University of Chicago study: Giving nonverbal clues can boost a child’s vocabulary

26 Jun

 

Educators have long recognized the importance of vocabulary in reading and learning. Francie Alexander writes in the Scholastic article, Understanding Vocabulary:

 

Why is vocabulary s-o-o important?

 

Vocabulary is critical to reading success for three reasons:

 

  1. Comprehension improves when you know what the words mean. Since comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, you cannot overestimate the importance of vocabulary development.

  2. Words are the currency of communication. A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing.

  3. How many times have you asked your students or your own children to “use your words”? When children and adolescents improve their vocabulary, their academic and social confidence and competence improve, too. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/understanding-vocabulary

 

A University of Chicago study, “Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary three years later,” published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights the importance of parental involvement at an early stage of learning.

 

Alexandra Sifferlin writes in the Time article, Building Kids’ Vocabulary Doesn’t Have to Involve Words:

 

 

The stronger a child’s vocabulary, the more successful she tends to be in school, and new research shows that the word-building can begin before kids start talking.

 

Child development experts have long advised parents to talk to their babies, even if their infants can’t talk back. The more a parent talks to his child, the more words they are likely to learn. Now comes new work suggesting that even non-verbal cues such as pointing to objects can encourage vocabulary building regardless of socioeconomic status. It’s not just the quantity of words spoken, then, that’s important but the quality of the learning environment that may make the greatest difference.

 

To come to this conclusion, researchers from the University of Chicago videotaped the daily interactions of 50 parents and their toddlers over two 90-minute sessions when the kids were 14 months to 18 months. In order to tease apart the parents who used non-verbal cues from those who relied more on verbal communication, the researchers bleeped out a key word from 10 randomly selected 40-second clips of these recordings. They asked another 218 adults to watch these clips and guess which word the parent was saying at the beep.

 

The scientists then defined those situations in which the participants were easily able to determine the word — for example, guessing that the recorded parent was saying “book” if he said it while the child was walking to a bookshelf — as involving non-verbal cues, and classified the environments in which it was harder to guess the missing word as being primarily verbal ones.

 

Most of the parents used non-verbal cues from 5% to 38% of the time. Three years later, about the time the youngsters entered kindergarten, the researchers assessed their vocabularies and found that children with the biggest vocabularies also had parents whose beeped-out words were more easily deduced in the recording clips. Giving new words context with non-verbal cues could explain about 22% of the difference in vocabularies among children whose parents used them v. those who did not….: http://healthland.time.com/2013/06/26/building-kids-vocabulary-doesnt-have-to-involve-words/#ixzz2XOXWqAmF

 

Here is the press release from the University of Chicago:

 

Giving children non-verbal clues about words boosts vocabularies

 

By William Harms

June 24, 2013

The clues that parents give toddlers about words can make a big difference in how deep their vocabularies are when they enter school, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

By using words to reference objects in the visual environment, parents can help young children learn new words, according to the research. It also explores the difficult-to-measure quality of non-verbal clues to word meaning during interactions between parents and children learning to speak. For example, saying, “There goes the zebra” while visiting the zoo helps a child learn the word “zebra” faster than saying, “Let’s go to see the zebra.”

Differences in the quality of parents’ non-verbal clues to toddlers (what children can see when their parents are talking) explain about a quarter (22 percent) of the differences in those same children’s vocabularies when they enter kindergarten, researchers found.

The results are reported in the paper, “Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary three years later,” published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.         

Children’s vocabularies vary greatly in size by the time they enter school,” said lead author Erica Cartmill, a postdoctoral scholar at UChicago. “Because preschool vocabulary is a major predictor of subsequent school success, this variability must be taken seriously and its sources understood.”

Scholars have found that the number of words youngsters hear greatly influences their vocabularies. Parents with higher socioeconomic status—those with higher income and more education—typically talk more to their children and accordingly boost their vocabularies, research has shown.

That advantage for higher-income families doesn’t show up in the quality research, however.

What was surprising in this study was that social economic status did not have an impact on quality. Parents of lower social economic status were just as likely to provide high-quality experiences for their children as were parents of higher status,” said co-author Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at UChicago.  

Although scholars have amassed impressive evidence that the number of words children hear—the quantity of their linguistic input—has an impact on vocabulary development, measuring the quality of the verbal environment—including non-verbal clues to word meaning—has proved much more difficult.

To measure quality, the research team reviewed videotapes of everyday interactions between 50 primary caregivers, almost all mothers, and their children (14 to 18 months old). The mothers and children, from a range of social and economic backgrounds, were taped for 90-minute periods as they went about their days, playing and engaging in other activities.

