Elaborated Commenting During Joint Book Reading Education Essay

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At-risk kindergartners: Vocabulary development through elaborated commenting during joint book reading. Patricia Landsberger, 2010: Applied Dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, Fischler School of Education and Human Services. ERIC Descriptors: Vocabulary Development, Joint Book Reading, Synonyms, Elaborated Commenting, Mutual Exclusivity.

This applied dissertation was designed to examine whether at risk kindergartners demonstrated an increase in vocabulary acquisition of during joint book reading (JBR) enhanced with elaborated commenting of target words. The current study investigated the impact of elaborated commenting on synonym learning by embedding six synonyms within a story that was read individually to each participant twice. Synonyms and elaborated comments were embedded into the story to emphasize word learning. During the reading, synonyms and target word illustrations from the story were presented to each participant. Elaborated commenting was counterbalanced across presentation of target words.

A posttest-only, within-subject design was used to determine the relationship between joint book reading enhanced with elaborated commenting and synonym learning. An analysis of the data revealed that at risk-kindergartners did not demonstrate an increase in expressive vocabulary during joint book reading (JBR) with either text only post-tests or when enhanced with elaborated commenting of target words. However, results indicated participants showed an overall improvement in receptive vocabulary versus expressive vocabulary in both elaborated commenting and text only post-tests. Results supported the concept that comprehension of vocabulary generally precedes vocabulary expression and use.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction 1

Statement of the Problem 1

The Topic 1

The Research Problem 2

Background and Justification 3

Research Setting 5

Definition of Terms 6

Purpose of the Study 10

Chapter 2: Literature Review 11

Importance of Vocabulary Development 11

Typical Vocabulary Development 12

Mutual Exclusivity 15

At-risk Children 19

Joint Book Reading 23

Word Learning Strategies 25

Research Questions 29

Chapter 3: Methodology 30

Participants 30

Instruments 30

Stimuli 39

Procedures 40

Pre-testing Procedures 40

Experimental Procedures 41

Post-testing Procedures 43

Chapter 4: Results 45

Outcomes 45

Descriptive Statistics 46

Inferential Statistics 47

Item Analyses 49

Error Analyses 50

Chapter 5: Discussion 55

Overview of the Applied Dissertation 55

Review of Null Hypotheses 56

Implications of Findings 58

Limitations 63

Recommendations 65

References…. 68


A Parent Case History 79

B Stimulus Words 83

C Target Word Counterbalanced Word List 1 85

D Target Word Counterbalanced Word List 2 87

E Experimental Story Script Word List 1 89

F Experimental Story Script Word List 2 92

G Participant Tracking Protocol-Expressive Post-test 95

H Participant Tracking Protocol-Receptive Post-test 97


1 Descriptive Statistics for Post-tests 47

2 Descriptive Correct Post-test Responses 50

3 Receptive Text-only Post-testing Error Responses 51

4 Receptive Elaborated Commenting Post-testing Error Responses 52

5 Expressive Text Only Post-testing Error Responses 53

6 Expressive Elaborated Commenting Post-testing Error Responses 54

Chapter 1: Introduction

Statement of the Problem

The topic. The present study proposes to examine vocabulary acquisition of at risk kindergartners during JBR enhanced with elaborated commenting and its impact on synonym learning.

Learning vocabulary is an extremely important aspect of language development. According to Fenson et al. (1994), before the age of three, children have the capability to understand and use more than 500 words. Typically developing children have the ability to decode unfamiliar words and attain small segments of word meanings based on only few incidental exposures (Carey & Bartlett, 1978; Heibeck & Markman, 1987). The process in which children gain new knowledge of new vocabulary at a rapid rate based only on a single exposure is known as fast mapping (Carey & Bartlett, 1978). Bloom (2000) suggested that fast mapping is a skill unique to the period of vocabulary development in children. Early exposure to language rich environments can aid in developing a solid foundation for vocabulary acquisition and determine reading ability in the future (Hart & Risley, 1995).

