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Selenid Gonzalez-Frey, PhD
June 2020

Educational Psychology
Learning, Development, and Instruction

Literacy; Early Childhood Education



Selenid Gonzalez-Frey completed her Bachelor's degree at the University of Rochester. She recieved two Master's degrees from Canisius College in Childhood Education and in Literacy. She taught Experimental Psychology at Hunter College as well as Literacy Education couses at Teachers College, Columbia Univeristy and at Brooklyn College. Selenid has accepted an Assistant Professor position at Buffalo State College School of Education in the Department of Elementary Education, Literacy, and Educational Leadership. She is a Gates Millenium Scholar and SUNY PRODiG Fellow.

Dissertation Title:

"Teaching Children to Decode Words: Connected Versus Segmented Phonation"

Two methods of decoding instruction were compared. Kindergartners who could not decode nonwords participated in the study, N = 38, M = 5.6 years. Segmented phonation, frequently used in synthetic phonics programs, taught students to convert graphemes to phonemes by breaking the speech stream (“sss – aaa – nnn”) before blending. Connected phonation taught students to pronounce phonemes without breaking the speech stream (“sssaaannn”) before blending. Kindergartners were matched and randomly assigned to the two conditions. Both groups were taught to decode the same set of CVC nonwords consisting of continuant consonants and vowels that could be stretched and connected without altering their phonemic identities and without breaking the speech stream. Following learning, students completed a transfer task to decode CVC nonwords with stop consonants that are harder to blend because a schwa vowel is added when stops are pronounced separately (e.g., “dǝ – æ – pǝ”) and must be deleted during blending (e.g., “dap”). It was hypothesized that the connected phonation group would better understand how to blend phonemes than the segmented phonation group and hence would be able to overlook schwa vowels more easily in the transfer task. Results were supportive. Connected phonation students read the CVC nonwords with stops more accurately on the transfer task as well as a delayed posttest. Errors showed that segmented phonation students more often forgot the phonemes they had pronounced, especially initial phonemes, when they tried to blend them. In addition to treatment effects, children’s sight word reading explained significant variance in nonword reading on the transfer task. Findings carry implications for how to teach decoding more effectively.

Committee Members:

Dr. Linnea C. Ehri; Dr. Alpana Bhattacharya; Dr. Katharine Pace Miles; Dr. Patricia Brooks; Dr. Robin O’Leary

Acknowledgements / Special Thanks:

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to my academic advisor,  Dr. Linnea Ehri, for being my mentor and guiding my thought-process and work from the very beginning. The greatest honor I have received during my educational journey, was the opportunity to work with you – it was a dream come true. Your work is truly inspiring. Thank you for your eternal support, feedback, insight, and time.  

I would also like to extend my deepest gratitude to my dissertation committee, Drs. Alpana Bhattacharya, Katharine Pace Miles, Patricia Brooks, and Robin O’Leary, for your expert guidance and thoughtful insight. Further, I’d like to thank the faculty and staff of the Educational Psychology department for the instruction and support which enabled me to complete my degree. 

To my mom, Luz Enid Reyes, thank you for your never-ending encouragement. You showed me what hard-work and strength looks like. You gave me every opportunity in order for me to succeed and I can never thank you enough. To my grandparents, Mama Selena and Papa Chano, thank you for being the backbone of our family. The sacrifices the three of you have made for me have paved the way for all my accomplishments. 

From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank my husband, Jordan Frey. You truly were my partner in helping me achieve this goal. Thank you for always believing in me and encouraging me to pursue my passion. Your dedication, hard-work, and grit in life is awe-inspiring. I am lucky to have you by my side. Thank you to my sons, Samuel and Emery. You make my life better every day.

What's Next?

Selenid has joined the faculty at Buffalo State College in the School of Education.