Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Alexandra Gottardo

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


The impact of a preschool training program that combined a vocabulary instruction strategy with phonological awareness activities and instruction in the alphabetic principle, as well as incidental teaching of basic vocabulary items was evaluated using a pretest-posttest design with a control group. This language and literacy (LL) training targeted three to four year-old English as a second language (L2) learners and monolingual (L1) English speakers (n = 63) and was conducted twice a week for two hours, for a total of 24 weeks. Both language groups contained a low socioeconomic status (SES) and a middle SES groups. The children in the control group attended a math intervention (n= 17) or general Early Years programs (n = 6). The results of analyses, controlling for non-verbal reasoning, show that children in the LL training group significantly outperformed the children in the control group on performance on the posttest measures of standardized vocabulary (PPVT-III; Dunn & Dunn, 1997) and letter-sound identification. It is remarkable that at posttest the English L2 children had scores similar to the range of English L1 children at pretest. That is, with this LL training program, at posttest the English L2 children reached the pretest levels of English L1 children. These are the levels of vocabulary knowledge that native speakers will typically have when they start kindergarten. One of the implications of this research is that only an early provision of a vocabulary training program in which conceptual linkages between words are emphasized in a flexible and rich manner can lead to meaningful changes in vocabulary development. In contrast, teaching words does not meaningfully increase general vocabulary knowledge, a result that is supported by a plethora of research to date.

Convocation Year