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Preventing early reading and spelling difficulties in inclusive primary EFL education: An evaluation of a phonological awareness training

by Krystina Mensing (University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany)


In the context of inclusion, the relevance of early reading and spelling difficulties (RSD) – both in first and second language acquisition - are increasingly recognized. This recognition is not only restricted to learners with a specific reading disorder as defined by ICD-10, but also to children whose difficulties originate from a variety of causes. Against this background, it can be assumed that 20 % of all language learners have problems learning to read and write (Shaywitz, 2005). Regardless of the causes, research in the context of literacy development has repeatedly emphasized the role of preventive support measures (e.g. Bradley & Bryant, 1983; 1985; Slavin et al., 2011; Moraske et al., 2018). For young learners, this especially applies to the development of phonological awareness as a predictor of success in literacy development in both first languages and foreign/second languages.

The present study focuses on RSD in the context of English as a foreign language (EFL) education with younger learners. For the study, “Puppy Pete learns to read” was developed, a phonological awareness training, based on the two-dimensional construct of phonological awareness according to Schnitzler (2008). The study aims to investigate the following research questions:

1. To what extent can an improvement in phonological awareness in primary EFL education be achieved in children with deficits in the development of phonological awareness through special training?

2. To what extent does the implementation of special training have an impact on the EFL reading and spelling performance of children with deficits in the development of phonological awareness?

To answer these research questions, an intervention study with pre-/post- and follow-up design will be implemented in two primary EFL classes (3rd and 4th grade). To examine the development of individual learners, single-case studies are also included. The goal of the study is to compare learners who receive a 14-week training to those who attend regular primary EFL classes. To evaluate the intervention, tests that measure the phonological awareness in the first language German as well as reading and spelling tests in both German and English will be implemented. First results will be reported.




Bradley, Lynette / Bryant, Peter (1983): “Categorizing sounds and learning to read: A causal connection”. In: Nature, 301, 419-421.

___ (1985): Children’s reading problems: Psychology and education. Oxford UK: Blackwell.

Moraske, Svenja / Wyschkon, Anne / Poltz, Nadine / Kucian, Karin / von Aster, Michael / Esser, Günter (2018): "LRS-Prävention bei Risikokindern: Langfristige Effekte bis in die 3. Klasse“. In: Lernen und Lernstörungen, 7 (3), 171-183.


Schnitzler, Carola (2008): Phonologische Bewusstheit und SchriftspracherwerbStuttgart: Thieme.


Shaywitz, Sally (2005): Overcoming Dyslexia. New York: Vintage. 


Slavin, Robert E. / Lake, Cynthia / Davis, Susan / Madden, Nancy A. (2011): “Effective programs for struggling readers: A best-evidence synthesis”. In: Educational research review, 6 (1), 1-26.