as well as family engagement approaches in the aligned Teaching Together (TT) program.
- In Year 4, researchers will disseminate results; if there are beneficial findings, the team will make the classroom and family resources available broadly.
The research team will recruit pre-k classrooms in North Texas including approximately 90 teachers and an average of 6 children per class (n = 540). Planned settings in Texas include pre-k classrooms and the homes of these 4-year-olds. Classrooms will provide the majority of instruction in English. The family intervention will be offered in English or Spanish, according to parent preference.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston