Teaching vocabulary and letter knowledge in Arabic early literacy programs : what works?
This exploratory study compares the efficiency of two Arabic early literacy curricula that vary in the order they introduce letters and the level of emphasis placed on fostering vocabulary and comprehension skills. School-1 introduces letters in an innovative order, teaches vocabulary in context, and fosters listening comprehension while School-2 introduces letters earlier but in their alphabetic order and often introduces vocabulary in lists. The reading programs were implemented in two schools teaching Arabic as a second language in a southwestern state. Twenty-seven 1st grade students were assessed individually for 15-20 minutes at the beginning of the academic year 2014-2015 and again in mid-spring. Measures included letter naming, syllable reading, word reading, rapid naming of unique letters, rapid naming of confusing letters, listening comprehension, first-sound isolation phonological awareness, and odd-word identification phonological awareness subtasks. In addition to the assessment, two classroom observations were conducted in each school. Results showed that School-1's students scored significantly higher than School-2's students on the comprehension subtest without compromising the coding-related skills. Students in School-1 also had a lower level of letters confusability. In addition, only students in School-1 improved significantly in the first-letter isolating task. Finally, error analysis of the letter naming and first-letter isolation task showed different patterns in each school. Results are discussed in the context of the observed differences in the two schools' Arabic instruction.