The Role of Imageability in Word Learning Efficiency and Transfer among First and Second Graders At-Risk for Reading Disabilities
Steacy, Laura Marianne
This paper explores efficiency and transfer of word learning in first and second grade students. In two studies, students participated in a short training in which they were exposed to words that vary in spelling regularity and imageability. The first study investigated word learning in 47 at-risk 1st and 2nd grade children. Crossed-random effects models were used to explore both child- and word-level predictors related to posttest word reading, posttest transfer measures, and mastery. The words chosen for the study varied on two dimensions: orthographic regularity and imageability. Children were randomly assigned to one of two feedback methods: (a) whole word feedback and (b) phonological-analysis feedback. Results indicate that imageability plays a particularly important role for irregular words and that students in the blending feedback condition were more likely to read orthographically similar nonwords correctly at posttest. The second study explored the malleability of imageability for instruction in 78 unselected first grade children. Students were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (a) word learning only, (b) traditional vocabulary training + word learning, and (c) imageability training + word learning. In the imageability condition we attempted to make the low imageability words imageable through visual supports and training. Results indicate that regularity was an important word level predictor for posttest performance and students in the imageability condition required fewer exposures for mastery than students in the word only condition. The imageability training seemed particularly effective for students who started the study with low word reading skills.