Martha speaks (Television program). [No. 125, 2009-03-02], Martha Sings/T.D. Makes the Band

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Created: 2009


Martha speaks (Television program). [No. 125, 2009-03-02], Martha Sings/T.D. Makes the Band
Summary: "What would happen if your family dog were suddenly able to speak?

"MARTHA SPEAKS is an animated PBS series designed to answer that question, while addressing a serious educational goal. Based on the classic books by Susan Meddaugh that have charmed and captivated millions of children, each episode uses Martha's unique linguistic abilities and the hilarious consequences to engage kids and help build their oral vocabulary skills.

"The need

"The educational goal of MARTHA SPEAKS is to bolster young children's vocabulary development, one of the five essential elements critical to reading acquisition. While vocabulary development is a predictor of reading success, a great chasm in vocabulary knowledge exists between disadvantaged kids and their peers by the age of 3. While most kids from middle- and upper-class backgrounds learn nine words a day, kids from low-income households learn just three (Hart & Risely, 1995). The vocabulary gap continues to widen with each year, and children with limited vocabulary knowledge (often low-income or English language learners) never catch up -- an alarming fact considering that 1st grade vocabulary predicts 11th grade reading comprehension. Even if these children learn how to read, they have trouble attaching meaning to some words and miss the content of what they're reading. This lack of vocabulary development has become a major contributor to the literacy crisis for low-income kids, who are close to 60% behind the average in reading ability (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).

"Because MARTHA SPEAKS is focused on oral language as Martha experiments with and enjoys her new powers of speech, the series has a unique opportunity to help expand the vocabulary of America's children. The approach to building vocabulary knowledge in MARTHA SPEAKS embodies research-based characteristics of effective vocabulary instruction. Research suggests that vocabulary knowledge is best fostered by exposing children to interesting words, generating their excitement and enthusiasm for new words, and encouraging their active participation and engagement in word learning. Therefore, the MARTHA SPEAKS project incorporates all of these characteristics.

"How MARTHA SPEAKS Addresses the Need

  • On TV: Each episode of MARTHA exposes children to 20 vocabulary words, 10 explicitly defined, 10 implicitly defined by context. Over the course of the second season, 4- to 7-year-olds will learn up to 1,100 new words, words like evidence, rational, pursue, yearn, temporary, and stupendous. Independent research studies indicate we are succeeding in this goal.
  • On the Web: The MARTHA SPEAKS Web site ( uses dog appeal to allow kids to interact with our target vocabulary. Select clips and shows are also streamed on PBS's broadband service (, where the 'dog channel' has been among the most popular since launch.
  • In the Community: In targeted markets around the country, elementary schools launched MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies programs, pairing kindergarten students with 4th and 5th graders to view, read, and do vocabulary-building activities together, and public libraries hosted read-aloud book clubs."--2009 Peabody Awards entry form.

This is episode 125, "Martha Sings/T.D. Makes the Band."

Corporate Producers: WGBH Educational Foundation | Studio B Productions | Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.)

Persons Appearing: Tabitha St. Germain | Madeleine Peters | Alex Ferris | Brian Drummond | Cedric Payne | Christina Crivici | Kathleen Barr | Vanessa Tomasino

Broadcast Date: 2009-03-02