Initially, primary caregivers play a critical role in providing learning opportunities and contextual support, as well as encouraging social interaction (Bloom, 2000). Parents naturally use strategies to help children increase their vocabulary while engaging in conversations at home (Britton, 1993). Ongoing participation in engaging conversations supports children's acquisition of novel words, synonyms and language constructs. Sharing of children's interests and participation in daily routines and events with caregivers also facilitates vocabulary development. Ongoing research supports joint book reading (JBR) as an opportunity to participate in a natural language rich experience (Elley, 1989). The interaction between an adult and a child while reading together is known as JBR (Ard & Beverly, 2004). JBR is a naturalistic and controlled context for adult-child interactions and examining word learning. The child is provided with extensive support from the adult (i.e., direct teaching, questions, comments) to assist in word learning during book reading (Ard, 2004). JBR offers an immediate meaningful context and provides ideal, instant conditions for interactions, and vocabulary and language development opportunities (Elley, 1989; Snow, 1983). Additionally, corresponding illustrations contribute to the consistency of language rich experiences.

The importance of learning vocabulary through experiences such as JBR extends well into school age. JBR serves to expose children to words and ideas that should be incorporated for acquiring new vocabulary. Children learn words indirectly through interacting with their environment. Through exposure to words heard in conversations, book‑reading interactions with adults and during television viewing, children's vocabulary increases (Robbins & Ehri, 1994). Learning also occurs collectively when facilitative teaching strategies including explaining, questioning, and commenting are provided. Ehri (1989) reported children are able to learn words while listening to stories read to them by adults with only minimal exposure to novel words.

Language delivered through JBR can add an immediate meaningful context for children (Hoff & Naigles, 2002) and plays a large role in increasing language skills in young children (Davie & Kemp, 2002; Hargrave & Sénéchal, 2000).

The research problem. Many children enter kindergarten at risk of developing future reading disabilities due to poor early vocabulary development experiences (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Upon reaching school age, kindergarten children begin to extend vocabulary knowledge to synonyms as well. Vocabulary acquisition is important to the development of oral and written language skills. Development of vocabulary and comprehension skills impacts future reading abilities. Therefore, it is imperative that research continues to address JBR strategies that could positively impact at risk kindergartners.

Background and Justification. Previous research has suggested that young children are equipped with mechanisms that aid in the acquisition of language (Scarborough, 1998). One of these mechanisms is fast mapping; the process in which information is acquired about a word through the first few exposures. Children have an uncanny ability to learn new words quickly and efficiently, on average, children have the potential to learn 3,000 new words per year (Nagy & Anderson, 1984). Even with minimal exposures to novel vocabulary, many children have the ability to decode and gain understanding of word meanings based on only few incidental exposures (Bloom, 2000), which can allow for the development of a rich vocabulary. Children with language impairments may not have the same ability to acquire such a strong vocabulary as their typically developing peers and struggle to acquire new word meanings as rapidly and efficiently through incidental learning experiences (Carey & Bartlett, 1978).

Another word learning mechanism is the mutual exclusivity constraint, which is an expectation that every object has only one label that will apply to it. The term mutual exclusivity refers to the assumption that two different words must carry two different meanings. This assumption impacts the acquisition of synonyms for already-named objects (Markman, Wasow, & Hansen, 2003). Around 2 years old, children's word-learning behaviors begin to change in at least four respects: ease of learning, honing of linguistic form, honing of linguistic meaning, and the learning of synonyms (Regier, 2005). According to Liittschwager and Markman (1994), learning a second label for an already familiar label is not impossible, but rather more difficult than is the acquisition of initial label learning. As a result, young children tend to resist learning synonyms and are left with words for which they have not figured out the meaning. This should motivate children to find meaning for the novel terms heard in natural experiences such as joint book reading (Markman & Wachtel, 1988). Therefore, direct teaching of vocabulary is not entirely accountable for vocabulary acquisition. Rather parents and teachers naturally use various strategies (i.e., questioning, commenting, pointing) during JBR to assist children in finding the meanings for novel vocabulary.

