Can we confer a little bit about this?: Developing Vocabulary Knowledge in Young Children

Can we confer a little bit about this?: Developing Vocabulary Knowledge in Young Children

First Author: Kathy Ganske -- Vanderbilt University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Mia C. Heller
Keywords: vocabulary learning, Orthographic learning, Academic Language, Grade 1-2, Kindergarten
Abstract / Summary: 

This exploratory study investigated a literacy coach’s 8-week implementation of SAIL, a word-study intervention to advance children’s orthographic and academic vocabulary knowledge.
1. What advances do children make in their
a. vocabulary knowledge?
b. encoding/decoding of words and orthographic features?
2. What teacher moves characterize academic vocabulary instruction?

Participants included 19 kindergarten (advanced) and first-grade (typical and struggling) students from four classes of a low-performing suburban school in a large southeastern U.S. district, and their experienced literacy coach. School population was diverse and 78% economically disadvantaged. The coach implemented weekly small-group pullout lessons. Data sources were lesson audio-recordings and field-notes, a dictated spelling inventory and parallel non-word reading assessment, and an academic vocabulary measure. Data were analyzed with descriptive statistics, pairwise comparisons, univariate analyses, and qualitative analyses.

Pre/post student performance comparisons reveal significant increases across the three measures for both kindergarten and first-grade children. Qualitative analysis of instruction within and across the four groups uncovered five common teacher moves. These included 1) an introductory review of previously taught words; 2) use of context and example to show word meaning; 3) scaffolding and elaboration of students’ responses; 4) opportunities for teacher and student use of the words; and 5) closing statements that synthesize and connect learning.

Results suggest that a literacy coach can use SAIL to advance the orthographic and academic vocabulary knowledge of both advanced young children and children with more limited literacy knowledge. Small sample size and absence of a control group were limitations.