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IES Grant

Title: Efficacy of Supplemental Early Vocabulary Connections Instruction for English Language Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Vadasy, Patricia Awardee: Oregon Research Institute
Program: Policies, Practices, and Programs to Support English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,838,975
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A130700

Previous Award Number: R305A110343
Previous Awardee: Washington Research Institute
Co-Principal Investigator: Nelson, J. Ron

Purpose: The goal of this project is to study the efficacy of a supplemental reading intervention for English language learners (ELLs) in kindergarten called Early Vocabulary Connections (Connections). This intervention is designed to coordinate the development of beginning decoding skills, spelling, and vocabulary knowledge in English. In addition to immediate effects on word reading and vocabulary, participation in Connections is hypothesized to improve learning of new vocabulary and general comprehension outcomes. An initial efficacy study of this intervention found positive effects on both word reading and vocabulary. This study is designed to replicate these findings. In this study, Connections will be implemented with a more diverse sample of ELLs, will follow students for an additional year, and will examine the effect of participation in this instruction on a broader range of assessments.

Project Activities: Students will be randomly assigned within classrooms to participate in small group instruction that either consists of the Connections instructional activities or interactive book reading 5 days a week for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 20–25 weeks. Both conditions will be implemented as pull-out instruction and led by paraeducators. Students will be assessed on measures of reading vocabulary and word reading before and after the study, as well as 1year later to examine the longer term impacts of Connections.

Products: Products include peer reviewed publications on the evidence of the short and longer-term impacts of Connections for kindergarten ELLs from a wide variety of language backgrounds.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in 15 public elementary schools in Seattle.

Population: The sample includes 432 ELLs in kindergarten who score below a certain criterion on the English language placement test. Students represent over 28 language backgrounds, including Spanish, Vietnamese, Somali, Chinese, and Tagalog.

Intervention: Designed to be implemented as a supplemental instructional program, Connections integrates instructional components within each lesson to build students' vocabulary knowledge and reinforce decoding skills being taught in the core beginning reading curricula. The instructional components provide students multiple exposures to words to ensure their learning of word meanings. In addition to word blending and spelling activities, the newly learned words are then used in interesting, meaningful, and fully decodable texts to provide students with scaffolded decoding practice. The texts are written to illustrate the meaning of the word in a context that is meaningful to a young reader. The curriculum provides the teacher with a 12 inch by 10 inch presentation manual to present the lesson to small groups of children. Instructional prompts for the teacher are included and the instructional components in Connections have a predictable format. One target word is taught each day, a rate of direct instruction for vocabulary at which K–2 students can learn and retain word meanings. Teachers use a dialogic process to help students understand the meaning for target words through active engagement. The teacher alternates between being the listener or the questioner for students' explanations of the meaning for target words.

Research Design and Methods: A two-cohort design will be utilized in which one cohort of kindergarteners in the 15 schools will participate in Year 1. The second cohort from the same schools will participate in Year 2. Students within classrooms will be assigned to participate in either a treatment or control condition. Each cohort will be pre-tested in the fall, post-tested in the spring, and given a follow-up test one year after the intervention. Each tutoring session will be audiotaped, and a random sample of 20 percent of tutors' session will be analyzed for adherence to critical components of the treatment, such as following the lesson and activity sequence and requesting choral and individual responding by students.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition will receive pull-out instruction for the same frequency and duration that consists of interactive book reading.

Key Measures: Key measures include collecting student demographic data and demographic data for tutors (paraeducators). Researchers will use a parent survey of the home literacy environment and measure English language proficiency using the Washington Language Proficiency Test. In addition, the research team will measure reading vocabulary and word reading at pre-test, post-test, and at one-year follow up testing. The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Expressive One-word Picture Vocabulary Test, curriculum-based measures of definitional vocabulary, and the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test word comprehension and basic skills subtests will also be administered.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use multilevel modeling to account for the nesting of students within classrooms. Analyses will test for direct and indirect effects of Connections on student outcomes, as well as examine the moderating effects of such variables as English language proficiency, pretest skills, home literacy factors, and classroom vocabulary instruction time.

Related IES Projects: Effects of a Supplementary Vocabulary Intervention for Students With Limited English Proficiency (R305A070045)


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Vadasy, P.F., and Sanders, E.A. (2014). Incremental Learning of Difficult Words in Story Contexts: The Role of Spelling and Pronouncing New Vocabulary. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 28(3): 371–394.

Vadasy, P.F., and Sanders, E.A. (2016). Attention to Orthographic and Phonological Word Forms in Vocabulary Instruction for Kindergarten English Learners. Reading Psychology, 37(6): 833–866.

Vadasy, P.F., Sanders, E.A., and Nelson, J.R. (2015). Effectiveness of Supplemental Kindergarten Vocabulary Instruction for English Learners: A Randomized Study of Immediate and Longer–Term Effects of Two Approaches. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 8(4): 490–529.