Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Committee Chair(s)

Kathleen A. J. Mohr (Committee Chair)


Kathleen A. J. Mohr


Lillian K. Durán


Nicole Pyle


Cindy Jones


Amy Wilson-Lopez


This dissertation examined a combined approach to teach novel vocabulary in English and Spanish for dual language learners prior to an English storybook read- aloud in a preschool setting. The 6-week intervention study was conducted in a Head Start program in the U. S. Mountain West with 60 dual-language preschoolers randomly assigned to small groups to receive the vocabulary intervention, using images and word definitions from researcher-trained teachers, teacher assistants or parent volunteers.

The experimental design included pre- and posttest assessments of target and general receptive vocabulary in English and Spanish, as well as language exposure, instructional quality, and fidelity of treatment. Teachers demonstrated a high level of fidelity in the preteaching of vocabulary in small groups. A multiple regression analyses and t-test comparisons indicate that preschoolers made comparable gains in breadth and depth of target vocabulary in Spanish and English, with higher definitional gains of vocabulary outcomes among those receiving vocabulary instruction in Spanish. For example, the Spanish-language group provided more diverse and robust definitions for target words. The results suggest that an explicit, target vocabulary intervention can improve Spanish-speaking preschoolers’ academic vocabulary in Spanish and English. Use of the home language seemingly supported word learning in both Spanish and English and appeared to increase linguistic awareness more than those receiving only English. The brief, small-group, vocabulary instruction was relatively easy to implement and shows promise as a curricular component available to Head Start programs. Implications for instruction and future research are included.