A Comparison of Phonological
Awareness Intervention Approaches
Lesley Raisor, Ph.D. CCC-SLP
Nancy Creaghead, Ph.D. CCC-SLP
Christina Yeager, M.A. CCC-SLP
After this session, you will be able to…
– Identify 2 different approaches to phonological
awareness interventions and site research that
supports both approaches
– Create lesson plans targeting phonological
awareness using both approaches
– Share your knowledge of phonological
awareness intervention approaches with your
Where we are headed:
1. Review literature
– Traditional Phonological Awareness (P.A.)
– Contextualized P.A. Training
2. Discuss present study
– Detailed description of lesson plans and books
3. Discuss lesson plan template
– Create your own plans
Phonological awareness is the conscious
attention to the sound structure of
– It is a broad skill that includes:
The ability to detect and produce rhyme
The ability to segment speech into words, syllables, and
The ability to detect and manipulate phonemes (Gillon,
The predictive power of
phonological awareness for later
literacy outcomes has prompted
educators to develop interventions
targeting phonological awareness
skills in children at-risk for
qualifying for special education
What have we learned from research
in phonological awareness?
Ball and Blachman (1991)--classroom-
based phonological awareness
intervention successful for later reading
– 15 hours of direct intervention.
– Kindergarteners (placed in groups of four or five) were taught
to use tiles to represent phonemes in words.
– Engaged in segmentation activities and tasks that targeted
– The results of the research revealed large gains in not only
phoneme segmentation ability, but also in reading and spelling.
Lundberg, Frost, and Peterson (1988)—
phonological awareness can be trained
– Provided 235 kindergarten children who
were non-readers with training in
metalinguistic awareness (no training in
– Intervention group outperformed a control
group on word, syllable, and phoneme
segmentation and synthesis tasks
Bradley and Bryant (1985)—early phonological
awareness training can affect later reading and spelling
– 65 kindergarten children participated 40 minute training
sessions spread over two years
Taught to group pictures corresponding to words that
began with the same phoneme
Taught to categorize words that shared the same rime unit,
by sorting picture cards into sets of words that rhymed with
– When children’s reading and spellings abilities were
measured when they were 8 years old, the experimental
phonological awareness group were ahead of the control
children in reading by 8-10 months (reading) and 17
Problems with Traditional
McGee & Purcell-Gates (1997) –traditional approaches are:
– removed from children’s daily literacy experiences and
– are not responsive to individual differences in children’s
Likewise, the National Reading Panel (2000)--phonological
awareness instruction should be integrated into a child’s
general literacy learning.
Further, although many of the traditional drill approaches
have been effective in increasing the skills of school-aged
children (five and six-year-olds), this training approach may
not be developmentally appropriate for younger preschool
Alternate Strategy for Phonological
Richgels, Poremba, and McGee (1996) studied
an approach that more closely aligns with
constructivist aspects of emergent literacy
– Described ways educators can guide children in a meaningful and
functional literacy-based context for learning phonological
Alternate Strategy for Phonological
Naturalistic or contextual phonological
awareness training-- utilizes children’s books to
teach children about the sounds of language.
– Ukrainetz et al. (2000)--contextualized instruction led to
gains in phonological awareness compared to a non-
treatment control group.
Raisor (2002)--contextualized phonological
awareness intervention led to significant gains in
phonological awareness skills of children with
language learning problems.
Research Needed to Compare
Traditional drill approach -- based upon early
behaviorist theories of learning
Contextualized approaches -- grounded in socio-
cultural/constructivist theories of cognition and
While the research into naturalistic interventions
described above is promising, systematic
research comparing the effectiveness of this
approach to the traditional sequenced and
structured method is lacking.
Purpose and Research Question
The purpose—was to compare the effectiveness of two
types of phonological awareness programs (a
structured drill approach and a contextualized
approach) in increasing the early literacy skills of
preschool children at-risk for reading failure.
– Is there a significant difference in the
early phonological awareness/early
literacy skills among intervention group
(drill and naturalistic) and a control
group as result of a four-week
phonological awareness intervention?
Research Site: an inner city Head Start located in a large
– 150 children
– Random assignment to classrooms
Children: 44 children participated (average age: 4 years 9 months)
– Three classrooms in drill (17 children)
– Three classrooms in naturalistic (17 children)
– Two classrooms in control (10 children)—collected 2 years later
Graduate Students: 8 Speech-Language Pathology Master’s
Students served as test administrators and interveners
– Reduced researcher biases
– Offered better control than using teachers
(1).Portions of The Phonological Awareness Test (Robertson & Salter,
1997): Because there is no standardized test of phonological
awareness for use with children under five (see review in Justice,
Invernizzi, & Meier, 2002), portions of The Phonological
Awareness Test were administered informally.