Many researchers have examined strategies to increase vocabulary development during JBR (Ard & Beverly, 2004; Cornell, Sénéchal, & Broda, 1998; Elley, 1989; Sénéchal, 1997; Scarborough & Dobrich, 1994; Snow, 1983). Children learn words indirectly through interacting with their environment. Additional word-learning strategies examined include incidental word learning (Werner & Kaplan, 1952), elaborated commenting (Sénéchal, 1990), fast mapping (Carey & Bartlett, 1978), quick incidental learning (Rice, Cleave, & Oetting, 2000), and supported‑learning context (SLC; Sénéchal, 1997).

Werner and Kaplan (1952) have referred to indirect instruction as incidental learning. Incidental instruction can be orchestrated by adult mediation through elaborated commenting. Justice, Meier & Walpole (2005) describe elaborated commenting as the exposure of new words accompanied by meaning-focused adult explanations and support within the context of the story. Elaborated commenting has received attention as a promising strategy for increasing word learning through JBR (i.e., children are required to acquire a new label for a concept already learned). A new word is introduced in the text alongside illustration in a book. The illustration serves as an example to associate pictures with a new concept. Adult elaboration of words in context further supports vocabulary acquisition. During JBR, parents can introduce new words to children and also examine the recall of new information (Sénéchal, 1990).

Difficulty with early vocabulary acquisition has a significantly negative impact on continued word learning related to academic achievement. Children with delayed vocabulary and comprehension skills are at risk for delays in developing critical skills necessary for reading success (Gillam & Johnston, 1985; Roskos, Tabors, & Lenhart, 2004). Children considered "at risk" due to delayed vocabulary skills may differ from typically developing peers in the rate and the way in which they acquire new vocabulary. Children with delayed vocabulary skills do not acquire new words as quickly, or easily, through incidental learning as do typically developing peers (Rice, Buhr, & Oetting, 1992). Therefore, it is imperative to continue examining strategies that may increase the vocabulary skills for students considered to be "at risk" for academic failure due to delayed vocabulary development.

Research Setting. The current study was conducted at an elementary school in a rural Minnesota town. Results of the 2000 census indicated a population of approximately 1000 people. The racial makeup of the city was 75.1% White, 12.3 % Black/African American, 0.9% American Indian/Alaskan Native, 3.6% Asian, 5.5% other race and 2.41% from two or more races. With an average family income of $57,750, the average household income was reported to be $52,0000 (United States Census Bureau, 2000).

The researcher's role was the speech-language pathologist for the local school district. Kindergarten student enrollment in the two classes totals approximately 50 to 60 students, of which 10 to 15 of the students were receiving special education services. Each class was led by a certified elementary education classroom teacher. Students who received special education services required speech-language therapy addressing language and articulation needs. Therapy sessions were provided two to three times a week for 20 minutes per session. Individual and small group sessions were implemented in a designated therapy room located in the same wing as the kindergarten classrooms.

Definition of Terms

Articulation disorder. For the purposes of this study, the term articulation disorder refers to incorrect use of articulators during speech interfering with intelligibility which may include the omissions, substitutions and distortions of sounds (ASHA, 1993).

At risk. The term at risk refers to children who were identified by their teachers as having delays in early vocabulary acquisition and were not developing skills needed to succeed. Children who scored low but not severe enough to qualify for services were considered at risk for not being identified until later academic problems emerge. Children who scored greater than 1 SD (7%) below the mean on a language assessment were also considered at risk.

Deficit. the term deficit refers to impairment in ability or functioning. (Alba, 2005).

Delay. The term delay refers to performance below what would be expected when compared to same aged peers (Alba, 2005).

Developmental delay. The term developmental delay refers to children whose developmental performance and academic ability is below same age peers. (OAFCCD, 2008).

