This summer, we’re releasing some exciting enhancements to LENA Grow. We want to see them make a big impact in child care settings everywhere.
All the children in the video above are experiencing conversational turns, which will prove to be a critical part of their cognitive, social-emotional, and linguistic development.
And all the educators in the video are participating in LENA Grow, which will likewise prove to be a critical part of their professional development.
What does it mean to participate in LENA Grow?
"One of our teachers actually said, ‘You know, I love this tool because it reminds me that I’m having meaningful interactions with these children and that it’s helping them to grow,’ which I just think is such a beautiful light bulb moment to see."
-Amy Kronberg, early learning consultant with Preschool Promise in Dayton, Ohio
For infant, toddler, and preschool educators, it means having the tools you need to improve language environments equitably and to truly connect with each and every child in your care.
And in a more nuts-and-bolts kind of way, participating in LENA Grow means that all these conversational turns are being captured by LENA’s “talk pedometer” technology. And it means the teachers will work with coaches to reflect on each individual child’s classroom experience. They’ll set goals for creating more nurturing, equitable, brain-building interactions.
What we already know about LENA Grow
First off, we know the program works. Through years of implementation across the U.S., we’ve learned that LENA Grow’s feedback cycle clicks with early childhood educators. It increases self-efficacy and job satisfaction, helps them develop professionally, and boosts their sense of connectedness with the children. Simply put, teachers love LENA Grow.
Second of all, we know we’re constantly working to evolve the program. Child care is a fragmented, challenging, and ever-changing space. To deliver LENA Grow’s benefits to as many educators and children as possible in the coming years, we need a heightened focus on ease of implementation, inclusivity of access, and equity of delivery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the sense of urgency. Infants born during the pandemic are facing increased risks of language delays, and their current and future educators must be prepared.
How we know the enhancements will work
The new version of LENA Grow launches in the summer of 2022. We’re confident we’ve hit the right notes, and we’re excited to see just how big an impact we can work with our partners to make.
"It became clear that the fit of LENA Grow was perfect for us. Our values encourage us first to value infant/toddler early care educators. This model says ‘You caregivers, what you’re already doing in your day, you’re doing it – we just want to put words and numbers around it and give it back to you in a way that’s readable.‘"
-Lisa Matter, program manager with Colorado’s Expanding Quality in Infant Toddler Care initiative
That’s thanks in large part to our LENA Grow advisory panel, representing a wide range of ECE roles, from teachers and Family Child Care providers to coaches and program leaders.
Over 5,000 educators and 20,000 children have experienced LENA Grow since the program’s inception in 2016. We’re excited to see how expansive our reach can become with the program enhancements we’ve made.
Feedback, research, and testing — and a lot of it — have helped us arrive at the new version of LENA Grow.
- Feedback. Formal surveys, informal conversations, focus groups, round tables, and educator interviews have all been a part of our learning process.
- Research. Behind the scenes, LENA has conducted data-driven research to better understand how LENA Grow is working and what kind of impact it’s having.
- Testing. We’ve tested as many of the changes as possible with real coaches and educators in real early education settings.
Stackable five-week sequences
In response to the challenges facing today’s child care programs, the LENA Grow sequence is designed with flexibility in mind.
With the new version of LENA Grow, two stackable five-week sequences can be delivered in a variety of ways: as a standalone five-week sequence, with both sequences back-to-back, or with both sequences delivered months apart.
The first five-week sequence is called LENA Grow 1: Essentials. It focuses on helping educators incorporate talk strategies into their everyday routines and learn how to use data to inform their practice.
The second five-week sequence is called LENA Grow 2: Insights. It helps educators sharpen the strategies they learned in Essentials by honing an equity-minded approach and focusing on individual children’s experiences. They’ll also learn new strategies to promote early literacy and math skills during daily routines.
Educators can earn 4.5 professional developments hours for LENA Grow 1 and 3.5 hours for LENA Grow 2.
"Because the LENA Grow reports provided instant results that teachers could see, they gained more of an understanding of some of the CLASS dimensions and indicators. So teachers gained a better understanding of what a high-quality, interactive classroom looks like."
-Lisa Austin, early childhood specialist at Fort Worth Children’s Partnership
A streamlined Room Report and digital experience
LENA Grow’s primary report, the Room Report, has been thoughtfully redesigned:
- The first page shows early talk data averaged across all children in the room. Hourly breakouts help teachers and coaches identify which activities generated the most interaction.
- The second page celebrates the progress that teachers have made with each individual child in their care. The conversational turns each child experiences are plotted against nationwide benchmarks. Those benchmarks were gathered by analyzing thousands of children’s experiences across the U.S., and they’re explained at greater length in LENA’s Inside Early Talk report, published in 2021.
LENA Online has also gotten a full overhaul:
- Performance metrics for every active LENA Grow group appear on the same screen, so program managers and coaches get an intuitive view of their whole program.
- Coaches have access to easy-to-follow instructions on how to prepare for upcoming coaching sessions.
- Enhanced aggregate reporting is included. That means impact can easily be monitored at a systems level and presented to funders and stakeholders.
Simplified, efficient print materials
A newly designed Teacher Guide and Coach Guide will make for a smooth program experience for all involved. A few highlights:
- Ease of use for coaches:
- A step-by-guide guide accompanies each week’s content.
- A single binder integrates all implementation and facilitation material.
- Detailed annotations direct the coach’s facilitation of the program — comparable to a “teacher’s edition” of a K-12 textbook.
- Motivation for teachers:
- Tips from other Grow teachers, responsive ideas to support all learners, and certification checkpoints are included along the way.
- Teachers document their goals on the same page where they take notes during their LENA Day, so they will be reminded of their goals each time they refer back to that page.
- Family engagement materials are included directly in the guide. With flexible delivery options, teachers can distribute handouts providing strategies for families that directly support what the teacher is focusing on in the classroom that week.
Newly designed Conversation Starter posters include infant/toddler content on one side and preschool content on the other. Additionally, the Teacher Guide includes weekly guidance for each of the three age groups individually, with preschool-specific materials included for the first time ever.
The big picture: Elevating early educators changes everything
Early childhood educators are dedicated professionals whom parents entrust to stimulate their children’s most vital period of brain development. If society were to invest in early childhood education proportionally to the impact it actually makes in the world, everyone would stand to gain.
At LENA, we’ve put a lot into these enhancements to LENA Grow. Together we can make sure children and educators around the world get a lot out.
"As a long-time educator, I know how to talk to kids. But LENA Grow really helped me focus on how to listen to them. And when you start listening, then you are able to really start building a relationship with each kiddo."
-Judy Berdan, teacher at Marathon County Child Development Agency Head Start in Wisconsin