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The purpose of the present study was to guage the effects of lexical humor as an approach for multiple meaning word instruction on a student who presents with a language disorder. This approach directly reflects what has been designed by Allman and colleuges (Allman, Gill, White 2010). The research was guided by the following questions: Will children who present with language disorders, and who cannot show two meanings of target words, increase their ability to identify the funny answer to lexical jokes/riddles on which they a) have been trained on and b) have not been trained on?. Will children who present with a language disorder, who can show two meanings for lexical jokes but not identify the funny answer, change for jokes/riddles on which they c) have been trained on and d) have not been trained on? Finally, (e) is humor a good way to teach multiple meanings? (Allman, Gill, White 2010; Appendix A)
The participant in this study, herein referred to as G, is a 10-year-old English-speaking Hispanic male from a lower-middle class background. At the time of this study, G was receiving special education services for a language disorder and learning disability. IEP language goals for G include acquisition and employment of multiple meaning words, idioms, and inferences in structured sentences. Current difficulties include lexical, syntactic, and semantic ambiguity in words, phrases, and sentences concerning vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension.
The participant was selected from the caseloads of two speech pathologists encompassing third- to fifth-grade students from public schools in South Texas. The selection criteria used to identify the potential candidate required them to be a student who (a) scored at least 1.5 SD below the mean on a standardized language test (CELF, etc.) with normal cognitive skills; (b) passed a hearing and vision screening; (c) has IEP objectives which include increasing vocabulary or semantics and/or increasing understanding/use of multiple meaning words; (d) is enrolled in the third grade or above; and (e) speaks English as their primary language (see Appendix B).
All instructional stimuli, baseline pools, and probe lists were assembled from the corpus of 100 lexically ambiguous words. The selection process regarding said words and other materials and lists stated herein were provided by Allman and collegues for the purpose of this study (Allman, Gill, and White 2010).
Multiple Meaning Pool. Six-hundred 3 ½"x 3 ½" color photo illustrations were positioned onto one-hundred pages of white 8.5"x11" letter-sized copy paper. All photo illustrations were presented in fields of six in two horizontal rows (i.e. four foils and two targets). Two different photos within each page correctly depicted a lexically ambiguous word herein referred to as targets. The four remaining photos depicted distinct non-ambiguous words herein referred to as foils. The random placement of foil and target photos ensured the target photos appeared in assorted positions. The particular target word was printed on each page in a centered heading style. All picture stimuli were laminated to expedite manipulation of the cards by the participant and the author. A plastic document stand was utilized to demonstrate the photo illustrations during tasks. Additional data tracking forms were utilized to document responses and tabulate present levels of performance (see Appendix C).
Humor Baseline Pool. Each of the aforementioned one-hundred lexically ambiguous words was incorporated in the context of a joke. The list of one-hundred jokes was randomly formatted onto pages of white 8.5"x11" letter-sized paper to include four answer choices (i.e. three foils, one target). The author was provided an answer key concerning the list of jokes to ensure valid scoring and effective documentation (see Appendix D).
Design and Procedure
The present study implemented a single-subject, double baseline ABA design, with one participant. At least two baseline sessions were conducted with G until a stable baseline was observed. A week was allowed to transpire between baseline administrations to ensure the efficacy of data collected. G was individually treated at his home campus, by the author, in a regular classroom from the inception of the study through completion. Positive verbal feedback was provided throughout the program to motivate G to continue participating.
Initial baseline procedures included administration of both the Multiple Meaning Pool and the Baseline Humor Pool to establish Baseline AB. In administering the Multiple Meaning Pool, the author explained to G that he was going to see a word at the top of each page followed by a series of six pictures. Furthermore, he was asked to point to a picture(s) representing the printed word upon command. The author gave the following explicit instructions: "Show me two pictures that mean cell". If G answered by pointing to only one picture the following directive was given: "what else means cell?" The author recorded all responses into the Multiple Meaning Words Present Level of Performance Sheet. A correct response was represented by (+), a (-) represented an incorrect response, and a (NR) represented a no-response. Each word on the form required the entry of two responses. For a complete list of queries and related record sheets see Appendix C. Following the administration of said pool the author created two lists compiling the collection of responses. List A was comprised of the words for which G knew two meanings. List B was comprised of the words for which he did not know two meanings.
