Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Effects of Supplemental Small Group Phonics Instruction on Kindergartners' Word Recognition Performance

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Effects of Supplemental Small Group Phonics Instruction on Kindergartners' Word Recognition Performance

Article excerpt

This study examined the effects of a phonics supplemental small group instructional approach for improving kindergartners' word reading skills. Six kindergarten students from one primary school were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Each group participated in a phonics condition as well as a control condition. Data were examined using visual analyses and comparison of mean outcomes, supplemented by qualitative observations. Results suggested the phonics instruction was effective at improving immediate word recognition compared to pre-test and control word performance. However, many gains were lost by the one-week recall assessment, and individual variation in instructional response emerged. Limitations of the study, directions for future research, and implications for early childhood educators are discussed.

Keywords: phonics, reading, kindergarten, instruction


A substantial number of children enter and exit kindergarten at risk of not acquiring basic literacy skills (Foster & Miller, 2007). In the U.S.A., this is especially the case for children living in poverty. Research suggests that children living in poverty do not learn as much in their kindergarten year (Xue & Meisels, 2004). Without sufficient early reading instruction, the reading gap between disadvantaged low performing readers and their advantaged peers widens over the years (Allington, 2002; Torgesen, 2000).

It has been suggested that explicit instruction of basic reading skills should begin in kindergarten, especially for those children who are at risk of failing to develop reading skills (Adams, 1990). This includes teaching children to make letter-sound correspondences with basic decodable words such as those containing consonant-vowel-consonant patterns. Learning to make letter-sound correspondences facilitates children's attempts to read and spell words unknown to them when they enter the primary grades (Adams, 1990). Additionally, phonemic awareness skills (i.e., alertness to and manipulation of sounds in spoken words) are enhanced when children learn to associate letters with their respective sounds (National Reading Panel, 2000).

Indeed, there is substantial evidence that providing early and intensive literacy instruction to kindergartners at risk of reading failure greatly improves their reading achievement outcomes in the primary grades (e.g., Bus & Vanljzendoorn, 1999). Children who enter kindergarten with low literacy skills are especially in need of appropriate types and sufficient amounts of instruction (A10taiba et al., 2008). Thus, early reading instruction that is high in quality and quantity can prevent children from experiencing significant delays. For instance, it has been suggested that the identification of reading disabilities could be reduced substantially if explicit, systematic instruction in phonological awareness and word decoding was provided to young children (Torgesen, 2000). Explicit and systematic phonics instruction has the greatest impact on reading achievement for kindergartners; its influence decreases for older primary grade children (National Reading Panel, 2000). In fact, a positive trajectory of developing early reading skills is observed in at-risk kindergartners when explicit systematic phonics instruction is implemented (Coyne, Kame'enui, Simmons, & Ham, 2004). For instance, when children are taught letter-sound correspondences, they learn that spoken words and objects in their environment can be represented with written words (de Graaff, Bosman, Hasselman, & Verhoeven, 2009).

Supplemental Small Group Instruction

For young children who are struggling to acquire basic literacy skills, large group classroom instruction may be too rapid; may not be provided at sufficient intensity levels; may not incorporate sufficient opportunities for practice and feedback; and may not be targeted for meeting specific needs (Smith et al. …

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