The importance of vocabulary for reading comprehension is widely accepted. Evidence-based approaches for improving vocabulary are needed in schools, yet few exist. Vocabulators, an online tool that can be integrated into the school day to teach students the vocabulary needed to process text, was developed to fill that gap. A new study published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness assessed the effectiveness of Vocabulators.
The study included third grade students across seven schools in the northeast and southwest United States, six of which received Title I funding. Students identified as reading below average with some risk of reading failure within each class were randomly assigned to either the Vocabulators intervention or to continue their teachers’ normal literacy instruction. The Vocabulators group participated in the program for half an hour a day, three days per week. Students used the program as determined by their teacher, such as during center/station time, intervention block, or during independent work times.
- Results of the study showed significant impacts on researcher-developed measures of vocabulary, meaning students appeared to learn the targeted words taught through the program.
- However, there were no significant results on standardized measures of reading (ES = +0.01-=0.19, n.s.) or vocabulary (ES=+0.04, n.s.), meaning that these efforts did not transfer to more general vocabulary measures or comprehension.
- Further, on average, students completed less than half of the lessons, calling into question the degree to which they were exposed to the program.
These findings demonstrate that further work is needed to understand whether vocabulary instruction using Vocabulators could improve reading comprehension for elementary students.
Source: Fogarty, M., Coyne, M. D., Simmons, L. E., Simmons, D. C., Henri, M., Kwok, O. M., … & Wang, H. (2020). Effects of technology-mediated vocabulary intervention for third-grade students with reading difficulties. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 13(2), 271-297.