Novel word learning of preschoolers enrolled in Head Start regular and bilingual classrooms: Impact of adult vocabulary noneliciting questions during shared storybook reading




Walsh, Bridget A.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation study employed quantitative methods to investigate the impact of adult questioning styles on children's novel vocabulary acquisition during shared storybook reading. In an effort to examine adult qualitative variations in shared storybook readings, two experiments were conducted to assess the effect of noneliciting questions during shared storybook reading on children's receptive and expressive novel vocabulary learning. The sociocultural perspective was the theoretical framework of this dissertation study and maintains that learning is due to socially meaningful activity of the child within the environment (e.g., Bruner, 1983; Vygotsky, 1978). In the first experiment, 45 children enrolled in monolingual Head Start classrooms were ranked by general vocabulary scores and randomly assigned to one of three conditions: vocabulary noneliciting questions, vocabulary eliciting questions, and no questions (control). In the second experiment, the novel vocabulary learning of 54 children enrolled in a bilingual English-Spanish Head Start program was investigated. In the second experiment, participants were ranked by Spanish general vocabulary scores and randomly assigned to one of four conditions: (1) Spanish vocabulary noneliciting questioning, (2) English vocabulary noneliciting questioning, (3) Spanish labels, and (4) English labels. Experiment 1 utilized the methodological framework employed in previous experimental work on storybook reading: pretest, intervention, and posttest with the addition of a delayed posttest in Experiment 1. Vocabulary noneliciting questions, eliciting questions, and no questions appear to be equally effective. There was no decay of the words learned as determined by delayed post-test. Experiment 2's methodological framework resembles that utilized by Justice (2002) conducted with a monolingual sample. Experiment 2 also utilized other methodological considerations from the existing literature to examine the effects of noneliciting questions on the novel vocabulary learning of bilingual preschoolers. Experiment 2 revealed that English labels are more effective than English noneliciting questions for receptive knowledge. Spanish noneliciting questions lead to greater expressive word learning than Spanish labels. This study has a number of major impacts, including comparison of Experiment 1's results to the extant literature which is instructive; and, while there is a preponderance of literature with monolingual populations, research with bilingual populations is limited, thus Experiment 2 helps to close that gap.



Education, Psychology, Bilingual, Head Start, Monolingual, Preschoolers, Storybook, Vocabulary, Word learning