A Small-Scale Study of the Effects of Supplemental Vocabulary Instruction on Preschoolers with Vocabulary Delays


Research on preschool vocabulary instruction has increased considerably as the need for stronger early literacy programs has garnered public attention. While research findings show moderately to large effects of direct, intensive vocabulary instruction on children’s word learning, results are less robust for those children with vocabulary delays. In general, design specifications of more effective interventions remain unclear. Using a matched sample design, this study examined whether greater frequency of a direct, intensive vocabulary intervention alone improved gains for children with vocabulary delays, or if a more complex treatment may be needed. Participants included 24 children with vocabulary delays were drawn from eight Head Start classrooms in Early Reading First programs. Results of the study indicated that increasing the frequency of an intensive intervention yielded notable gains for children resistant to vocabulary instruction. Implications for early literacy instructional practice are discussed.

Share and Cite:

Roskos, K. , Burstein, K. & Sullivan, S. (2013). A Small-Scale Study of the Effects of Supplemental Vocabulary Instruction on Preschoolers with Vocabulary Delays. Creative Education, 4, 15-22. doi: 10.4236/ce.2013.47A1003.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Biemiller, A., & Boote, C. (2006). An effective method for building meaning vocabulary in primary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 44-62. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.98.1.44
[2] Bloom, P. (2002). Mindreading, communication, and the learning of names for things. Mind and Language, 17, 37-54. doi:10.1111/1468-0017.00188
[3] Borovosky, A., & Elman, J. (2006). Language input and semantic categories: A relation between cognition and early word learning. Journal of Child Language, 33, 759-790. doi:10.1017/S0305000906007574
[4] Bus, A., & Smeets, D. J. H. (2012). Interactive electronic storybooks for kindergartners to promote vocabulary growth. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 112, 36-55.
[5] Bus, A., & Verhallen, M. J. A. J. (2009). Video storybook reading as a remedy for vocabulary deficits. Journal for Educational Research Online, 1, 172-196.
[6] Carey, S. (1978). The child as word learner. Linguistic theory and psychological reality In M. Halle, J. Bresnan, & G. A. Miller (Eds.), Linguistic theory and psychological reality (pp. 264-293). Cam bridge, MA: MIT Press.
[7] Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (1991). Cognitive load theory and the format of instruction. Cognition and Instruction, 8, 293. doi:10.1207/s1532690xci0804_2
[8] Dodge, D. T., Colker, L. J., & Heroman, C. (2005). The creative curriculum for preschool (4th ed.). Bethesda, MD: Teaching Stategies Inc.
[9] Dunn, L. M., & Dunn, L. M. (2007). Peabody picture vocabulary test (4th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Pearson Assessments.
[10] Ehri, L. C. (2005). Learning to read words: Theory, findings, and issues. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9, 167-188. doi:10.1207/s1532799xssr0902_4
[11] Fein, G. (1979). Play in the acquisition of symbols. In L. Katz (Ed.), Current topics in early childhood education (pp. 195-225). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
[12] Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap. American Educator, 27, 4-9.
[13] Heibeck, T. R., & Markman, E. M. (1987). Word learning in children: An examination of fast mapping. Child Development, 58, 1021-1034. doi:10.2307/1130543
[14] Hockema, S., & Smith, L. B. (2009). Learning your language, outside in and inside-out. Linguistics, 47, 453-479. doi:10.1515/LING.2009.016
[15] Korat, O. (2010). Reading electronic books as a support for vocabulary, story comprehension and word reading in kindergarten and first grade. Computers & Education, 55, 24-31. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.11.014
[16] Kuhl, P. K., Tsao, F. M., & Liu, F. M. (2003). Foreign-language experience in infancy: Effects of short-term exposure and social inter action on phonetic learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 100, 9096-9012. doi:10.1073/pnas.1532872100
[17] Margulis, L., & Neuman, S. B. (2009). The effects of vocabulary intervention on young children’s word learning. Paper Presented at the National Reading Conference, Albuquerque.
