Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Elish-Piper, Laurie

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Literacy Education


Language awareness in children; Children--Language; English language--Remedial teaching


This dissertation sought to determine whether supplemental, small-group instruction would have significant positive effects on at-risk kindergartners' metalinguistic skills, whether growth would be maintained over a 16-week period in which no formal instruction occurred, and the extent to which letter-sound knowledge and phonemic segmentation ability contribute to the task of reading unknown words. Forty-six kindergartners from a small, rural, low-to-middle-class school district were determined to be at-risk for future reading difficulties. Students were pretested in rhyme, letter-sound knowledge, Elision (deletion), sound matching, phonemic segmentation, and nonword decoding. Students were randomly divided into treatment and control groups, which were determined to be statistically equivalent. Treatment group students received 13 hours of supplemental instruction (40 twenty-minute lessons in groups of three) in the metalinguistic skills of rhyme, letter-sound knowledge, sound position, phonemic segmentation, invented spelling, and simple decoding. Control group students received the standard kindergarten literacy curriculum. Posttests in letter-sound knowledge, phonemic segmentation, and nonword decoding were administered immediately following the intervention and 16 weeks later in the fall of the subsequent school year. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) results determined that significant differences existed between the groups' scores in letter-sound knowledge, phonemic segmentation, and nonword decoding immediately following the training. Sixteen weeks later, significant differences continued to exist between the groups' phonemic segmentation and nonword decoding scores; however, the difference in letter-sound knowledge scores was no longer significant. A follow-up analysis was conducted on the growth of the Treatment and Control groups' letter-sound knowledge scores from pretest to posttest 2, and it was determined that a significant, positive effect had been maintained for the Treatment group. A least-squares multiple-regression analysis determined that 58.2% of the variance of nonword decoding scores could be explained by the combined effects of letter-sound knowledge and phonemic segmentation ability. Conclusions of this study were that supplemental, small-group instruction can significantly raise at-risk students' knowledge of letters and sounds, phonemic awareness, and initial decoding skills. These gains were maintained over summer break. Two of the major components of the intervention, instruction in letters and sounds and phonemic segmentation, were found to contribute heavily to a beginning reader's ability to decode unknown words. Implications include the possible identification and acceleration of at-risk students' early literacy knowledge for the purpose of preventing future reading disabilities. In addition, existing support staff in small districts can be trained and utilized to provide effective early intervention to at-risk kindergartners.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [122]-135).


160 pages




Northern Illinois University

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