Cultivating Oral Language Literacy Talent in Students (COLLTS) is an early childhood program comprised of units that promote the development of pre-reading skills, oral language proficiency, and background and conceptual knowledge through the use of interactive reading with high-quality children’s literature.
The COLLTS program consists of six units in English and six units in Spanish. Each unit has five lessons centered around a children’s book. The books are purposefully selected for their literary and informational quality, text type, appeal to young children, and the extent to which their content aligns with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework.
In this intervention study, COLLTS was used in treatment classrooms to support dual language learners' (DLLs') oral language development. The intervention consisted of teacher professional development; curricular materials that guided teachers in principles of effective instruction; interactive book reading, in which children are exposed to language in rich semantic contexts; and targeted skills instruction to build foundational literacy skills.
To examine the impact of COLLTS on children’s oral production, we fit a mixed-models ANOVA with a random intercept for teacher and children. These assessment methods were instrumental in measuring language development in young DLLs.
A total of 118 DLLs in 23 classrooms participated in the study. There were similar numbers of children in treatment and control classrooms: 60 children in 12 classrooms in six treatment schools, and 58 children in 10 classrooms in five control schools. At the start of the school year, treatment and control children were 3.5 years old. Teachers in the treatment classes participated in professional development about the COLLTS-3 program and implemented the corresponding units for the six children’s books. Children in control classrooms listened to the same read-aloud books as those used in treatment classrooms. Control teachers were instructed to support DLLs’ language development the way they usually did during shared reading.
Child language samples were collected immediately prior to and immediately following the intervention to measure children’s language development. A story retell elicitation protocol, based on the wordless picture book Frog, Where Are You? (Mayer, 1969), was used to elicit the samples. To elicit the language samples from children, examiners showed the child pictures from the book as he/she read a story script, pausing after every two pages to ask scripted comprehension questions and pausing after every five pages to ask scripted open-ended questions that required the child to retell a portion of the story. After reading the story, the examiners showed the child a storyboard displaying 10 pictures from the book that carried the story line, and then asked the child to retell the story in his/her own words.
Children were assessed in the language in which they had been instructed, and all assessors were bilingual. The process was audiotaped from start to finish. Children’s audio files of the retelling were transcribed and analyzed in accordance with Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (SALT) transcription conventions by bilingual staff who were trained in SALT transcription methods. Samples were analyzed for total utterances, number of different words, and total words.