Technology and bilingual education: helping Yolŋu students crack the alphabetic code
AuthorMorales, Gemma Alejandra
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Gemma Alejandra Morales
Phonological awareness and letter knowledge have a significant and causal relationship with early reading for readers of alphabetic languages. While the existing research regarding the emergent reading skills of mainstream Western populations is vast, little is known about the development of literacy skills among children coming from cultures transmitted primarily through oral tradition. This study examined the emergent literacy skills of students attending a remote bilingual Indigenous school in the Northern Territory, Australia. The study included all Transition (kindergarten) to Grade 4 students enrolled at the participating school. This thesis proposes that phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and early word reading are closely related for children learning to read in Dhuwaya and that phonological awareness training can facilitate the acquisition of early reading ability in Dhuwaya. A Dhuwaya language game-like iPad application software was used as a phonological awareness intervention tool. This Intervention App was specifically designed and created for this thesis project. The Intervention App includes 24 levels that progressively increase in difficulty. Each level consists of a sound segmentation activity, a letter knowledge activity, and a sound blending activity. Letter knowledge, phonological awareness (at both the syllable and phoneme level), and word recognition skills were measured at three separate testing times: immediately before the start of the intervention, immediately after the intervention ended, and six months after the intervention ended. This study investigated the different patterns and relationships found amongst the participants’ performance across the various measures assessed. This study also examined the relationship between student age and assessment performance. The study also investigated the intervention effects, if any, on phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and early word reading. The results indicate that phonological awareness, particularly at the phoneme level, is significantly related to early word recognition in Dhuwaya. Results also suggest that letter knowledge mastery is crucial to early word recognition in Dhuwaya. However, the participants’ letter knowledge, phonemic awareness, and word recognition skills were delayed when compared to the benchmarks proposed in existing research. Phonemic awareness and word recognition scores were particularly low across all three testing times. Post-intervention scores suggest that the Intervention App did not have a significant impact on syllable awareness and letter knowledge skills. However, post-intervention scores suggest that the Intervention App was moderately successful in increasing phonemic awareness skills and that increased phonemic awareness skills may have led to increased word recognition skills. The theoretical and practical implications of the results are discussed in this thesis, as well as suggestions for creating more effective Dhuwaya language emergent literacy IT resources.
Keywordsphonological awareness; letter knowledge; emergent literacy skills; Dhuwaya; Yirrkala; Yolŋu
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