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Children’s depth of knowledge about words plays a critical role in helping children comprehend text (Ouellette, 2006). Several studies report that combining direct verbal instruction of words with nonverbal visual aids, such as pictures and gestures, may enhance children’s depth of word knowledge, especially in book reading contexts (Beck & McKeown, 2007; Dickinson, et al., 2018; Hadley et al., 2016). However, no studies consider how using nonverbal sound supports in book contexts may contribute to children’s depth of word knowledge. The present poster examines whether using nonverbal sounds to represent words during book reading supports children’s vocabulary depth. The study seeks to address the following research questions: (1) Does teaching vocabulary with sound effects in a book reading context enhance children’s depth of word knowledge compared to words taught with no sounds and control words that are not taught? (2) How does the semantic information learned about words vary for words taught with sounds and words taught with no sounds?
Data for the poster were drawn from 52 first-grade children attending a Title I school. Children in the study participated in three readings of the book during their general music class. Using a within-subjects design, all children were taught six words with sound effects and six words with no sound effects. Prior to each reading of the story, the music teacher first introduced the six no sound words using a picture card and a child-friendly definition. The teacher then introduced the six sound words using a picture card, child-friendly definition, and an associated musical sound that represented the word’s meaning (e.g., playing up the bass xylophone to represent lifting up something heavy for the word “hoist”). Children were assigned to play one of the sounds with classroom instruments whenever the target word appeared in the text. A productive word definition (PWD) assessment adapted from Hadley et al. (2016) was administered before and after the intervention to measure children’s depth of word knowledge. Children were asked to share what they knew about words and responses were coded for different semantic information categories (see Figure 2 for categories).
Multilevel models were used to analyze the PWD scores. The findings indicate that children provided significantly more information for sound words compared to control words that were not taught (γ10= -.67, SE=.10, p=.000) and no sound words (γ20= -.25, SE=.10, p=.014). Results are shown in Figure 1. Analyses on the semantic information categories children provided show that children provided significantly more contextual examples for sound words than no sound words (γ10= -.23, SE=.015, p=.001), as shown in Figure 2. Variability in PWD responses by English Language Learner (ELL) status will be discussed in the poster.
Using sound effects in book reading contexts may be an effective approach for fostering children’s vocabulary depth. Specifically, sound effects may enrich children’s contextual knowledge about words. The findings of this study hold instructional implications for incorporating sound-based modalities in word learning. Further research is needed to determine whether these findings can be replicated in larger sample sizes.