– Rhyme discrimination/production, word and syllable segmentation, and
initial sound isolation.
(2).The Test of Early Reading Abilities—3 (TERA-3): This is a
standardized test normed on children ages 3-10 years (Reid,
Hresko, Hammill, 2001). It has three subtests: alphabet
knowledge, conventions (measuring children’s understanding of
print concepts), and meaning (measuring children’s ability to
comprehend the meaning of printed material).
Methods: Graduate Student
Following recruitment, graduate students were
required to attend a two week-long project
This training involved three aspects:
– (1) the administration of the testing protocols;
– (2) the implementation of the drill-approach to
phonological awareness training; and
– (3) the implementation of the naturalistic
approach to phonological awareness training.
Included opportunities for supervised practice with test
administration and the phonological awareness interventions.
1. Administered assessment tools
2. Classrooms were randomly assigned to receive the drill-
approach or naturalistic treatment.
• -A control group was recruited at a later time.
• -There were three classrooms in each of the treatment
conditions, and two classrooms in the control group.
1. -Each group received the same amount of intervention
(two 20 minute sessions per week for 4 weeks). The
control group did not receive any intervention.
3. Graduate students re-administered both tests.
Methods: Drill Approach
Utilized procedures from other well-known
phonological awareness studies (Lundberg, Frost, &
Peterson, 1988; van Kleeck, 1995).
Shaping procedures, with structured hierarchies
controlling task complexity (McFadden, 1998;
Ukrainetz, Cooney, Dyer, Kysar, & Harris, 2000;
A target skill will be selected for a one-week period
– 1st week -rhyme discrimination and production;
– 2nd week-word segmentation;
– 3rd week-syllable segmentation;
– 4th week- initial sound isolation.
Naturalistic phonological awareness intervention incorporated scaffolding
to support individual student responses.
– Allowed other children to scaffold
– Working within the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
More than one type of phonological awareness skill was incidentally
explored at a time (Ukrainetz, 2006).
Lesson plans for the naturalistic approach were those that were used for
the pilot-project of this research (performed in the summer of 2002).
A storybook was included in every session. Every
session began with readiness interactions, modeled
from Cochran-Smith’s (1984) research.
Each lesson plan targeted a specific skill, however,
other phonological awareness skills were also
addressed in each session.
After the graduate student had finished reading the
book, she asked children to participate in a follow-up
activity that was meaning-based.
Methods: Drill Approach
We are going to clap for each word we hear today. I am going to say a sentence, and I want
you to clap for each word you hear.
I love my mom.
Turn on the television.
My cat is big.
Let’s read a book.
I want to play.
The dog has a large nose.
My computer is not working.
The clown likes balloons.
The candle is hot.
The boy has a spoon.
The refrigerator is cold.
My pillow is big and soft.
The spring flowers are so pretty.
Daddy said ―no.‖
The remote control is under the couch.
2nd Week Frog Theme
Materials Needed. Jump, Frog, Jump
– Laminated characters of the story (frog, fly, snake, etc.) glued to craft sticks (make three for
– 12-15 multi-colored lily pads
– Upbeat music
– CD player
Joint Book Reading Suggestions.
– Have the children look at the cover of the book and guess who will be the characters in the
– Assign each child a character in the story and give them the respective character on a craft
stick (Some characters will need to be repeated among the children). Instruct the children to
hold up their character each time it is mentioned.
– This book contains a great deal of rhythm. Read the story with a lot of inflection. You may
have children clap as you read (only if you are not asking them to hold up the characters).
Extension Sentence Segmentation Activity.
– Have children jump (from lily pad to lily pad) for each word they hear in a simple sentence from
the book) (NOTE: You will have to simplify the sentences….some of the sentences from the
book are very complex).
You may play a game with music (having the children freeze on a lily pad when the
music stops), and then ask them to jump in place on their lily pad for each word in a
Schedule of Treatment
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
week week week week
Drill Rhyme Sent. Syll. Initial
Discrim/ Segment Segment Sound Iso.
Context Rhyme Sent. Syll. Initial
Activity- Segment Segment Sound Iso.
There Was Jump, Mrs. Buzz Said
an Old Frog, McNosh the Bee
Lady Jump Hangs…
SPSS software was used to analyze the data collected.
One-way ANOVA’s were computed for each intervention
group at pre-test to ensure that intervention groups were not
significantly different at pre-test.
– Syllable segmentation (p< .05) (naturalistic intervention group
mean significantly higher than the drill or control groups).
