Once upon a time, there was a pulchritudinous princess…: the role of word definitions and multiple story contexts in children’s learning of difficult vocabulary
Wilkinson, K. S. and Houston-Price, C. (2013) Once upon a time, there was a pulchritudinous princess…: the role of word definitions and multiple story contexts in children’s learning of difficult vocabulary. Applied Psycholinguistics, 34 (3). 591-613 . ISSN 1469-1817
To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0142716411000889
The close relationship between children’s vocabulary size and their later academic success has led researchers to explore how vocabulary development might be promoted during the early school years. We describe a study that explored the effectiveness of naturalistic classroom storytelling as an instrument for teaching new vocabulary to six- to nine-year-old children. We examined whether learning was facilitated by encountering new words in single versus multiple story contexts, or by the provision of age-appropriate definitions of words as they were encountered. Results showed that encountering words in stories on three occasions led to significant gains in word knowledge in children of all ages and abilities, and that learning was further enhanced across the board when teachers elaborated on the new words’ meanings by providing dictionary definitions. Our findings clarify how classroom storytelling activities can be a highly effective means of promoting vocabulary development.