A study published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness reports on the impact of Word Generation on academic language, vocabulary and reading comprehension outcomes for pupils in grades 4 to 7 (Years 5 to 8).
Word Generation (WG) is a vocabulary programme designed to
teach academic vocabulary words through English, maths, science and social
studies classroom activities. For this study, 7,725 fourth to seventh grade pupils
from 25 schools in the northeast US were randomised within pairs to either
treatment or business-as-usual control conditions. In treatment schools, the
programme was implemented throughout the school year. In grades 4 and 5 (Years
5 and 6), this involved 12 ten-day long units of 45-50 minutes per day. For
grades 6 and 7 (Years 7 and 8), the programme was implemented in six-week long
units designed to take 45 minutes each day in science and social studies
At the end of the first year, pupils in grades 4 and 5 also
made improvements on their academic language skills (ES = +0.06), and in their
reading comprehension at the end of the second year (ES = +0.15). Reading
comprehension also improved at the end of the second year for pupils in grades
6 and 7 (ES = +0.10).
The study also showed gains on tests of the specific words
emphasised in the programme, but these effects are considered potentially
Experimental effects of Word Generation on vocabulary, academic language,
perspective taking and reading comprehension in high-poverty schools (August
2019), Journal of Research on Educational
Kristin Rogde and colleagues from the Campbell Collaboration have completed a systematic review that examines the effects of linguistic comprehension teaching on generalised measures of language and reading comprehension skills. Examples of linguistic comprehension skills include vocabulary, grammar and narrative skills.
The authors searched literature dating back to 1986, and
identified 43 studies to include in the review, including samples of both
pre-school and school-aged participants. Randomised controlled trials and
quasi-experiments with a control group and a pre-post design were included.
Key findings of the review were as follows:
- The linguistic comprehension programmes
included in the review display a small positive immediate effect on generalised
outcomes of linguistic comprehension.
- The effect of the programmes on generalised
measures of reading comprehension is negligible.
- Few studies report follow-up assessment of
According to the authors, linguistic comprehension teaching has
the potential to increase children’s general linguistic comprehension skills.
However, there is variability in effects related to the type of outcome measure
that is used to examine the effect of such instruction on linguistic
effect of linguistic comprehension instruction on generalized language and
reading comprehension skills: A systematic review (November 2019), Campbell Systematic Reviews
A research report published in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders investigates the effectiveness of teaching assistant (TA)-delivered narrative and vocabulary interventions to secondary school children with language difficulties.
Researchers at City University of London and University of
Oxford conducted a randomised controlled trial in two outer London boroughs.
Across 21 schools, 358 Year 7 underperforming pupils (mean age = 12.8 years)
were recruited, and randomised to four groups within each school: vocabulary
intervention, narrative intervention, combined narrative and vocabulary
intervention, and delayed waiting control group. The narrative programme
focused on the understanding and telling of stories, using a story structure to
support story generation. Pupils were introduced to different types of stories
(fictional, non‐fictional, scripts) and narrative genres. The vocabulary
programme focused on developing key concepts and vocabulary items relevant to
the curriculum (eg, nutrition) and age-appropriate (eg, careers). A variety of
tasks including word associations, categorisation, mind‐mapping and
word‐building were used to reinforce word learning.
The language and communication programmes (narrative,
vocabulary, and combined narrative and vocabulary) were delivered by TAs in the
classroom, three times per week, for 45–60 min each, over six weeks, totalling
18 sessions. Assessments were conducted pre- and post-intervention.
Overall, pupils in the intervention groups made greater
improvements on standardised measures of narrative (effect size = +0.296), but
not vocabulary skills, compared with control group children.
storytelling and vocabulary in secondary school students with language
disorder: a randomized controlled trial (March 2019), International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 54:4
A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry examines whether language outcomes for low socio-economic status (SES) children can be improved by encouraging contingent talk (how often the parent talks about objects in the child’s current focus of attention) through a low-intensity intervention.
