Word Variety Helps Early Learners (THE Journal)
Exposure to word variation for early readers may boost their abilities, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Iowa to be published in the January issue of Developmental Psychology. To test out the hypothesis, the researchers used Access Code, an online application from Foundations in Learning that applies the “Varied Practice Model” in helping students with word recognition. With varied practice, tasks are changed so that the student is continually exposed to new things to learn. Access Code attempts to help “struggling” readers improve fluency and comprehension of the material.
Although Access Code is intended for students in grade two and above, in this study, U Iowa doctoral student Keith Apfelbaum and Associate Professors Bob McMurray and Eliot Hazeltine of the Department of Psychology worked with 224 first-grade students in the West Des Moines Community Schools system. Some students learned words organized by traditional phonics instruction, which uses similar word sets to help illustrate the rules, the idea being to simplify the school work for learners. A second group of students used curriculum in Access Code, which pulls together sets of words with variation, appearing to make the lesson more difficult.
After a few days of phonics instruction through Access Code, including spelling and matching letters, all of the students were tested to see if they could read words they’d never seen before, read made-up words, and apply their new skills to work they hadn’t done before. Read more >