Episode 44 - The ABCs of Early Literacy Learning and Teacher Knowledge with Shayne Piasta, PhD

Episode Summary

Shayne Piasta, PhD, joins the READ Podcast to share her expertise on the evidence in early literacy education including alphabet instruction and oral language. She cites integrated approaches to the Science of Reading and supporting evidence-based practices that inform both educators and families. Dr. Piasta then discusses the knowledge educators need to effectively deliver reading instruction, with a focus on oral language. Educators will learn more about the research process and how researchers determine the strength of evidence supporting instructional practices in order to inform their instruction and build agency in their classrooms. 

Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”

1. The Evidence on Alphabet Instruction for Early Readers
Listen to 9:18 – 12:39 to learn more.

Dr. Piasta focuses on conducting and examining empirical research studies related to reading development and instruction. She cites strong evidence for the following: 

  • Pairing letter names and sounds simultaneously 
  • Pacing of alphabet instruction
  • Embedded mnemonics (see Dr. Linnea Ehri’s work) 
  • Explicit instruction 

Read more about Dr. Piasta’s synthesis of the evidence underlying alphabet instruction in The Handbook on the Science of Early Literacy (Cabell, Neuman, & Patton Terry, 2023).

2. Classroom Implications for Early Literacy Learning
Listen to 18:11 – 28:46 to learn more.

“We have evidence that not all children are arriving to first grade having mastered the basics of the alphabet.”  

Dr. Piasta offers the following implications for classroom instruction: 

  • It is important to build alphabet knowledge through explicit instruction. 
  • Children’s literacy learning is malleable.
  • The Science of Reading encompasses code-based and language/meaning-based skills.

“In meaning-focused skills, we need to be targeting oral language and providing opportunities for emergent reading and writing.” 

3. Measuring teacher knowledge of oral language
Listen to 31:00 – 47:09 to learn more.

Dr. Piasta collaborated with other researchers including past READ guest and WI instructor, Dr. Mindy Bridges, to develop a survey measure assessing teacher knowledge of oral language (read more about the TCKOLS, or the Teachers’ Content Knowledge of Oral Language Survey (Piasta et al., 2022)).

“Language isn't its own domain of education because it crosscuts all of these different areas [in school].”

Dr. Piasta differentiates between specific categories of teacher knowledge:

  • Content knowledge
  • Pedagogical knowledge
  • Pedagogical content knowledge
  • Curriculum knowledge 
  • Knowledge of learners and their characteristics 

“It is important that within teacher preparation as well as in service professional development, we are showing teachers how different literacy and language skills are interrelated. We are helping them understand how that can occur in classroom settings, and we are giving them opportunities to try these skills in practice with feedback.” 


Learn more from Dr. Piasta    Language and Research Reading Consortium (LARRC)

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.

Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.