WWC review of this study

Effectiveness of Scaling up a Vocabulary Intervention for Low-Income Children, Pre-K through First Grade [World of Words vs. business as usual]

Neuman, Susan B.; Samudra, Preeti; Danielson, Katie (2021). Elementary School Journal, v121 n3 p385-409 . Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1296957

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: June 2023

At least one finding shows promising evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Language outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test - 4th Edition (EOWPVT)

World of Words (WOW) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Grade: PK;
211 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 52%
    Male: 48%

  • Urban
  • Race
    Other or unknown
  • Ethnicity
    Other or unknown    
  • Eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch
    Free or reduced price lunch (FRPL)    
    No FRPL    


This study took place in 24 prekindergarten classrooms in 12 schools in a large metropolitan area of the United States.

Study sample

The students in the prekindergarten sample had a mean age of 56.6 months, and 52% were female. Approximately 36% of the students were Black, just under 1% were White, and about 63% came from some other racial background. The sample included approximately 61% Hispanic students. Approximately 15% of students in the broader sample made up of multiple grade levels had an identified disability. Among the participating schools, the percentage of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch ranged from 91% to 100%.

Intervention Group

The intervention, an in-school supplemental curriculum, was carried out over 21 weeks and involved science-focused whole-class shared book reading. Intervention lessons occurred at the beginning of each school day and lasted approximately 12-15 minutes. During intervention implementation, the teachers implemented the five core components of intervention lessons with high fidelity (average fidelity score of 4.75 on a 5-point scale). The five core components included introducing new vocabulary words, using picture cards to provide child-friendly definitions, engaging in shared reading with special prompts for queries/comments, linking words to concepts highlighting the similarities and differences in categorical properties, and involving children in post-reading discussions. Teachers were also able to choose whether or not to use non-core elements of the curriculum depending on the needs of their students; these non-core elements (referred to as curriculum "negotiables") were described to teachers prior to intervention implementation.

Comparison Group

Classrooms in the comparison condition continued with their usual morning meeting. Typically, this included book reading from their classroom library. Teachers in the comparison condition received ongoing coaching from the school district throughout the year, but no additional materials or instructional programs were provided to the teachers.

Support for implementation

Prior to the intervention, intervention condition teachers attended a one-day professional development training. Facilitators reviewed the core components of the intervention and the theory behind it, and also provided the teachers with the instructional materials and time to review the materials. The teachers worked in groups to examine the alignment of the materials with their standards. In grade-level groups, the teachers also watched two videos of teachers enacting a lesson using the intervention materials. Teachers were then asked to identify the core elements of program in these videos, which were also described to the teachers as the “nonnegotiable” components of the program. The videos were later discussed with teachers individually by a coach assigned to help them in the beginning of intervention implementation. Coaches were graduate students in education with a teaching background. Each coach visited the classroom twice a week for about 30-minutes during the first few weeks of implementation. Coaches modeled lessons for the teacher, cotaught the lesson when asked, and demonstrated how to support the core elements. Following each session, coaches provided feedback to the teacher. After the first few weeks, the coaches increasingly turned intervention implementation over to the teacher and continued to observe once a week during implementation of the intervention.


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