Children in full-day kindergarten classrooms make the most progress in early reading when teachers balanced instruction in comprehension with instruction in discrete literacy skills, according to “Making the Most of Extra Time: Relationships Between Full-Day Kindergarten Instructional Environments and Reading Achievement,” a recently released report from the American Institutes for Research. (Read a summary in this policy brief.)
The study also finds that children in classrooms where more time is devoted to building literacy demonstrate more gains. In addition, instructional groupings play a role. Children in large classes, for instance, made greater progress when they spent more time in smaller reading groups and less progress when reading instruction was delivered to the whole class.
Author Amy Rathburn, of AIR’s Federal Statistics Program, analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 survey, which includes a nationally representative sample of 21,260 kindergartners from diverse backgrounds.
“This study confirms the recommendations of early childhood researchers and educators that reading instruction is more effective when children experience a balance of discrete literacy skills and comprehension skills instructional approaches. Future research can investigate different configurations of reading instructional practices in an attempt to identify the proper balance between phonics-based and whole-language techniques,” the study concludes. “Policymakers and researchers can continue to explore the complex relationships between full-day kindergarten instructional environments and children’s early learning by evaluating the effects of classroom factors explored in this study along with the effects of other resources (e.g., books, puzzles, audio-visual equipment) and practices (e.g., time allocation for unstructured play, individual child exploration) present in kindergarten programs.”