Developing Social Skills Training and Literacy Instruction Pedagogy Through Service Learning: An Integrated Model of Teacher Preparation

From Section:
Programs & Practicum
Dec. 15, 2010

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31(4):373–390, 2010
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This exploratory study examined the authors' utilization of two service-learning tutoring programs with preservice teachers (PSTs). The PSTs were assigned to and taught one of the tutoring programs with identified kindergarten or first-grade struggling readers.

The research explored:
a) the impact of social skills training on PSTs’ understanding of the connection between social skills and literacy development;
b) the social skills PSTs modeled, labeled, or scaffolded in their classrooms;
and c) the effect of the service-learning tutoring on the children.

A cohort of 27 undergraduate female students was enrolled in the second semester (Block II) of an Early Childhood Education Program at a large research university in the southeastern United States.

13 PSTs were trained during two class sessions on the Tutor-Assisted Intensive Learning Strategies ((TAILS); Al Otaiba, 2003; Al Otaiba, Schatschneider, & Silverman, 2005( program. These PSTs were provided with a kindergarten or firstgrade TAILS notebook to use with their tutee, along with an instructional DVD. TAILS teaches phonological awareness, phonics, and fluency through principles of direct instruction (Carnine, Silbert, & Kame’enui, 1998); it contains a clear scope and sequence, follows a model-lead-test format, and includes cumulative review and practice.
The other half of the cohort, 14 PSTs, was taught the principles of Book Partners (BP) in a separate location. PSTs in BP were instructed to provide code-based instruction (i.e., phonological awareness, fluency, and phonics instruction) in the context of the book reading and utilizing the content and resources from their Emergent Reading Methods Course.

Findings and Discussion

The findings reveal that the TAILS journals were more informative, included very specific social skills details. TAILS journals reported twice as many classroom social behaviors when compared to the BP journals.
However, PSTs across both groups identified the following classroom social skills examples: perseverance, on task behaviors, following directions, children helping children, using scripts, and gaining confidence.

The data showed that TAILS children demonstrated more on-task and perseverance behaviors, which are directly associated with improved reading achievement, compared to the BP children.
Furthermore, nine TAILS journals were citing examples of helping behaviors, compared to only 3 BP journals. In addition, five of the TAILS journals and one BP journal reported children using the social scripts that had been specifically taught in their classrooms.


This study demonstrates that children’s literature can be a powerful tool in social skills training. Using books to teach social skills is also a strategy that maximizes a teacher’s time and effort (Forgan & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2004). Tutoring allows the child to increase his or her time on task and experience individualized pacing. It allows the tutor to match the curriculum to the child’s needs and make connections to prior knowledge.

Furthermore, including a service-learning tutorial as part of the university coursework was successful for most of the PSTs. The tutoring process increased their knowledge of the importance of explicitly teaching social skills and reading.

Al Otaiba, S. (2003). Tutor-assisted intensive learning strategies for second grade (TAILS-2). Tallahassee, FL: Florida Center for Reading Research–Florida State University, Tallahassee.
Al Otaiba, S., Schatschneider, C., & Silverman, E. (2005). Tutor-assisted intensive learning strategies in kindergarten: How much is enough? Exceptionality, 13, 195–208.
Carnine, D., Silbert, J., & Kame’enui, E. J. (1998). Direct instruction reading (3rd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Forgan, J. W., & Gonzalez-DeHass, A. (2004). How to infuse social skills training in literacyinstruction. Exceptional Children, 36(6), 24–30.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Children's literature | Learning strategies | Program effectiveness | Reading instruction | Teacher education programs | Teaching models