Developmental disability. The term developmental disability refers to significant differences between age norms and ability. Deficits typically occur in one or more areas of development (Alba, 2005).

Direct instruction. The term direct instruction refers to the ability to learn new words through intentional instruction and active teaching (Nagy & Herman, 1987).

Early intervention. The term early intervention refers to provision of services to young children school age or younger who are at risk for developing special needs which have a direct affect on their development (Alba, 2005).

Elaborated commenting. The term elaborated commenting refers to the exposure of new words accompanied by meaning-focused adult explanations and support within the context of a story (Justice, Meier, & Walpole, 2005).

Expressive language. The term expressive language refers to the ability to express thoughts and ideas through oral language, written language, gestures, and/or augmentative communication (Alba, 2005; OAFCCD, 2008).

Expressive vocabulary. The term expressive vocabulary refers to spoken or written vocabulary.

Fast mapping. The term fast mapping refers to a process children use to learn new vocabulary after a single exposure to determine word meaning (Carey & Bartlett, 1978).

Hearing impairment. The term hearing impairment refers to impaired auditory sensitivity and the ability to detect sounds. Hearing impairments have a direct impact on ability to understand and produce speech and language (ASHA, 1993; OAFCCD, 2008).

Incidental exposure. The term incidental exposure refers the ability to learn new words without intentional instruction. Gaining knowledge informally through experiences and other activities (i.e., reading, watching movies and television, interacting with others, etc.) (Nagy & Herman, 1987).

Joint attention. The phrase joint attention refers to the ability to coordinate attention with another individual to an object or event (Bloom, 2000).

Joint book reading (JBR). The term joint book reading (JBR) refers to parent-child interactions during story book reading to encourage language and vocabulary learning (Ard & Beverly, 2004).

Language. The term language refers to a communication system of social rules involving word meanings, thoughts and feelings, in the forms of listening, speaking, signs and gestures and written symbols (Alba, 2005; Webster, 1992).

Language disorder. The term Language disorder refers to the impaired ability to understand and use listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Language disorders are characterized by delays in language form, content and/or pragmatics (ASHA, 1993).

Learning disability. The term learning disability refers to difficulty in the comprehension and use of information and language processing. Significant deficits in achievement, intellectual functioning and processing in any of the following areas; listening, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, organizing, reasoning and/or mathematics (Alba, 2005; ASHA, 1991; OAFCCD, 2008).

Listening comprehension. The term listening comprehension refers to the understanding of what is heard.

Literacy. The term literacy refers to the ability to understand and read, written materials (Webster, 1992).

Matthew effects. The term Matthew effect refers to conditions in which young children learning to read acquire the skills to do so successfully. If a child has early success and good reading skills develop, it is likely that further success will be made with little difficulty. If a new reader is struggling to develop good reading skills, it is likely that the child will develop poor reading skills and will continue to struggle with life long reading acquisition (Stanovich, 1986).

Modeling. The term modeling refers to the provision of an example or sample for comparison or imitation (Webster, 1992).

Mutual exclusivity. The term mutual exclusivity refers to the assumption that two different words must carry two different meanings (Markman, 1989).

Receptive language. The term receptive language refers to the comprehension and understanding of language (OAFCCD, 2008).

Receptive vocabulary. The term receptive vocabulary refers to vocabulary that is heard.

Synonym. The term synonym refers to words having similar meanings as another word or phrase (Webster, 1992).

Vocabulary acquisition. The term vocabulary acquisition refers to the ability to learn new vocabulary.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to examine vocabulary acquisition of at risk kindergartners during JBR enhanced with elaborated commenting of target words. This study examined the impact of elaborated commenting on synonym learning. Current literature suggests exposure to novel vocabulary words through repeated readings of stories impacts children's word learning. Similarly, elaborated commenting made by adults in the context of a story increases vocabulary growth (Justice, Meier, & Walpole, 2005).