Integrated phonics and language intervention

We have recently completed a pilot study to examine the effects of a fully integrated phonics and language whole-class approach to teaching reading in a sample of children, some of whom were deaf.

From the simple view of reading, we know that both decoding (phonics) and language skills are essential for the development of reading comprehension. However, current educational practice focusses on phonics, with less emphasis on language.

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Although many children progress with a phonics approach, a significant proportion struggle, particularly those with weak language skills, of whom many come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and including many deaf children who are typically excluded from mainstream reading intervention research. We investigated whether the integrated language and reading programme improved children’s reading skills, which are crucial to academic attainment and longer-term integration into society.

Our pilot study indicated that recruitment is feasible, and that a specific focus on hearing children from disadvantaged backgrounds and deaf children is justified, given children’s low levels of performance on our measures at the start of the study. Teachers and children enjoyed the integrated programme, and eaching staff implemented it effectively with the training and support provided by the research team.

The pilot findings suggest that the deaf and disadvantaged children in our sample with extremely low levels of language and literacy at the start of the study benefited from the integrated intervention. Preliminary outcomes suggest that children who received the integrated programme made significantly more progress on key outcome measures of single word reading (d=.48, p=.01) and spelling (d=.65, p<.001) at the end of the study in comparison with the contol group. Initial data for expressive vocabulary showed a small effect size (d=.15, p=.03).

This suggests therefore that a full evaluation with a larger sample of children is merited. Future studies should seek to recruit a larger sample and match groups closely using measures of social deprivation, SEN and EAL. Furthermore, the presence of deaf children in mainstream schools has implications for the wider applicability of study findings.

You can access the full briefing report from the Nuffield Foundation here.

The study was funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant awarded to Ros Herman, Charles Hulme, Penny Roy and Fiona Kyle.