In a randomised controlled trial with high- and low-SES families, 142 children aged 11 months and their parents were randomly allocated to either a contingent talk intervention or a dental health control. Families in the intervention watched a video about contingent talk and were asked to practice it for 15 minutes a day for a month. Families were visited in their homes twice when children were 11, 12, 18 and 24 months. Questionnaires were also collected by mail at 15 months. Parent communication was assessed at 11 months (baseline) and after one month. Infant communication was assessed at baseline, 12, 15, 18 and 24 months.
At baseline, the amount of contingent talk children hear is found to be associated with SES, with lower-SES parents engaging in less contingent talk. At post-test (when children were 12 months old) all parents who had taken part in the intervention engaged in more contingent talk, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Lower-SES parents in the intervention group reported that their children produced more words at 15 and 18 months. However, effects of the intervention didn’t persist at 24 months. So while parents’ contingent talk is increased through the intervention, and this is effective in promoting vocabulary growth for lower-SES infants in the short term, these effects are not long-lasting. The study concludes that follow-up interventions may be necessary to produce benefits lasting to school entry.
Source: A randomised controlled trial to test the effect of promoting caregiver contingent talk on language development in infants from diverse socioeconomic status backgrounds (April 2017), The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi:10.1111/jcpp.12725
Research suggests that peer tutoring helps reading achievement, especially for pupils with English as an additional language (EAL). Studies of cross-age peer tutoring, where older pupils tutor younger pupils, have shown positive effects on vocabulary and comprehension. Given that EAL pupils often lag behind their non-EAL peers in reading, University of Maryland’s Rebecca Silverman and colleagues conducted the first study to examine whether the benefits of cross-age peer tutoring are equivalent for EAL pupils and native English speaking pupils.
For the study, researchers used a “reading buddies” design, pairing kindergarten pupils (Year 1 in the UK) with fourth grade (Year 5) pupils to discuss books they’d read about STEM-related topics. The programme incorporated strategies demonstrated to be effective with EAL pupils, such as explicit instruction about specific word meaning and using multi-modalities to demonstrate word learning and comprehension. Following development and field testing, the researchers evaluated the effects of the final programme, called the MTS Buddies Program, in 24 classrooms with high EAL populations. The sample included 12 classrooms (6 kindergarten, 6 fourth grade) that used the MTS Buddies Program and 12 classrooms (6 kindergarten, 6 fourth grade) that continued with business as usual.
All pupils were tested on vocabulary and comprehension using both standardised and researcher-made tests before and after receiving the 14-week intervention. Results showed benefits for vocabulary learning in kindergarten (Year 1) and fourth grade (Year 5) and also reading comprehension and strategy use for the fourth grade pupils. Both EAL pupils and native English speaking pupils demonstrated gains. Although expressive vocabulary scores were lower for EALs than non-EALs, the overall positive effects indicate that the MTS Buddies Program could be helpful for all pupils’ vocabulary learning, regardless of English proficiency.
Source: Effects of a cross-age peer learning program on the vocabulary and comprehension of English learners and non-English learners in elementary school (March 2017), The Elementary School Journal
A new What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guide focuses on the foundational reading skills that enable students to read words, relate those words to their oral language, and read connected text with sufficient accuracy and fluency to understand what they read.
The authors conducted a thorough literature search, identified studies that met protocol requirements, and then reviewed those studies against WWC standards. The review focused on studies published since 2000. The guide, Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade, provides four recommendations that can be used to improve literacy skills from kindergarten to third grade (Years 1–4). Each recommendation is assigned a level of evidence based on the quantity and quality of the research:
- Teach students academic language skills, including the use of inferential and narrative language, and vocabulary knowledge (minimal evidence)
- Develop awareness of the segments of sounds in speech and how they link to letters (strong evidence)
- Teach students to decode words, analyse word parts, and write and recognise words (strong evidence)
- Ensure that each student reads connected text every day to support reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension (moderate evidence)
The practice guide is a companion to another WWC practice guide, Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade.
Source: Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade (2016), What Works Clearinghouse