WWC review of this study

Improving Elementary School Students' Vocabulary Skills and Reading Comprehension through a Word Learning Strategies Program

Li, Linlin; Ringstaff, Cathy; Tripathy, Rachel Grimes; Flynn, Kylie; Thomas, Larry (2019). Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED604594

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: August 2021

At least one finding shows moderate evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Comprehension outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Researcher-developed Word Learning Strategies (WLS)

Word Learning Strategies (WLS) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
1,553 students





Vocabulary Assessment Study in Education (VASE)

Word Learning Strategies (WLS) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
1,531 classes





Gates-MacGinitie Reading Tests (GMRT): Total

Word Learning Strategies (WLS) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
1,472 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.

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The study took place in 12 districts in the state of California. The intervention was implemented as a whole-class supplementary curriculum during English Language Arts classes.

Study sample

A total of 1,553 students from 83 grade 4 classrooms in 12 school districts were included in this study. The authors do not include details on sample characteristics. It is alluded to that the sample includes schools with high numbers of English learners and students from low-income backgrounds. The authors randomly assigned 50 classrooms to the intervention group and 48 classrooms to the comparison group.

Intervention Group

WLS is a supplemental curriculum for teaching word learning strategies that helps students to infer the meanings of unknown words encountered while reading. All students are taught to use context clues, word parts, and the dictionary, while Spanish-speaking English learners receive additional instruction in using cognates, and all English learners receive instruction in recognizing idioms. WLS is a 15-week program in which the whole class receives 30 minutes of instruction three days per week. Additional web-based lessons are available for English learners and for students who need more practice. The program was developed as part of a Small Business Innovation Research development study awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences.

Comparison Group

The comparison classrooms implemented their usual English Language Arts curriculum.

Support for implementation

Teachers of the intervention classrooms received interactive online training as well as the following materials: online tutorials and technical instructions, a detailed teacher manual with daily lesson plans, a teacher reflection log, and presentation materials including slides for overhead projecting, posters, and game cards. Students received activity books, quizzes, tests, and web-based instruction and games. According to data collected from the weekly teacher logs, a majority were able to implement at least 90 percent of the curriculum; however, only 27 percent of cohort 1 teachers and 12 percent of cohort 2 teachers were able to implement all lessons in 15 weeks.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Li, Linlin; Flynn, Kylie; Ringstaff, Cathy; Tripathy, Rachel; Lepori, Kathleen; Wang, Jennifer. (2016). Evaluation of Word Learning Strategies: A Program for Upper-Elementary School Students.

  • Li, Linlin; Flynn, Kylie; Tripathy, Rachel Grimes; Wang, Jennifer; Austin-King, Kelsey; Graves, Michael F. (2018). Word Learning Strategies: A Program for Upper Elementary School Students.


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