An Exploration of Instructional Practices that Foster Language Development and Comprehension: Evidence from Prekindergarten through Grade 3 in Title I Schools

Publisher: Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education
Jul 31, 2017
Hanley Chiang, Elias Walsh, Timothy Shanahan, Claudia Gentile, Alyssa Maccarone, Tiffany Waits, Barbara Carlson, and Samuel Rikoon

The practices most consistently related to student growth include:

  • Engaging students in defining new words during or after reading a text
  • Helping students make connections between their prior knowledge and the texts they read• Promoting higher-order thinking by asking questions that require students to analyze information, explain their thinking, and develop new ideas
  • Focusing students’ attention on the meaning of a text before reading it, such as by introducing the topic and encouraging predictions


Given the modest and inconsistent effects of existing large-scale early literacy interventions, the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education commissioned this study to investigate additional types of instructional practices that hold potential promise for promoting young children’s language development and comprehension. Using an exploratory design, the study team collected extensive information about instructional practices in prekindergarten through grade 3 within Title I schools and examined the relationships between these practices and student growth in a range of language and comprehension outcomes. Findings from this study are intended to help identify potentially promising practices that ought to be studied further and evaluated on a large scale. 
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Hanley Chiang
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Barbara Carlson
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Elias Walsh
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Tiffany Waits
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