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;
achieve high levels in content area subjects
- develop and
enhance high quality educational programs for ELLs
family and community involvement to facilitate ELL academic achievement
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
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).
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
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.
Statement of the Problem
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.
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
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).
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).
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.
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).
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”
Reading Panel (2000) lists the following methods for teaching
Instruction: Students are given definitions of other attributes of
words to be learned.
Instruction: Students are exposed to words or given opportunities to do
a great deal of reading.
Methods: Vocabulary is taught by going beyond text to include other
media such as graphic representations, hypertext or American Sign
Methods: Practice is emphasized to increase capacity through making
Methods: Learners are encouraged to draw connections between what they
do know and words they encounter that they do not know.
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
Read, Write & Type
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
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).
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).
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).
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.
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
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.
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
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
control group did not receive computer instruction or allowed to work
individually in the Read, Write and Type program.
Results and Discussion
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
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 :
– 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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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