Text messaging does not affect children’s grammatical development

Researchers from Coventry University carried out a longitudinal study to investigate whether “text speak” had any detrimental impact on grammatical development and other related literacy and language skills over the course of a year. They assessed the spelling, grammar, understanding of English, and IQ of three groups of children and young people (83 primary school children, 78 secondary school children, and 49 undergraduates), and compared those skills with a sample of their text messages.

There was no evidence of any significant relationships between poor grammar in text messages and their understanding of written or spoken grammar. For the primary school children, there was an association between punctuation errors in text messages and spelling ability. Children who made fewer punctuation errors when texting tended to be better at spelling and quicker to process writing than those who made more errors in their text messages.

For the undergraduate group, there was some evidence of a link between punctuation errors in text messages and the spelling ability and grammatical understanding of participants. However, this link was weak, and researchers concluded that it was probably related to children’s IQ score.

Source: Text messaging and grammatical development (2012), Nuffield Foundation

Teaching pupils to be effective writers

A new practice guide from the What Works Clearinghouse in the US, Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers, offers four strategies for improving pupils’ writing:

  • Provide daily time for pupils to write
  • Teach pupils to use the writing process for a variety of purposes
  • Teach pupils to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing
  • Create an engaged community of writers.

For each recommendation, the guide provides implementation ideas and examples, summaries of supporting research, and solutions to common roadblocks. It is aimed at teachers, literacy advisers, and other practitioners who want to improve the writing of their pupils.

Source: Teaching elementary school students to be effective writers (2012), What Works Clearinghouse

Summer school literacy programme stops pupils slipping back

Pupils who went to summer school had improved their literacy performance at the end of the summer. This randomised trial, from Early Childhood Research Quarterly, examined the effects of a summer literacy programme on struggling readers in the US where summer holidays are longer.

Overall, pupils who didn’t attend summer school showed mean declines in the reading of nonsense words (a standard test of fluency) of approximately five words per minute over the summer. Children who attended summer school at the end of Kindergarten (Year 1) had a fluency gain of approximately 12 words-per-minute. Pupils at the end of Grade 1 (Year 2) had a fluency gain of 7.5 words per minute.

The findings are generally consistent with previous studies of summer school effects and the summer learning outcomes of children, and suggest that summer school can be a useful strategy to support learning over the summer months.

Source: Summer school effects in a randomized field trial (2012), Early Childhood Research Quarterly 28(1)

An integrated approach to science and literacy

This research article from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching investigates the effectiveness of an integrated science and literacy approach at primary school level. Teachers in 94 fourth-grade (Year 5) classrooms in one US Southern state participated.

Half of the teachers in the study taught an integrated science and literacy unit on light and energy, which was designed using a curriculum model that engages pupils in reading text, writing notes and reports, conducting first-hand investigations, and frequently discussing key concepts and processes to acquire inquiry skills and knowledge about science concepts. The other half of the teachers taught a content-comparable science-only unit on light and energy and provided their regular literacy instruction.

Results of the study showed that pupils in the integrated science and literacy group made significantly greater improvement in science understanding, science vocabulary, and science writing. Pupils in both groups made comparable improvements in science reading.

Source: The impact of an integrated approach to science and literacy in elementary school classrooms (2012), Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(5)

Educational television can support early literacy

This study from Early Childhood Research Quarterly tested whether a literacy curriculum supplement integrated with media can improve literacy outcomes for young children. The curriculum supplement incorporated video clips from programmes such as Sesame Street as well as online games, hands-on activities and professional development.

Findings showed that the supplement had positive impacts on children’s ability to recognise letters, sounds of letters and initial sounds of words, and children’s concepts of story and print.

Source: Supplementing literacy instruction with a media-rich intervention: Results of a randomized controlled trial (2012), Early Childhood Research Quarterly,27(1)

Family literacy programmes should help children and parents

A new study has found that children living in poverty and whose mothers have no educational qualifications do less well in language, literacy and social development than their peers. Frequent home learning alone does not compensate for this disadvantage.

It suggests that family literacy programmes should have a wider remit in terms of supporting families (for example, encouraging parents to take part in educational activities themselves) rather than solely focusing on supporting parents to give specific literacy or numeracy skills to their children.

Source: Families’ social backgrounds matter: socio-economic factors, home learning and young children’s language, literacy and social outcomes (2011), British Educational Research Journal 37(6)