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Title page for ETD etd-05142019-203356

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Newman, Katherine Mackay
URN etd-05142019-203356
Title Teacher and child verbal behaviors during guided play: An exploration of vocabulary learning mechanisms
Degree PhD
Department Learning, Teaching and Diversity
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David K. Dickinson, Ph.D. Committee Chair
Dale Farran, Ph.D. Committee Member
Deborah Wells Rowe, Ph.D. Committee Member
Roberta M. Golinkoff, Ph.D. Committee Member
  • preschool
  • vocabulary
  • guided play
  • child engagement
Date of Defense 2019-04-16
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation study examined teacher and child verbal behaviors during guided play sessions that were designed to increase preschool children’s knowledge of target vocabulary. Classroom videotapes that were gathered during an experimental evaluation of a vocabulary intervention were analyzed to identify the relationships between aspects of teacher language use and child verbal engagement and children’s vocabulary growth. Several important findings emerged. First, children’s overall verbal engagement, including contributions of semantic information about word meaning while using target words, was related to growth in both breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge. In addition, independent and grammatically flexible use of words was related to depth gains. Second, entering vocabulary knowledge correlated with children’s overall verbal engagement in guided play sessions. Children with higher entering vocabulary knowledge used more target vocabulary than children with lower knowledge, on average. Third, overall teacher use of words was associated with lower word learning gains. Total teacher word use was negatively associated with breadth of learning gains while teacher definitions was negatively associated with depth of learning gains. However, one aspect of teacher instruction, models of use that include implicit information about word meaning, was positively associated with gains on the depth assessment. Results from this study support the notion that playful early childhood activities like guided play, which allow for child agency and adult guidance around a predetermined learning goal, are promising contexts for eliciting child participation and verbal engagement with benefits for vocabulary learning.
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