Small Group Approaches for English Language Learners (ELL)


Small Group Approaches for English Language Learners (ELL)

Principal Investigators

  • Susan H. Landry, Ph.D., UTHealth

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Emily Solari, Ph.D.
  • Mike Assel, Ph.D.
  • Paul R. Swank, Ph.D., UTHealth

Funding Agency

Institute of Educational Sciences (IES)

Description of the Project

The study’s goal is to determine the effectiveness of a comprehensive Spanish school readiness curriculum combined with small group instruction towards improving literacy, language, math and social skills for a local group of prekindergarten ELL children from low-income families. Students in the study, with parent consent, will be divided into two groups. One group will receive typical instruction using the Scholastic Early Childhood Program, a widely used pre-K curriculum with a Spanish Version.  The second group will test a new Spanish version of the pre-K curriculum, Literacy Express, together with targeted small group instruction for a total of two hours each week. Participating teachers and aides will receive specialized training and assessments throughout the school year – including proven dual-language techniques and progress monitoring – to implement this new curriculum, form small groups and guide instruction. To test the effects of the study, children will receive pre- and post-assessments in English and Spanish on language, literacy, math and social skills with a follow-up assessment in their kindergarten year.  The project will provide the educational field with information about the impact of small group instructional practices on language and academic development of ELLs.  The project also will provide the field with much-needed research surrounding the cross-linguistic transfer of Spanish to English within early academic settings.  Due to the fact that the project is longitudinal in nature, we also will be evaluating how educational intensive small group instructional approaches impact ELLs academic competencies in both languages in kindergarten.  

Postdoctoral Fellows Information

There are multiple training opportunities for postdoctoral fellows on this study.  Bilingual postdoctoral trainees could choose to learn to administer classroom observation instruments (e.g., CIRCLE-TBRS) or assist investigators in data collection activities (e.g., training of assessors and field staff).  In addition to these research activities, postdoctoral trainees could learn about the administrative requirements of working on a federally funded grant (e.g., completion of progress reports).   As this is a longitudinal project, there are multiple opportunities for postdoctoral fellows who have interest and experience in managing large data sets (e.g., ensuring accuracy of data, running descriptive statistics on each wave, etc.).   Finally, postdoctoral fellows can assist investigators in production of peer reviewed research papers. 


Over the first three years of the four-year study, more than 1,000 ELL children in Houston Independent School District (HISD) pre-K classrooms with a bilingual teacher/aide structure will participate.


Children’s Learning Institute (CLI), UTHealth, Houston Independent School District (HISD)


2011 –2015

For More Information

Mike Assel, Ph.D.,  Associate Professor, Co-Investigator, CLI
(713) 500-3714

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