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The World of Words: An Embedded Multimedia Vocabulary Intervention for Economically Disadvantaged Pre-K Children

Year: 2009
Name of Institution:
University of Michigan
Goal: Development and Innovation
Principal Investigator:
Neuman, Susan
Award Amount: $1,511,155
Award Period: 3 years
Award Number: R305A090013

Description:

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop an intervention that teaches word meanings in categorically related concepts essential for reading comprehension and content learning. The intervention is designed to address the gap in vocabulary knowledge between children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and their middle-class peers. The World of Words (WOW) intervention specifically targets high-risk preschoolers. The WOW curriculum is intended to increase vocabulary and conceptual knowledge, accelerate word learning, and develop early reading comprehension skills for children in prekindergarten. WOW uses an embedded multimedia (e.g., video, pictures, books) framework to "bootstrap" children's content learning and early literacy skills in vocabulary.

Project Activities: The research team will conduct a series of usability and feasibility studies in preschool classrooms to further develop and refine the existing curriculum. Eight topical lessons were developed through a previous grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The eight lessons will be revised during the first two years of this project. They will also determine the curriculum’s potential to affect proximal (e.g., increased teacher-child interactions), intermediate (e.g., an increase in children’s content-specific vocabulary knowledge), and distal (future word learning and comprehension) outcomes. In Year 1, the research team will conduct a feasibility study to explore the fidelity of implementation of a revised set of WOW materials. In Year 2, the research team will examine the effect of small group instruction, growth in children’s word and concept knowledge and growth in inductive reasoning as a product of the curriculum structure. In Year 3, the research team will use the information from Years 1 and 2 to create four topical lessons topics in math to teach math-related vocabulary words. The research team will also examine whether the skills examined in Year 2 (e.g., children’s ability to make category generalizations and inductive inferences) transfer to general word learning and reading comprehension.

Products: The product of this project will be a fully developed version of the World of Words (WOW) supplementary curriculum intervention.

STRUCTURED ABSTRACT

Setting: The project will be conducted in a Head Start program located in an urban area of Michigan.

Population: Three experienced teachers, each holding a bachelor’s degree, will participate in the project; two are African-American and one is Caucasian. The study sample will also include 360 3- to 5-year old children from low-income families. Ten percent of the children are non-native English-speakers (e.g., primarily from Middle Eastern countries); 2% of the children have learning disabilities.

Intervention: The World of Words (WOW) curriculum intervention includes the use of video, specifically designed information books, picture cards, take-home books and ongoing feedback on children’s progress as part of the instructional plan. The WOW curriculum currently includes eight lessons, representing topics in Units 1 (Living Things: Pets, Wild Animals, Insects, Plants) and 2 (Healthy Habits: Body Parts, Emotions, Exercise, and Healthy Foods). Teachers will spend two weeks on each topic. The World of Words is a 12-minute, daily vocabulary intervention. Teachers will be asked to implement the lessons on a daily basis during circle time.

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, the research team will conduct a feasibility study to explore the fidelity of implementation of a revised set of WOW materials (eight topics), the level of student engagement using observation and teacher feedback, and how word selection influences the depth and breadth of children’s learning (labels and concepts). In Year 2, with revised materials from Year 1, the research team will examine the effect of small group instruction, growth in children’s word and concept knowledge and growth in inductive reasoning as a product of the curriculum structure. In Year 3, the research team will use the information from Years 1 and 2 to create four topical lessons in math to introduce math-related vocabulary words. The research team will also examine whether growth in curriculum-specific inductive reasoning skills promotes growth in listening comprehension and inference making. By the end of Year 3, the research team will have identified implementation features of the WOW curriculum that optimize student learning; examined the specific elements of the curriculum that promote learning; and examined the potential of the WOW vocabulary intervention for accelerating vocabulary learning and increasing comprehensions skills by influencing the depth and breadth of word meanings, enhancing conceptual understanding, and improving semantic (re)organization of knowledge.

Control Condition: There is no control condition.

Key Measures: In Years 1 through 3 of the study, the research team will use research-developed measures to assess growth in children's curriculum-related content knowledge and conceptual skills. In Year 3, the research team will also administer standardized measures of receptive vocabulary knowledge (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, PPVT-4th edition), conceptual development (Clinical Evaluations of Language Fundamentals, CELF), and the Listening Comprehension subtest of the Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test III to participating children.

Data Analytic Strategy: Data analyses will be conducted to examine the rate of children’s learning of familiar words, children’s growth in understanding category membership and category properties, and children’s conceptual growth. The research team will conduct analyses to explore whether there is transfer of curriculum-training to unrelated domains of reading comprehension and word learning. They will examine differences in the type and rate of word learning due to levels of English language proficiency. The research team will also conduct analyses to examine how group size (whole group versus small group) influences children’s engagement and interaction. In addition, the data analysis team will examine the reliability and validity of the child assessment measures that were developed for use in this project.

Publications from this project:

Marulis, L. and Neuman, S.B. (2013). How Vocabulary Affects At-Risk Children: A Meta-analytic Review. Journal Of Research On Educational Effectiveness, 6: 223–262.

Neuman, S.B. (In Press). The Effects Of An Embedded Multimedia Curriculum For Low-Income Preschoolers. In O. Korat and A. Shamir, Technology and Education. NY: Springer.

Neuman, S.B. and Gambrell, L. (Eds). (2013). Quality Reading Instruction In The Age Of Common Core Standards. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Neuman, S.B. and Kaefer (2013). Enhancing the Intensity of Vocabulary Instruction for Preschoolers at Risk: The Effect Of Group Size On Low-Income Children's Vocabulary and Conceptual Knowledge. The Elementary School Journal, 113 (4): 589–608.

Neuman, S.B. and Wright, T. (2013). All About Words: Vocabulary Instruction In The Age Of Common Core Standards. NY: Teachers College Press.

Neuman, S.B. and Wright, T. (In Press). The Case For Vocabulary Instruction. In A. Stone Et Al.,. Handbook Of Language and Literacy. NY: Guilford Press.

Neuman, S.B., Kaefer, T., and Pinkham, A. (In Press). Building Word and World Knowledge In The Early Years. In K. Hall, T. Cremin, B. Comber, and L. Moll, International Handbook Of Research In Children's Literacy, Learning and Culture. Boston: Wiley Blackwell.

Wright, T. and Neuman, S.B. (2013). Vocabulary Instruction in Commonly Used Kindergarten Core Reading Curricula, The Elementary School Journal. 113 (3): 386–408.