Encouraging Alphabet and Phonological Awareness in the ECE Setting: What Role Do Teachers Play?
There is an increasing body of knowledge regarding the development of alphabetic and phonological awareness in children prior to school entry. During early childhood children develop an intuitive knowledge of sounds and can recognise rhyme and alliteration, but they are not able to manipulate sounds to the same degree as older children. Although most children further develop manipulation skills as part of their early childhood and primary education, approximately 25% of children do not (Nicholson, 2005) and struggle to learn to read. Recent research indicates that many early childhood teachers lack fundamental understandings of how children develop literacy (McLachlan et al., 2006; Fillmore & Snow, 2000). The study this paper reports aimed to examine if alphabet and phonological awareness instruction could be embedded into the holistic context of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996). A pre-test post-test, quasi experimental design was used in which teachers’ and children’s knowledge was tested at the beginning of the data collection in four New Zealand early childhood centres. The children tested were aged between 3 and 5 years. Following the pretesting, professional development was run for teachers in three of the four centres on recent research into children’s literacy and the ways in which teachers could support it through everyday practices. In all four centres, post-testing, using the same instruments was completed after a period of six to eight weeks. In addition, teachers’ self reports of the ways they promoted literacy during the intervening period were analysed. Following completion of post testing, professional development in the fourth (control) centre was completed. The results of the study are presented and the question of whether professional development is effective in supporting teachers to promote alphabetic and phonological awareness in early childhood is explored.
Keywords: Alphabet Principle, Phonological Awareness, Teachers' Beliefs, Professional Development, Emergent Literacy
Assoc. Prof Claire McLachlan
Associate Professor, Early Years Education
Dr. Alison Arrow