Morphological awareness development in a naturalistic preschool setting

Submitted by: Joao M.S. Rosa
Abstract: The study aims to provide evidence on the feasibility and effectiveness of performing oral language morphological awareness training of preschool children, when such training is conducted by their own preschool teachers. Evidence from naturalistic interventions within this format is scarse . Usualy, interventions have been conducted by researchers and not by educational professionals.
The participants were 162 Portuguese children, from 18 different classrooms, attending their last year in kindergarten. They were allocated as groups to experimental and control conditions. Preschool teachers whose children were allocated to the experimental group participated, previously, in a programme of training on metalinguistic development and designed all the materials and procedures for the intervention, cooperatively. Later, they conducted a six-weeks morphological awareness intervention with their children, anchored on explicit discussions about the morphological structure of words appearing in selected storybooks, involving word analogy, derivation, inflexion and interpretation of pseudowords. The control group received normal curriculum activities, which also included storybook reading.
Results showed strong to high effect sizes on morphological awareness post-test abilities of children in the experimental group after controlling for age, non-verbal intelligence, vocabulary, pre-test phonological awareness differences and pre-test morphological awareness differences. We concluded for the feasibility and effectiveness of this intervention and discuss the relevance of, in partnership with preschool teachers and by valuing their professional wisdom, developing tools that help preschool children to consciously manipulate morphemes as meaningful building blocks of words.
A subsample of children in the experimental group were assessed for reading comprehension when they reached the end of grade 1. Results are being analysed right now.

Keywords: Morphological awareness development; Naturalistic intervention; Preschool teachers; Preschool children.

Selected references:

Bowers, P. N., Kirby, J. R. and Deacon, S. H. (2010). The effects of morphological instruction on literacy skills: a systematic review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 80 (2), 144 - 179.

Kirby, J., R. and Bowers, P., N. (2017). Morphological instruction and literacy: Binding phonological, orthographic and semantic features of words. In K. Cain, D. Compton and R. Parrila (Eds). Theories of reading development, 437 - 462, John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Lyster, S.A. (2002). The effect of morphological versus phonological awareness training in kindergarten on reading development. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 15 (3-4), 261 - 294.

Lyster, S. A., Lervåg, A.O. and Hulme, C (2016). Preschool morphological training produces long-term improvements in reading comprehension. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 29, 1269 - 1288.