Vocabulary Instruction Through Read-Alouds in Kindergarten

Mary O'Brien


Vocabulary knowledge plays a critical role in essential literacy skills including comprehension as well as long-term academic success, however students begin school with a range of oral language abilities and current practices do not adequately address vocabulary instruction. Five English Language Learners (ELLs) attending kindergarten in an urban elementary school participated in a study of vocabulary instruction through read-alouds. The study focused on teaching “Tier 2” target words through read-alouds as well as supplemental instruction. During the first three weeks of the study, students heard new vocabulary through read-alouds but without additional explicit instruction. Then for the final weeks of the study, in addition to read-alouds, instruction included defining terms, using terms in new contexts, illustrating meanings, acting out examples and reviewing words. Data collection included both a general vocabulary test as well as a researcher created assessment to gauge student knowledge of target words. After the study, the results showed students demonstrated greater knowledge on words explicitly taught than those only introduced through read-alouds. Also, some students showed gains in general vocabulary knowledge and students exhibited high levels of engagement in the instructional activities.