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Psycholinguistic ability in three-to-five-year-olds Stewart, Agnes Edna

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to explore the development of psycho-linguistic ability in three- to five-year-old children, where psycholinguistic ability is defined in terms of seven tests of auditory word segmentation and auditory-visual integration of the symbols of literacy. The study was designed to explore three implicit questions: (a) developmental trends in the abilities of three- to five-year-olds on tasks of letter knowledge (identifying, naming and writing), hearing letter name sounds in spoken words, and hearing phonemes in spoken words; (b) the appropriateness of the tests for the age groups tested; and (c) the relative difficulty of the tests as a basis for suggesting an hierarchical order. A total of 75 preschoolers, including 11 three-year-olds, 33 four-year-olds, and 31 five-year-olds, were tested on the following tasks: (1) identifying letters named; (2) naming letters; (3) writing letters from dictation; (4) hearing letter name sounds in spoken words (oral and marking responses); and, (5) hearing phonemes in words (oral and marking responses). The data were analyzed in terms of the three implicit questions. When scores were analyzed for developmental trends through t-tests, statistically significant differences were found between four- and five-year-olds on all of the tests. Similar comparisons between three- and four-year-olds were not made because of the difficulty of the tests for three-year-olds. When the appropriateness of the tests was explored, only the test of identifying letter names was considered appropriate for the three-year-olds. Although even this test was considered somewhat difficult, results of the testing provided evidence that this psycho linguistic ability was beginning to emerge. For four-year-olds, the test of letter identification was considered appropriate. While the letter naming test did reveal some differentiation in performance for this age group, and so was considered marginally appropriate, the other tests were judged too difficult. All of the tests were considered appropriate for five-year-olds, although the two phonemes tests were clearly difficult. An informal inspection of the data resulted in the following hierarchy for difficulty of the tests, listed from easiest to most difficult: (1) identifying letters named; (2) letter name sounds in spoken words ((orals); (3) naming letters; (4) hearing letter name sounds in spoken words (marking); (5) writing letters from dictation; (6) hearing phonemes in words (marking); and, (7) hearing phonemes in words (oral). The two last named seemed almost equal in difficulty. The following observations were made through an analysis of the data: 1. Most of the children from age 5 years 7 months and up were able to identify most of the letters. 2. The ability to write most of the letters appeared to occur quite consistently from age 5 years 9 months. 3. Also from age 5 years 9 months, most children were able to identify letter name sounds in spoken words and to relate these to the printed symbols. 4. The tasks involving auditory word segmentation were the most difficult for all age levels. However, performance in this area appeared to show some stability from age 5 years 9 months. It was concluded that specific kinds of testing can provide considerable information about preschool children's knowledge in the area of psychol inguistic ability. Some implications and suggestions for further research were stated.

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