By Wenrui Huang, Johns Hopkins University
Teaching Together is an initiative that combines tiered school instruction with home curricular supplements to enhance language skills among pre-k children at risk for later reading difficulties.
Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center and Florida Center for Reading Research examined the effects of Teaching Together, in a study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly. This study included a sample of Head Start children demonstrating risk for later reading difficulties and eligible for Tier-2 services (targeted instruction for children with weak skills). By adopting an RCT-design, researchers randomized one control and three treatment groups:
(a) Control or business-as-usual (BAU) family engagement experiences (n=72)
(b) Tier 1 Family workshops and universal text messages (n=241)
(c) Tier 2 Basic Family, which added learning materials and targeted text messages to the workshops (n=29)
(d) Tier 2 Enhanced Family, which added parent coaching/individualized communication to the above supports (n=31)
Among all three treatments, the Tier 2 Enhanced Family condition showed the most favorable impact on language outcomes (ES= +0.25 for Inferential Comprehension; +0.46 for Taught Vocabulary). There was somewhat promising evidence for the Tier 1 Only group, while no main effects were found for the Tier 2 Basic condition. There was also a pattern of larger vocabulary benefits primarily for children with stronger language skills. Findings suggested that a blending approach to explaining sophisticated vocabulary and engaging in extended, inferential conversation across the classroom and home could help close the vocabulary gap for children from low-income backgrounds. It also indicated the necessity to examine for whom and under what conditions such academic language interventions are most beneficial.