Associate Professor Gary Bingham has conducted extensive research on young children’s literacy and language development, and one of his most recent articles earned him an honorable mention from the Association for Childhood Education International.
The piece, published in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education, examined an early literacy program called Systematic and Engaging Early Literacy (SEEL) and its effectiveness when used to teach kindergarteners the letters of the alphabet, their corresponding sounds, rhyming and other literacy skills.
SEEL instruction systematically introduces children to specific literacy skills and gives them several opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in “playful, interactive ways,” according to Bingham and his research team.
They worked with kindergarten classes in two elementary schools for this study, which found that students who had SEEL instruction demonstrated stronger letter and sound awareness than non-SEEL students but still struggled with spelling and word reading tasks.
They also noted that children who began the study with the lowest literacy skills made significant improvement after participating in SEEL’s playful activities.
“This finding is of particular importance, as many children who begin kindergarten with less established early literacy skills fail to catch up to their peers who begin kindergarten with stronger early literacy skills,” Bingham explained. “Evidence is critical for early literacy interventions, such as this one, that are effective for children who enter kindergarten with limited early literacy skills.”
The research team also studied how teachers learned and implemented SEEL in their classrooms. Bingham and his colleagues found that teachers using SEEL tended to emphasize the playful, hands-on activities more than the follow-up reading and writing activities, and more detailed professional development opportunities could help teachers feel better prepared to implement SEEL moving forward.
“A lesson study and lesson rehearsal approach to professional development allows for more active, and deeper, involvement from teachers, which may better prepare them to implement early literacy curriculum,” Bingham wrote. “In addition, it can provide teachers opportunities to receive feedback and revise their lessons to meet the unique needs of the children in their classrooms.”