Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the EMBRACE Spanish support intervention for at-risk dual language learners and to determine which verbal and nonverbal characteristics of students were related to benefit from the intervention. The first study examined oral language and reading characteristics and the second study examined motor characteristics in predicting the children's outcomes on a reading comprehension intervention.
Method: Fifty-six participants in 2nd-5th grade were randomly assigned to one of two groups: 1) Spanish-support intervention, or 2) Spanish-support control. Outcome measures included performance on comprehension questions related to intervention texts, questions on the final narrative and expository text without strategy instruction, and difference scores on alternate forms of the Gates-MacGinitie (GMRT-4, MacGinitie, MacGinitie, Maria, & Dreyer, 2002) reading comprehension subtest administered pre- post-intervention. Multi-level hierarchical linear models were used to account for nesting of question within child within classroom. Regression models were used to examine the power of motor predictors in predicting Spanish and English language performance.
Results: Results from study 1 indicated that the intervention was most effective for narrative (vs. expository) texts and easy (vs. more difficult) texts. Dual language learners (DLLs) with lower initial English reading comprehension abilities benefitted more from the intervention than those with stronger reading skills. Results from Study 2 indicated that oral fine motor abilities predicted Spanish (but not English) oral language abilities in the expected direction (i.e. faster performance associated with higher language scores). The speed of /pata/ productions predicted reading comprehension during the intervention, but not in the expected direction (i.e. slower speeds associated with higher accuracy). Manual fine motor performance on tapping tasks was not related to language or reading.
Conclusions: The EMBRACE intervention has promise for use with at-risk DLLs. Future research should take care to match text difficulty with child skills so as to maximize benefit from the intervention. Oral fine motor abilities were related to language abilities in DLLs, but only for the native language. Slower oral fine motor performance predicted higher accuracy on intervention questions, suggesting that EMBRACE may be particularly effective for children with weak fine motor skills.