Back to search

FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Teaching for text comprehension: Supporting young second-language learners' text comprehension in urban multiethnic preschools in Norway

Awarded: NOK 9.7 mill.

The project's aim was to shed light on conditions for successful language learning in preschools serving young emergent bilinguals. The main issue concerned the potential effect of receiving an intervention based on shared reading. The intervention was conducted in preschools and children's homes, in four thematically related units distributed over the preschool year. Each unit covered four weeks of shared reading. The preschool teachers were supervised in how to conduct shared reading in ways that supported the children?s language learning. The parents were informed of the teachers' work in school and shared some of the books from school with their child at home. The intervention purpose was to support oral language skills (vocabulary and grammar), develop perspective-taking and reasoning skills and build the background knowledge needed to understand the text. The intervention was piloted and developed in collaboration with the project's international partners and a reference group consisting of experienced preschool teachers. The research project was designed as a cluster-randomized, controlled intervention. The sample consisted of 123 preschool classrooms and comprised 464 bilingual children. The classrooms were randomized into an intervention group and a control group. The children were 3-5 years old at the start of the intervention, and they spoke a variety of first language at home (Urdu, Arabic, Polish, Somali, Tamil, Vietnamese, Sorani Kurdish, Turkish, Albanian, Bosnian, Russian). Significant efforts were made in developing data collection instruments in Norwegian and in the 11 different family languages. Children's language skills in their first and second language were assessed before and after the intervention. Moreover, the children's language skills were assessed in a six month follow-up to identify any long-term effects. The parents were interviewed about language use at home, and preschool teachers gave questionnaire-based information on the school's educational profile and access to resources, as well as reported on the implementation of the intervention. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) analysis showed that children who received the intervention had developed their vocabulary and grammatical skills (measured as sentence comprehension) in Norwegian when compared to the control group. They had also developed their perspective-taking skills. The effect sizes were relatively small, but consistent and systematic (high significance level). The children in the intervention classrooms outperformed children in the control classrooms on first language vocabulary assessments targeting words appearing in the books that were read at home. We found no significant differences between the groups in narrative skills in the children?s first or second language as a result of participation in the intervention, which may be attributed to intervention characteristics. The project has significant relevance for the preschool sector.

Although we know that the competencies (e.g. oral language skills) young children develop during the preschool years are of major importance for their reading comprehension and academic success in school, little is known about how preschools may prepare c hildren for their future learning and text comprehension. Particularly, there is a dearth of research on how to effectively enhance the emergent literacy growth of young second-language (L2) learners. The present project aims to fill this void. Built on a conceptual model that considers L2 text comprehension as a multidimensional and dynamic construct, an experimental intervention study was designed to support young L2 learners' text comprehension by developing their oral language skills, world knowledge, reasoning skills and emotion comprehension in preschool. Approximately 250 4-year-old L2 learners attending 45 different urban multiethnic preschool classrooms will be randomly assigned to one intervention or one control condition. The intervention class rooms will work with texts in thematic units spread across the pre-final year of preschool. A subsample of parents in the intervention group will be offered the opportunity to work with the texts at home in the first language. The teachers (and parents) i n the intervention classrooms receive support in how to conduct engaging conversations with the children. All recruited children will be pretested on measures of oral language skills, world knowledge, reasoning skills, emotion comprehension and text compr ehension. Follow-up testing will be conducted at the end of the intervention and during the subsequent year in preschool. By proposing a broader approach to children's learning outcomes resulting from being exposed to challenging text conversations, the p roject aims to gain knowledge to inform professional development programs that are both effective for young L2 learners and appear relevant to Norwegian preschools.

Publications from Cristin

No publications found

Funding scheme:

FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren