A better start to literacy learning: Findings from a teacher-implemented intervention in children's first year at school

Gail T. Gillon, Brigid McNeill, Amy Scott, Amanda Denston, Leanne Wilson, Karyn L. Carson, Angus Hikairo Macfarlane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


This study investigated the feasibility of a teacher implemented intervention to accelerate phonological awareness, letter, and vocabulary knowledge in 141 children (mean age 5 years, 4 months) who entered school with lower levels of oral language ability. The children attended schools in low socioeconomic communities where additional stress was still evident 6 years after the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011. The teachers implemented the intervention at the class or large group level for 20 h (four 30-min sessions per week for 10 weeks). A stepped wedge research design was used to evaluate intervention effects. Children with lower oral language ability made significantly more progress in both their phonological awareness and targeted vocabulary knowledge when the teachers implemented the intervention compared to progress made when teachers implemented their usual literacy curriculum. Importantly, the intervention accelerated children’s ability to use improved phonological awareness skills when decoding novel words (treatment effect size d = 0.88). Boys responded to the intervention as well as girls and the skills of children who identified as Māori or Pacific Islands (45.5% of the cohort) improved in similar ways to children who identified as New Zealand European. The findings have important implications for designing successful teacher-implemented interventions, within a multi-tier approach, to support children who enter school with known challenges for their literacy learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1989-2012
Number of pages24
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number8
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


  • Early literacy
  • Intervention
  • Oral language
  • Phoneme
  • Phonological awareness
  • Teacher practices
  • Vocabulary


Dive into the research topics of 'A better start to literacy learning: Findings from a teacher-implemented intervention in children's first year at school'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this