Utilizing words from List A and the Baseline Humor Pool the creation of Baseline A was established (see Apendix E). Baseline A is a list of jokes from the Baseline Humor Pool which employs words appearing in List A. For example, if G knew two meanings for the word cell, the author recorded cell on List A. Subsequently, the author would locate the joke based on the word cell located in the Baseline Humor Pool and append said joke to Baseline A, (see Appendix D). A minimum of twenty jokes was required to be compiled onto Baseline A. Utilizing words from List B, and the Baseline Humor Pool, the creation of Baseline B was established (see Appendix E). Baseline B is a list of jokes from the Baseline Humor Pool which employs words appearing in List B. For example, if G did not know two meanings for the word cell, the author recorded cell on List B. Subsequently, the author would locate the joke based on the word cell located in the Baseline Humor Pool and append said joke onto Baseline B. A minimum of twenty jokes was required to be compiled onto Baseline B. The complete administration of Baseline A and B followed with demonstration of the written joke and four answer choices derived from the Baseline Humor Pool. The joke and the answers were read to G along with the four choices. The author gave the following instructions: "pick the answer that makes the joke funny". Utilizing the Lexical Humor Present Level of Performance Data Sheet, a correct response was represented by a (+), a (-) represented an incorrect response, and a (NR) represented a no-response. Two of these forms were employed to reflect responses for Baseline A and B. For a complete list of queries and related record sheets see Appendix D.
Upon analyzation of the data, additional jokes were acquired from the Baseline Humor Pool to replace those in either List A or B that G answered correctly. This method of replacing words G answered correctly, with words he did not know, continued until the author was able to assemble forty jokes. Twenty of the jokes therein encompassed words acquired from List A. The remaining twenty jokes encompassed words acquired from List B. The compilation of forty jokes culminated as the completed baseline, herein referred to as Baseline AB (see Appendix F). The aforementioned baseline was administered to G a week afterwards. Upon further analyzation of all data collected from both administrations of Baseline AB, the author concluded that a stable baseline was established. Thus, the treatment program could begin.
The intervention took place during an 8-week period; G attended one 30 minute session each week. The author continued utilization of the Lexical Humor Program established by Allman & collegeues (Allman, Gill, and White 2010). Intervention focused on the training of twenty jokes containing the target words, with an instructional emphasis on lexical humor. The author compiled a selection of ten jokes G answered incorrectly on Baseline A, and ten from Baseline B. The twenty jokes selected served as the treatment stimulus for a particular session. Care was taken to not include the remaining words on either Baseline A or B.
The author initiated treatment by presenting each joke to G and circling the word therein which could be used in two ways. Next, the author wrote the selected word onto a graphic organizer and proceeded to discuss and explain both meanings (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Multiple meanings for the word cell (Webster 2010).
Moreover, the author provided a spontaneous picture for each meaning on a separate sheet of paper with a standard box of Crayola® colored pencils. Care was taken to not apply drawings depicted previously on the Multiple Meaning Pool. The author discussed and examined spontaneous sentences containing the target word based on the illustrations created. Thereafter, G was instructed to use the target meaning in a sentence. The joke was subsequently re-introduced, wherein G was instructed to circle the word containing two meanings. Further discussion was exhanged between the author and G as it related to the joke. Next, G was instructed to identify which meaning of the word was funny. The aforementioned course of instruction was repeated for the remaining nineteen jokes. Future treatment sessions in the series included a review of all previously learned jokes at the beginning of each meeting. Following a three week period, the author readministered Baseline AB. If G was able to produce answers with 80% accuracy therapy was discontinued. However, if G produced less than 80% correctly, therapy would progress in the same manner. If progressing, the author continued treatment until all jokes had been rendered or until six weeks, whichever came first. Baseline AB was administered thereafter, followed by readministration of the Multiple Meaning Pool. A two week treatment moratorium was observed after which Baseline AB was readministered.