[18] Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38, 43-52. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3801_6
[19] National Early Literacy Panel (2008). Developing early literacy: A scientific synthesis of early literacy development and implications for intervention. Washington DC: US Department of Education. http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/NELPReport09.pdf
[20] Neuman, S., Newman, E., & Dwyer, J. (2010). Educational effects of a vocabulary intervention on preschoolers’ word knowledge and conceptual development: A cluster-randomized trial. Reading Research Quarterly, 46, 249-272.
[21] Nicolopoulou, A. (2005). Play and narrative in the process of development: Commonalities, differences, and interrelations. Cognitive Development, 20, 495-502. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2005.09.001
[22] Paivio, A. (1990). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195066661.001.0001
[23] Pellegrini, A. D., & Galda, L. (1993). Ten years after: A reexamination of symbolic play and literacy research. Reading Research Quarterly, 28, 162175. doi:10.2307/747887
[24] Pellegrini, A. D., Galda, L., Bartini, M., & Charak, D. (1998). Oral language and literacy learning in context: The role of social relationships. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 44, 38.
[25] Rivera-Gaxiola, M., Silva-Pereyra, J., & Kuhl, P. (2005). An event related brain potential study of sentence comprehension in preschoolers: Semantic and morphosyntactic processing. Cognitive Brain Research, 23, 247-258.
[26] Samuelson, L. K. (2002). Statistical regularities in vocabulary guide language acquisition in connectionist models and 15 20-month-olds. Developmental Psychology, 38, 1016-1037. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.38.6.1016
[27] Segers, E., & Verhoeven, L. (2002). Multimedia support of early literacy learning. Computers & Education, 39, 207-222. doi:10.1016/S0360-1315(02)00034-9
[28] Segers, E., & Verhoeven, L. (2003). Effects of vocabulary training by computer in kindergarten. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 19, 557-567. doi:10.1046/j.0266-4909.2003.00058.x
[29] Segers, E., Verhoeven, L., & Nanneke, H. H. (2008) Cognitive processes in children’s multimedia text learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 375-338. doi:10.1002/acp.1413
[30] Silverman, R. (2007). A comparison of three methods of vocabulary instruction during read-alouds in kindergarten. The Elementary School Journal, 108, 97-113. doi:10.1086/525549
[31] Silverman, R., & Crandell, J. D. (2010). Vocabulary practices in pre kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms. Reading Research Quarterly, 45, 318-340. doi:10.1598/RRQ.45.3.3
[32] Smith, L. B. (2000). How to learn words: An associative crane. In R. Golinkoff, & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Breaking the word learning barrier (pp. 51-80). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195130324.003.003
[33] Sweller, J., van Merrienboer, J., & Paas, F. (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review, 10, 251-296. doi:10.1023/A:1022193728205
[34] Whitehurst, G. J. (US Department of Education) (2008). Rigor and relevance redux: Director’s biennial report to congress (IES 2009 6010). http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED503384.pdf
[35] Vedeler, L. (1997). Dramatic play: A format for “literate” language? Journal of Educational Psychology, 2, 153-167.
[36] Verhallen, M. J. A., & Bus, A. G. (2012). Beneficial effects of illustrations in picture storybooks for storing and retaining story text. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Studies of Reading, Montreal.
[37] Verhallen, M. J. A. J., Bus, A., & de Jong, M. T. (2006). The promise of multimedia stories for kindergarten children at risk. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 410-419. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.98.2.410
[38] Wittrock, M. C. (1981). Reading comprehension. In F. J. Pirozzolo, & M. C. Wittrock (Eds.), Neuropsychological and cognitive processes in reading (pp. 229-259). New York: Academic-Press.
[39] Wright, T. (2012). What classroom observations reveal about oral vocabulary instruction in kindergarten. Reading Research Quarterly, 47, 353-355.

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.