Kloer, L. (2006). Effectiveness of Using Read, Write & Type Tutorial Software to Increase Vocabulary of Kindergarten Children . Instructional Technology Monographs 3 (2). Retrieved <insert date>, from http://itm.coe.uga.edu/archives/fall2006/lkloer.htm.

Effectiveness of Using Read, Write & Type Tutorial Software to Increase Vocabulary of Kindergarten Children

by

Lauretta Kloer
University of Georgia

 

Abstract

This study examined the effects of using the computer assisted instructional software program Read, Write, and Type (RWT) on English Language Learner (ELL), kindergarten students learning English vocabulary. Using a pre-test and post-test control group design, the study compared the achievement scores of ELL kindergarten students learning English vocabulary using RWT with those ELL kindergarten students that did not use RWT. The results showed that, while there where improvements in the mean scores of the students using RWT, the differences in the means were not statistically significant. This lack of statistical significance of the results is concluded to be due to the limitations of the study and not the ineffectiveness of RWT.

 

Literature Review Methods Results and Discussion Conclusions References

 

Introduction

Background

The endeavor to offer equal educational opportunities to children with limited English proficiency (LEP) has been going on since the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act of 1965 was passed in 1968, the Bilingual Education Act (BEA) and became known as Title VII under ESEA. Its purpose was to assist children with LEP in achieving academic success. When the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 was created, it took the place of the BEA and Title VII. Title III also known as Language Instruction for LEP and Immigrant Students of NCLB was the reference point for providing instruction to LEP students. As written in the 2001 National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education publication, the goals of Title III are:

  • support of the English Language Learner (ELL) to attain English proficiency;
  • assist achieve high levels in content area subjects
  • develop and enhance high quality educational programs for ELLs
  • promote family and community involvement to facilitate ELL academic achievement
  • implement formula grants whereby state educational agencies receive federal monies and then allocate the funds to the local educational agencies according to the number and needs of the ELLs
  • hold SEAs and LEAs accountable to the adequate yearly progress of the ELLs
  • to provide flexibility for program implementation based on scientifically based evidence

 

Students for whom English is not a first language – particularly native Spanish speakers – are part of an increasing proportion of our school-age population (U.S. Census, 2001). Most students enter school with a vocabulary and speaking clearly in sentences, but they are unable to read the printed version of their spoken words and sentences. They may know the difference between a picture of a dog and a cat, but the majority of children entering kindergarten are unable to read the word dog or cat. An ELL enters school verbally behind their English speaking peers. They do not begin school with a vocabulary that works in the classroom. Yet they are held accountable for the same literacy standards as their English speaking peers. Their English vocabulary must be increased so that they are able to read. By the time these children leave kindergarten, they are expected to read basic words and sentences. It is the job of the kindergarten teacher to take these children from what they know (spoken words) to what they do not know (these words in print). These children must know how to read which involves embedding the meaning of a word in its written form and then being able to recall that form and that meaning, when presented with writing at any given moment. Reading skills are vital for success in life. According to the 1997 Illinois Right to Read Initiative, “ Reading is the foundation upon which academic success rests” (p7). “Long-term struggling readers are more likely to perform poorly in school, drop out of school, or not attain higher education,” (Bawden & Cornwall, 1992, p286).

Being able to comprehend what is being read is dependent on several factors; the most important is vocabulary knowledge. “Of the many compelling reasons for providing students with instruction to build vocabulary, none is more important than the contribution of vocabulary knowledge to reading comprehension” (Lehr & Osborn, 2004, p3). Effective vocabulary instruction is essential in the development of vocabulary knowledge. “Students who read well and widely build a strong foundation for learning in all subjects” (Illinois Right To Read Initiative, 1997, p7).

The Commissioner of Education for Alaska State Department of Education, Richard S. Cross, notes the importance of being able to read by stating, “A child’s right to succeed in school and in life depends on being able to read. It is the key” (1997, p.4). This source goes on to state the core abilities essential for reading development.

