Sproget kan styrkes! Rapport om SPELL og Fart på sproget. Undersøgelser af effekten af to sprogindsatser.

Bleses, D.
Højen, A.
Andersen, M.K.
Dybdal, L.
Sehested, K.
Syddansk Universitet.


This report presents the results of two randomised trials, the primary purpose of which was to examine short-term effects of two language intervention programmes: Structured Preschool Effort for Language and Literacy (SPELL) (language acquisition through structured, play-based reading) and 'Fart på sproget' (language acquisition through targeted and systematic play activities). Both studies examine whether structured language interventions can strengthen children’s language acquisition in Danish pedagogical contexts. Apart from examining children’s language acquisition, the SPELL study aims at investigating whether the outcome of intervention programmes increases by (1) ECEC teachers attending additional course days as part of their competence development, or by (2) parents carrying out language activities at home in parallel with the language activities at the ECEC centre. Furthermore, the 'Fart på sproget' study examined (1) whether the effect of the language intervention was greatest if language activities at the ECEC centre were carried out in small or in large groups of children, and (2) the implications of ECEC teachers working according to a more 'open' curriculum ('Fart på sproget ÅBEN'), whereby the ECEC teachers were to support established learning areas and learning goals, but at the same time were free to choose and plan pedagogical language activities within the curriculum.


Overall, the impact studies of the two language intervention programmes, SPELL and 'Fart på sproget', show that children in the intervention groups acquired significantly better pre-writing skills (e.g. phonemic awareness and knowledge of letters) during the intervention programme than children in the control group. However, the children’s outcome was at the lower end of the scale, with effects on pre-writing skills in the range of 0.20-0.30 in the intervention groups in both the SPELL and 'Fart på sproget'. With regard to spoken language (where vocabulary was the only active learning area in the language intervention), SPELL was found to have only minor and non-significant effects. According to the authors, these results may be explained by the fact that both language intervention programmes were carried out under normal, everyday circumstances. This means that the intervention programmes were carried out in parallel with other pedagogical and practical tasks at the ECEC centres. Another possible explanation is that many ECEC teachers did not complete the full programme, which may also have had a negative effect on the children’s outcome. Finally, the results generally suggest that all children had a positive outcome of the language intervention programmes, regardless of their parents’ background.

Only in the open curriculum programme 'Fart på sproget ÅBEN' did the children benefit from the language intervention with respect to their pre-writing skills as well as their spoken language. The results thereby suggest that planned activities and standard activity descriptions, with models for ECEC teachers’ work with children’s learning outcomes, are not necessarily a condition for strengthening the language skills of children in a Danish pedagogical context. In other words, the findings of the 'Fart på sproget ÅBEN' study indicate that better results can be achieved when ECEC teachers work with established learning areas, but are free to choose and plan language activities. Furthermore, the study suggests that, to a great extent, ECEC teachers in the 'Fart på sproget ÅBEN' programme preferred common book reading and other 'academic' activities over play activities focusing on language.

The results of the SPELL study further indicate that additional competence development for ECEC teachers or involving parents in carrying out language activities at home did not improve children’s outcomes from the language intervention. Furthermore, the 'Fart på sproget' study finds that group size has no influence on children’s outcomes from the language intervention, which indicates that pre-writing skills could be supported by language activities in small as well as large groups of children.


The two language intervention programmes, SPELL and 'Fart på sproget', were designed to allow for comparison with each other. SPELL is based on common book reading, whereas 'Fart på sproget' is based on structured play activities, such as memory games, singing games and storytelling games. Both of the language intervention programmes support children’s oral language skills and their reading and writing skills, based on four learning areas: vocabulary, narrative competencies, written language concepts and phonemic awareness. The language intervention programmes are targeted at children aged 3-6 years, and proceed for a period of 20 weeks with activities twice a week. Both studies are based on randomised controlled trials (RTC) and use a four-group design, which means that in both studies, the children were divided into three randomly formed intervention groups and one control group. A total of 5,350 children from 134 ECEC centres participated in the SPELL study, whereas 5,436 children from 145 ECEC centres participated in the 'Fart på sproget' study.  The language intervention programmes were carried out with two cohorts. The data material consists of before and after evaluations of the children’s language skills (a battery of language tests conducted by the ECEC teachers); questionnaires filled in by the ECEC centre leaders, ECEC teachers and parents; observations of the physical learning environment; and finally video footage of the language activities at the ECEC centres (the latter only applies to the SPELL study). Furthermore, background information was obtained from Statistics Denmark, and the ECEC teachers were asked to fill in activity notes and a language development form with a view to assessing the quality of the language intervention programmes.



Bleses, D., Højen, A., Andersen, M.K., Dybdal, L. & Sehested, K. (2015). Sproget kan styrkes! Rapport om SPELL og Fart på sproget. Undersøgelser af effekten af to sprogindsatser. Syddansk Universitet.

Financed by

SPELL was financed by the Danish Council for Strategic Research. 'Fart på sproget' was financed by the National Board of Social Services.