Repeated measures ANOVA’s
– group assignment (naturalistic, drill, or control-group) as a
– time as a within-subjects factor for each measure (rhyme
discrimination, rhyme production, sentence segmentation,
syllable segmentation, initial sound isolation, total phonological
awareness, alphabet knowledge, print concepts, and
Total Phonological Awareness
Discussion: Summary of
– Both interventions were successful
compared to control group for:
Rhyme Discrimination, Sentence Segmentation,
Total Phonological Awareness
– Naturalistic intervention successful for:
Naturalistic Intervention group demonstrating
– Alphabet Knowledge
Unexplained growth for drill group
Discussion: TPA, Rhyme Discrimination,
These results are consistent with results of other
studies regarding the efficacy of:
– Traditional drill-based phonological awareness training (Ball &
Blackman 1991; Bradley & Bryant, 1983; Herrera, 1993;
Lundberg, Frost, & Peterson, 1988; Schneider et al., 1997)
– Contextualized intervention programs (Richgels, Poremba, &
McGee, 1996; Ukrainetz et al., 2000).
Gillon (2004) suggested that both approaches to
phonological awareness training (skill mastery
approach, i.e. drill, and integrated multiple skill
approach, i.e. naturalistic) may be useful as she set
forth guiding principles to phonological awareness
Discussion: Rhyme Discrimination
and Sentence Segmentation
• Both intervention groups made gains, but the control group’s
scores actually declined slightly (creating an interaction
• Bradley & Bryant (1983) targeted phonological awareness in a
traditional way—children made significant gains
• Richgels, Poremba, and McGee (1996) targeted phonological
awareness in naturalistic way—children made significant gains
Discussion: Rhyme Production
• Rhyme Production – results similar to van Kleeck et al.
(1998)– children made gains in other phonological
awareness skills, yet did not make progress in rhyme
production following intervention.
– Current study—children errors were because of a semantic
Children not metalinguistically ready to view words outside of their
– Another explanation--Production may require higher cognitive
processes than other measures of rhyming skills
(discrimination, categorization, and oddity tasks)
– Also, perhaps the tax on phonological working memory
(memory that involves temporarily holding the speech sound
features of a word, so it can be analyzed or manipulated) was
too much for the preschool children (Troia, 2004).
Discussion: Initial Sound
Initial Sound Isolation— There was not a
significant difference between groups, nor
was there an interaction effect.
– Liberman (1974)—children less than 5 years old often
have difficulty with this task
– Gillon (2004) argues that phonemic level awareness has
generally been considered to develop in kindergarten
– Ukrainetz (2006)—Kindergarten is when major changes
can be observed in phoneme-level skills
Although other researchers disagree. Bradley & Bryant
(1985), Lundberg, Frost, & Peterson, 1988); Lundberg et
Discussion: Early Literacy
Alphabet Knowledge —There was an interaction effect between
intervention and time.
– A look at the means shows a large change in alphabet knowledge for
the drill group
– Letter-knowledge was not explicitly addressed in the drill intervention
– Classroom teacher’s attention to letter knowledge was not controlled
Discussion: Early Literacy
Print Concepts —There was a significant difference between the
naturalistic group and the control group and drill group. Children
experienced exposure to print and the storybooks in the naturalistic
intervention, whereas the drill and control groups did not.
– Ezell, Justice, and Parsons (2000) investigated the efficacy of
a shared-book reading intervention designed to foster parent’s
strategies for stimulating preschooler’s learning of print
The intervention was effective in stimulating children’s concepts of
print, as children made gains in a print knowledge protocol
adapted from Clay’s Concepts about Print assessment (1979)
after only a five-week period.
Meaning —No significant differences among groups
– This subtest might not accurately measure a child’s ability to make
meaning from print sources. Many of the test items were related to
Discussion: Drill Intervention
Our drill-based activities provided each child explicit
opportunities to practice a given skill
In the present study, the drill-based approach ensured that
each child had an opportunity to respond to two target
phonological awareness stimuli.
– The National Reading Panel, 2000 argued that
phonological awareness instruction should be explicit
However, Ukrainetz (2006) argues that this type of explicit
instruction teaches children how to do well on tests of
– Children were asked to respond to the targets in ways
similar to the testing situation. Therefore, children in the
drill group ―practiced‖ taking phonological awareness
tests at each training session.
Naturalistic intervention successful compared to a
control group for increasing children’s print
Naturalistic and drill groups were both successful
for increasing children’s rhyme discrimination,
sentence segmentation ability, and total
phonological awareness compared to a control
It may be more beneficial to select a naturalistic
intervention strategy for early preschool
interventions due to added benefit of increasing
print concepts in children in the naturalistic group.
Following children longitudinally to determine if
the effects of the two strategies carry on for later
reading and spelling
Longer intervention cycles
Alternative methods of assessment
– Authentic assessments using children’s
– Alternative ways of assessing rhyme
Your suggestions for further
Lesley Raisor, email@example.com