These are:

  • phonemic awareness
  • decoding skills
  • alphabetic principle
  • sound-spelling correspondence
  • vocabulary skills
  • writing skills
  • comprehension skills

Kindergarten literacy focuses on students learning beginning reading skills. Recent studies show that alphabetic knowledge enhances children’s learning of new vocabulary words. Sight word reading allows readers to read familiar words by accessing them in memory. The process of learning sight words involves forming connections between graphemes (letter or letter combinations that represent a phoneme such as the following symbols represent the /f/ sound: f, ph, and gh) and phonemes (smallest phonetic sound in speech that represents a unique symbol in a language such as the m of mat) to bond spellings of the words to their pronunciations and meanings in memory. The process is enabled by phonemic awareness (individual sounds that make up a word) and by knowledge of the alphabetic writing system, which functions as a powerful mnemonic to secure spellings in memory.

But there is a lack of professional literature in the area of vocabulary development. Padak and Rasinski (as cited in Elliott et al., 2002) “found that only 2% of all articles submitted to The Reading Teacher in 1997 concentrated on vocabulary instruction” (p.13). More research needs to focus on the relationship between vocabulary instruction and student ability to communicate verbally and in print. As noted by White, Power, & White (as cited in Elliott et al., 2002) “Research shows children are capable of learning an average of 3,000 words per year” (p. 12). “The key to maximizing this potential is finding better ways to improve vocabulary instruction” (Elliot et al., 2002, p. 12).

Statement of the Problem

Vocabulary development is essential to print interpretation and verbal communication and the researcher wanted to know if vocabulary development can be influenced by computer-assisted instruction.

There lacks sufficient research regarding the effects of using a guided tutorial software program and vocabulary development with kindergarten ELL students. Therefore, this study has been done to gather data as to whether there is improvement in vocabulary development when a kindergarten ELL student is using a guided tutorial software program as opposed to not using a guided tutorial software program. Specifically, this study used Read, Write & Type software program. It is developed by The Learning Company and is a guided, tutorial program that’s available for stand-alone or network computers.

Literature Review

Vocabulary Development

“Vocabulary knowledge refers to both the understanding of words and the overall ideas and concepts being communicated” (Elliott et al., 2002, p. 6). The development of vocabulary knowledge is one of the critical steps needed for a student’s literate success. It is essential for reading comprehension. According to Mosher (1999), “Vocabulary knowledge is fundamental to reading comprehension. One cannot understand text without knowing what most of the words mean” (p. 4). Tsoneva-Mathewson (1998) writes that “Vocabulary is another variable to consider when choosing a text. It is a critical component of reading comprehension” (p. 27). Studies have shown that a strong relationship exists between knowledge of word meaning and ability to comprehend passages containing those words (Anderson & Nagy, 1992). As Brooks et al. stated, “Vocabulary plays an important role in both communication effectiveness and academic success” (1997, p. 22). Vocabulary knowledge is very highly correlated with scores on general intelligence, standardized achievement tests, and school success ( Dickinson , 1984).

For this study, the term vocabulary focuses on words that kindergarten students need to know in order to communicate orally (listening and speaking) and in print (reading and writing) and that is age and grade appropriate. Vocabulary knowledge is influenced by direct, explicit instruction, phonics instruction, whole language, inferring word meaning based on context, exposures to new words by reading of or listening to books and incidental conversations with adults or peers. A student’s academic success relies on their skills with listening, speaking, reading and writing vocabulary. New vocabulary has to match the age and prior knowledge of the students. Lehr & Osborn (2004) state that “Effective [vocabulary] instruction includes opportunities for both incidental word learning and intentional word teaching” (p.12).

Most kindergarten students have a background that evolves around a home life with two parents and older or younger siblings. Extended family may or may not be present in the home. Students play games with friends and family members, eat food with family members, watch television, shop for food and clothes and enjoy various holidays and celebrations, such as birthdays. The English speaking students know the English words associated with these activities; the ELL students know words associated with these activities but they are not English. Both groups of students have very similar previous experiences.

Teaching vocabulary to kindergarten ELL students is not much different than teaching vocabulary to kindergarten English speaking students since both groups usually have a similar background. What is essential to the student learning and understanding English social and academic words is activation of their mind to retain words. The students need to be engaged in their learning. The words need to be used in context. “Hearing words in context not only adds to the number of meanings in a listener’s receptive vocabulary, but also gives the listener alternative ways to express him/her self” (Hillman, 1975, pp. 2-3).

Vocabulary knowledge is one of the reading skills necessary for being proficient in a language and for learning to read. Saville-Troike (as cited in Coady, & Tozcu, 2004) note that for some scholars vocabulary knowledge is seen as the most important factor in academic achievement for second or foreign language learners, (p. 1). Penno et al., (as cited in Coady, & Tozcu, 2004) claim that, “Learning vocabulary is an important aspect of language development” (p. 1).

The National Reading Panel (2000) lists the following methods for teaching vocabulary:

  • Explicit Instruction: Students are given definitions of other attributes of words to be learned.
  • Implicit Instruction: Students are exposed to words or given opportunities to do a great deal of reading.
  • Multimedia Methods: Vocabulary is taught by going beyond text to include other media such as graphic representations, hypertext or American Sign Language.
  • Capacity Methods: Practice is emphasized to increase capacity through making reading automatic.
  • Association Methods: Learners are encouraged to draw connections between what they do know and words they encounter that they do not know.

National Reading Panel has stated that “dependence on a single vocabulary instruction method will not result in optimal learning” (2000, p. 4). Kindergarteners have a unique manner of thinking and learning that requires specially designed activities to enhance the development of vocabulary knowledge for reading. They learn best by doing and thinking, and will retain the most when constructing their own knowledge by fundamental experiences. Computer tutorial software program will put them in the center of their own learning environment. It would add the multimedia method to the teacher handbag of teaching tools and could be utilized as a supplement to traditional, teacher-directed instruction. According to Patricia Shults (2000), many educators have applied Piaget’s theory that learning occurs when the child actively participates as a constructor of their own knowledge, (p5).

Read, Write & Type

Several studies, (Huntinger & Johanson, 2000; Casey, 2001; Segers &Verhoeven, 2005) involving computer-assisted instruction (CAI) and kindergarten have been published. The majority of these focused on the use of computers for student literacy. Tutorials, drill-and-practice, supplementary exercises, games and other programs, are different types of CAI that are found in schools and used in the classroom for different purposes. But not all CAI programs are created equally. Determining which software is best suited to teach the desired objective is critical to the success of CAI. Kim (2002) notes “it is important that reading software be designed based on knowledge of reading process” (p. 21). The researcher used Read, Write & Type (RWT) with kindergarten students in a computer lab setting for five years. At that time, she wanted to enhance what the students were learning in the classroom. She researched various software programs designed for this age group. She came up with RWT and persuaded the school to purchase a lab-pack of ten for the kindergarten computer lab. It was a success! The program reinforces reading skills taught in the classroom by encouraging the students to type letters, words, sentences and short paragraphs. It provides explicit instruction and practice in phonological awareness, letter sound correspondence, phonemic decoding, word to picture cues, and sentence structure while encouraging students to express themselves in written language. Students are exposed to processing meaningful written material as they are encouraged to acquire word, sentence and phonics knowledge.

According to Beck, Peffetti & McKeorwn (as cited in Caldrone, 1995), “The single most important activity of building the knowledge required for student’s eventual success in reading is reading aloud to [them]” (p. 24). RWT offers an extensive oral language component to the program. It provides explicit verbal instruction and auditory practice in phonological awareness, letter sound correspondences and phonemic decoding to the end-user (students). In addition the program engages students in visual activities that aide in the recovery of the keyboard letters and their sounds. The student working as a partner with the animated characters, Lefty & Righty, use the written language to rescue the letters of the keyboard from the evil, story-hating villain, Vexor (See Appendix A).

The games and activities combine real-time auditory and visual cues with motor skills to accelerate phonics learning that lead to vocabulary words then to sentences and finally has the student typing short paragraphs. RWT uses a balanced approach of phonics and whole-language with writing skills. The students are engaged to be a viable part of a team while knowing what word, sentence and eventually paragraphs they are to construct by writing down one sound at a time. Ignatz (2000) found the program “to be an effective program to assist primary children in at-risk situation in acquiring beginning reading, writing and spelling skills” (p. 2).

In addition, the program provided explicit verbal instruction and visual cues for the student to follow. The students are immersed in a visual and auditive environment, where they spend time processing meaningful content. Ignatz (2000) writes that RWT software program “is extremely well constructed and builds on the current ideas about the type of instruction in reading that all children should have during the early elementary grades” (p. 3).

This enables the students to become active learners. Kim (2002) points out in her guidelines for evaluating computer reading software the “benefits of the computer for reading is the opportunity for increased interaction between the reader and the text on the computer” (p. 22). McKenna et al. (as cited in Kim, 2002) states, “Interactive capabilities of the computer have been recognized as an effective tool to make reading less frustrating and more enjoyable” (p. 22). CAI lends itself towards learner-centered teaching approach. Howard and Nelson (2005), state that “Learner-centered instruction promotes student success” (p. 1).

The National Reading Panel (2000) encourages the use of computers to teach vocabulary since “computer vocabulary instruction shows positive learning gains” (p.5). Kim (2002) states, “a review of relevant literature revealed that the use of the computer has a beneficial effect on enhancing ELL reading particularly by facilitating automatic word recognition, and vocabulary acquisition…” (p. 24). Kamil and Pang (2004) suggests that since vocabulary instruction is needed for reading success; research is needed into the use of computer software to teach reading to ELL students. Enriching vocabulary would increase vocabulary knowledge in both English Language Learners and English only speakers. Computerized exposure of English vocabulary words offer an opportunity to take ELL learning into the multimedia method of instruction.

Oral language awareness and development can be facilitated with direct instruction and with indirect interaction by the student within a social setting. It is thought that vocabulary can be acquired by the use of CAI. It is clear from the literature review that very few studies have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of the use of computers for improving vocabulary development. But research by Segers & Verhoeven (2005), Kim (2002), and Mosher (1999), support the notion that computer-assisted reading programs facilitate ELL reading comprehension

As this literature review indicates there has been very little research on the benefits of computer aided instruction in vocabulary development. Research has been done to gather information on the effects of vocabulary knowledge on reading comprehension. However, there lacks sufficient research regarding the effects of CAI on vocabulary development when the student is using RWT then when the student is not using RWT. Therefore, this study was to gather data as to whether there is improvement in vocabulary development when a student uses the CAI software program RWT as opposed to not using a CAI software program RWT.

Methods

The purpose of this study was to gather and evaluate data on the effects of vocabulary development with and without Read, Write and Type computer software program. The study was designed to evaluate vocabulary development with kindergarten ELLs. No research had been found on the effects of using computer assisted instruction for vocabulary development with kindergarten ELL.

Subjects

Ten ELL kindergarteners from various classrooms of a school were selected to participate in the nine-week research project. All subjects received one hour per day of traditional classroom instruction in a large group setting. Concepts covered were academic English language surrounding phonemic awareness, decoding skills, alphabetic principle, sound-spelling correspondence, vocabulary skills, writing skills and comprehension skills. In addition all subjects received about an hour a week of activities outlined in the RWT teacher’s manual. Five of the students were chosen to use Read, Write and Type for one hour per week. The remaining five students received one hour per week of traditional classroom software to insure that computer use would not have an influence on the outcome. These students did not use any kind of language arts software. All students are Spanish speaking students, recently moved to Georgia from Mexico . The students are well behaved and attentive. They are quiet and hesitant to answer questions when asked.

Pre-test. This pretest is given during registration process if under the language section of the registration form a language other than English is listed as their home language, language first learned or language spoken most often. By law if a student comes from a home where a language other than English is used, the school must assess the student’s oral language proficiency. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) defines four English language skills that contribute to proficiency. Due to the age of the students only two of the four skills are tested using the Language Assessment Battery (LAB) test Level I -Short B. These two are speaking and listening. The CCSSO defines these as:

  1. Listening – the ability to understand the language of the teacher and instruction, comprehend and extract information and follow the instructional discourse through which teachers provided information.
  2. Speaking - the ability to use oral language appropriately and effectively in learning activities (such as peer tutoring, collaborative learning activities, and question/answer sessions) within the classroom and in social interactions within the school. (1992, p. 7)

The students were given the following sections: speaking, which requires an oral response to an oral or pictorial stimulus and listening, which requires choosing the correct response to an oral or pictorial stimulus. The LAB has been approved by the Department of Education (DOE) and is used to identify and place students into the English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. All of the students scored a 1-percentile on this test with a raw score of zero correct. All subjects used in this experiment receive ELL services. All students are identified as limited English proficient (LEP) students according to their LAB results.

Letters were sent to the parents of these ten children that explained the purpose of the study and asked permission for the children to take part. All parents gave permission. The students were randomly assigned to the control group and the RWT group.

Post-test. After nine weeks of instruction, the same LAB test was administered again as a post-test.  

Instruction

All participants attend the same school but are in different classrooms. The students receive the same language arts instruction from their classroom teacher. The school implements the comprehensive reading program: Success for All Reading (SFA). This program follows strict guidelines for instruction that all of the kindergarten teachers follow. Both groups received SFA instruction in their classroom. Both groups received about an hour a week of activities outlined in the RWT teacher’s manual. Students were seen in two groups of five from early August through the beginning of October for a total of nine weeks

The experimental, also known as the RWT, group received two, 30-minute sessions per week of working individually on the computer using the RWT program. The teacher would provide individualized instruction if a student was having difficulty with a specific computer skill. At the end of each session each student would get to a stopping point within their program and close out the program. Individual data is kept on each student by the software program, allowing the student to start the next session at the point where it was left after an earlier session.

The control group did not receive computer instruction or allowed to work individually in the Read, Write and Type program.

Results and Discussion

During the nine weeks of treatment, both groups received one hour daily of large group instruction which covered traditional language arts academic English language instruction and about an hour a week of language activities outlined in RWT. The experimental group spent an hour each week on using Read, Write and Type software with support from a teacher.

The control and RWT groups were given the Language Assessment Battery, Level I -Short LAB B test for grades K-2 as a pretest and posttest. The pre-test was administered during the first week of school and the post-test was administered during the last week of the nine week grading period. This test consists of two distinct sections: Listening and Speaking. The tests were hand scored and the score for every student for each test is expressed in terms of raw score. Then the pretest score is compared to the posttest score to determine if those working with RWT differ on a performance variable compared to those working without RWT.

Table 1 below contains the raw post-test scores obtained by the students in each group and is broken down into the Listening, Speaking, and Combined categories. In addition, the table contains the metrics of central tendency (mean and standard deviation) for each group and category.


 

Table 1 : Post-test Scores

 

Listening

Speaking

Combined

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RWT

Control

RWT

Control

RWT

Control

 

10

10

11

10

21

20

 

11

10

12

11

23

21

 

11

10

11

10

22

20

 

11

11

14

12

25

23

 

10

11

10

12

20

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mean

10.6

10.4

11.6

11.0

22.2

21.4

Std. Dev.