The team then showed 40-second vignettes from these videotapes to 218 adults with the sound track muted. Based on the interaction between the child and parent, the adults were asked to guess what word the parent in each vignette used when a beep was sounded on the tape.

A beep might occur, for instance, in a parent’s silenced speech for the word “book” as a child approaches a bookshelf or brings a book to the mother to start storytime. In this scenario, the word was easy to guess because the mother labeled objects as the child saw and experienced them. In other tapes, viewers were unable to guess the word that was beeped during the conversation, as there were few immediate clues to the meaning of the parent’s words. Vignettes containing words that were easy to guess provided high-quality clues to word meaning.

Although there were no differences in the quality of the interactions based on parents’ backgrounds, the team did find significant individual differences among the parents studied. Some parents provided non-verbal clues about words only 5 percent of the time, while others provided clues 38 percent of the time, the study found.

The study also found that the number of words parents used was not related to the quality of the verbal exchanges. “Early quantity and quality accounted for different aspects of the variance found in the later vocabulary outcome measure,” the authors wrote. In other words, how much parents talk to their children (quantity), and how parents use words in relation to the non-verbal environment (quality) provided different kinds of input into early language development.

However, parents who talk more are, by definition, offering their children more words, and the more words a child hears, the more likely it will be for that child to hear a particular word in a high-quality learning situation,” they added. This suggests that higher-income families’ vocabulary advantage comes from a greater quantity of input, which leads to a greater number of high-quality word-learning opportunities. Making effective use of non-verbal cues may be a good way for parents to get their children started on the road to language.

Joining Cartmill and Goldin-Meadow as authors were University of Pennsylvania scholars Lila Gleitman, professor emerita of psychology; John Trueswell, professor of psychology; Benjamin Armstrong, a research assistant; and Tamara Medina, assistant professor of psychology at Drexel University.

The work was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

– See more at: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2013/06/24/giving-children-non-verbal-clues-about-words-boosts-vocabularies#sthash.V4f1L1Vb.dpuf

 

Citation:

 

Social Sciences – Psychological and Cognitive Sciences

 

  • Erica A. Cartmill,

  • Benjamin F. Armstrong III,

  • Lila R. Gleitman,

  • Susan Goldin-Meadow,

  • Tamara N. Medina,

  • and John C. Trueswell

 

Quality of early parent input predicts child vocabulary 3 years later PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print June 24, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1309518110

 

…10.1073/pnas.1309518110 Erica A. Cartmill Benjamin F. Armstrong III Lila…PDF) Supporting Information Cartmill et al. 10.1073/pnas…and working our way down until Cartmill et al. http://www.pnas.org/cgi…

 

 

Moi wrote about the importance of parental involvement in Missouri program: Parent home visits:

 

One of the mantras of this blog is that education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be involved.  Many educators have long recognized that the impact of social class affects both education achievement and life chances after completion of education. There are two impacts from diversity, one is to broaden the life experience of the privileged and to raise the expectations of the disadvantaged. Social class matters in not only other societies, but this one as well. A few years back, the New York Times did a series about social class in America. That series is still relevant. Janny Scott and David Leonhardt’s overview, Shadowy Lines That Still Divide describes the challenges faced by schools trying to overcome the disparity in education. The complete series can be found at Class Matters

 

Teachers and administrators as well as many politicians if they are honest know that children arrive at school at various points on the ready to learn continuum. Teachers have to teach children at whatever point on the continuum the children are. Jay Matthews reports in the Washington Post article, Try parent visits, not parent takeovers of schools. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/try-parent-visits-not-parent-takeovers-of-schools/2012/05/30/gJQAlDDz2U_story.html

 

The key ingredient is parental involvement. The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (Council) has a great policy brief on parental involvement.http://www.wccf.org/pdf/parentsaspartners_ece-series.pd

 

https://drwilda.com/2012/05/30/missouri-program-parent-home-visits/

 


Related:

 

 

The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum https://drwilda.com/2012/01/24/the-importance-of-the-skill-of-handwriting-in-the-school-curriculum/

 

The slow reading movement                                                       https://drwilda.com/2012/01/31/the-slow-reading-movement/

 

Why libraries in K-12 schools are important                              https://drwilda.com/2012/12/26/why-libraries-in-k-12-schools-are-important/

 

University of Iowa study: Variation in words may help early learners read better                                                                                   https://drwilda.com/2013/01/16/university-of-iowa-study-variation-in-words-may-help-early-learners-read-better/

 

 

Where Information Leads to Hope ©     Dr. Wilda.com

 

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COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART©                           http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

 

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