Date of Graduation

5-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Jennifer Beasley

Committee Member

Mounir Farah

Second Committee Member

Michael Wavering

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate vocabulary instruction in kindergarten classrooms by exploring and describing highly effective kindergarten teachers' practices. The fundamental question that guided this study was how do highly effective kindergarten teachers teach vocabulary? The study focused on five areas: teachers' methods, techniques to select vocabulary, assessment approaches, use of technology and whether their practices in the previous four areas were consistent with recent research. The study involved nine highly effective kindergarten teachers from nine elementary schools within one school district in Northwest Arkansas. The sample teachers were selected based on principals' recommendations, using specific criteria including knowledge, responsibility and experience. Data were collected from the participant teachers through observations, interviews and document analysis of their vocabulary lesson plans to gain insight into their practices. The data were analyzed using coding steps in grounded theory and an evaluation checklist developed by the researcher. The findings show that all participant teachers provide adequate time to teach vocabulary directly every day using several methods that are consistent with recent literacy research. The methods include introducing vocabulary in context, providing definition with examples, engaging students with target vocabulary, and expanding repeated exposure to vocabulary. The vocabulary selection is based on teachers' choices and school district recommendations. They assess children's vocabulary development using informal assessments including observation and end-of-unit tests; however, they do not use formal assessments for vocabulary. Most of the participant teachers use technology to visually represent vocabulary. They all provide various software programs for literacy skills; however, only a few teachers reported providing software designed specifically for vocabulary. The discussion of these findings suggests implications for practices and recommendations for future research to improve vocabulary instruction in kindergarten classrooms.