0.55

0.55

1.52

1.00

1.92

1.52

 

Figures 1 – 3 below depict graphical representations of the posttest scores. Figure 1 for the Listening category, Figure 2 for the Speaking category, and Figure 3 for the Combined.

 

Figure 1

 

Figure 2

 

Figure 3

 

A qualitative assessment of the results show that for the Listening portion of the test two students in the RWT group scored higher than the Control, two students scored the same and one student scored lower. This is visually apparent in the graphical depiction in Figure 1. The mean score for Listening was 0.2 points higher for the RTW group. For the Speaking portion of the test four students from the RWT group scored higher than the Control and one scored lower. Figure 2 illustrates these results. Note that the scale of the Y axis varies based on the data. While the scores in Figure 2 appear to be closer together than Figure 1, they are in fact more disparate. The mean score for Speaking was 0.6 points higher for the RWT group. The same tendency holds true for Combined Results; four members of the RWT group scored higher than the Control and one scored lower with a mean difference of 0.8 higher for the RWT group. See Figure 3.

So a qualitative assessment of these data indicates that the mean test scores were higher for the RWT group for Listening, Speaking, and Combined. However, in order to conclude that the differences in these mean test scores are statistically significant a quantitative evaluation must be performed. T-test was conducted to detect the mean differences between two groups. T test for the group difference is T ()=***, and p=.49, which is not significant at .05 level. Therefore, there is no evidence indicating the mean scores for groups differ.

Table 2: T-Test Results Expressed as P-Values

 

 

Listening

Speaking

Combined

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P-Value

0.58

 

0.48

 

0.49

 

 

 

So while the mean score of the RWT group had higher posttest mean scores than that of the control group, there is no statistically significant difference between two groups. Possible reasons for these results will be discussed in the conclusions.

Conclusions

Reading comprehension is the foundation for individual’s success and vocabulary is important to reading comprehension. The ability to communicate orally or in written form depends on the individual’s ability to use the words which best express the thought. The literature shows that children learn best through active experience. Vocabulary is learned best by using a variety of teaching strategies such as CAI. This study focused on using RWT as a teaching strategy in the classroom. Two groups of students, one using RWT software and the other for control, were given vocabulary pre-test and post-test. A t-test was used to analyze and compare the pretest and posttest mean scores between the control group and RWT group. The t-test showed no significant difference in the vocabulary knowledge gained in either group. In other words, one group did not do any better with vocabulary acquisition than the other group. For example, in the Combined, listening and speaking, sample the p=.487 indicating there is no significant different. A p value <= 0.05 is necessary to be considered statistically significant.

  • The researcher believes that these inconclusive results are due to two limitations of the study and not the ineffectiveness of the RWT strategy. The first limitation was that the study was limited to five ELL students in each group, control and RWT. The researcher would suggest that in the future a larger group of ELLs be used in future research. Another limitation was the treatment duration. Nine weeks for vocabulary acquisition is insufficient for this age group. The researcher recommends a least a school year and when possible two school years. Reducing either one or both of these limitations, having a larger student sample size and/or increasing the time of treatment, would give a better indication of the effectiveness of the RWT program. Further research needs to be done to determine RWT’s effectiveness with vocabulary development with ELL students.
To summarize, this study has laid a good foundation for future research. The use of CAI has potential to be an efficient and effective instructional method. Selecting effective CAI programs to supplement a teacher’s instruction is critical to its success as a learning tool. Future research should explore the effectiveness the different types (tutorials, drill-and-practice, supplementary exercises, games) of CAI has on word acquisition in non-English speaking students.

References

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APPENDIX A. Screen Shot of Read, Write and Type. “The RWT!™ Learning System is uniquely adapted to meet the needs of children who are learning English as a second language. The auditory Help component was developed after intensive consultations with leading researchers in the field of bilingual education. Results of the current studies on the most effective ways to teach English as a second language suggest that immersion in the target language (English) with sufficient support for help and assistance in the native language has met with great success.” (http://www.readwritetype.com/how_it_works/esl.html).