ESL preschoolers' English vocabulary acquisition and story comprehension from storybook reading
Collins, Molly Fuller
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This experimental study examined the effects vocabulary acquisition strategies and story discussion styles on the English vocabulary acquisition and story comprehension of ESL preschoolers. Eighty preschool-aged, typically-developing, native speakers of Portugese who are also second language learners of English were pretested in L1 (Portugese) receptive vocabulary and L2 (English) receptive and expressive vocabulary to determine a baseline of vocabulary knowledge in each language. Matched according to age, gender, and pretest L2 receptive vocabulary scores, subjects were assigned to experimental or control groups. Subjects in the experimental group heard eight stories read three times with rich explanations of target vocabulary words and with several discussion questions within either a didactic-labeling style of discussion (i.e., explicit questions requiring children to recall basic facts or to recite text) or a performance-oriented style of discussion (i.e., implicit questions requiring children to analyze and integrate information within the text). Subjects in the control group heard eight stories read three times without explanation of target vocabulary words and without discussion questions. Parents of all participants returned questionnaires about children's home reading experience. Results for target vocabulary acquisition showed a strong and significant effect of treatment (i.e., rich explanation of new vocabulary) on ESL preschoolers' target vocabulary acquisition. Regression analyses showed that treatment, initial L2 receptive skill, home reading practices, and story comprehension accounted for 69% of the variance in target vocabulary scores. Initial Ll skill did not have a significant effect on target vocabulary acquisition. Results for story comprehension showed a weak but significant effect of the performance-oriented discussion style on children's story comprehension. Regression analyses showed that L2 receptive skill, treatment (i.e., performance-oriented style of discussion), L2 expressive skill, target vocabulary acquisition, and home reading practices accounted for 60% of the variance in story comprehension scores. Initial Ll skill did not have a significant effect on story comprehension. In conclusion, L2 skills are paramount to children's vocabulary acquisition and story comprehension. Moreover, the supportiveness of adult input (i.e., rich explanations and cognitively challenging discussion questions) and home reading practices make important contributions to ESL preschoolers' English vocabulary acquisition and story comprehension.
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