Examining the relationship between kindergarten students' on-task and off-task behavior and individual response to vocabulary intervention in small group and classroom-based sessions

Date of Completion

January 2007


Education, Early Childhood|Education, Educational Psychology




This dissertation study examined the relationship between kindergarten students' behavior and response to a vocabulary intervention implemented in both small group and whole class sessions. This study was conducted within the context of Project VITAL, a three-year Department of Education funded program of research designed to develop and evaluate vocabulary instruction and intervention for kindergarten children at risk of developing reading difficulties. This dissertation study was completed during the third year of Project VITAL, in which a vocabulary intervention was implemented over the course of approximately 18 weeks in small groups consisting of 3 to 4 students per group, as well as whole class sessions comprised of approximately 20 students each. ^ Participants in this dissertation study included 47 kindergarten students; 23 kindergarten students who received the intervention in small group sessions and 24 students matched on initial receptive vocabulary knowledge who received the intervention in whole class sessions. Student behavior was measured through direct observations during the intervention sessions and through teacher ratings. Student vocabulary outcomes were assessed by an expressive measure of the target vocabulary words. ^ Correlational analyses were used to examine the relationship between teacher perceptions of student behavior and direct observations of student behavior, as well as the relationship between student behavior and student performance on the vocabulary outcome measure. Additionally, multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the predictive power of the behavioral measures, above and beyond other student literacy variables. Finally, analyses were run to identify statistically significant differences in the relationship between the measures of student behavior and the vocabulary outcome measure between the small group and classroom-based sessions. ^ Results indicated that kindergarteners' behavioral characteristics significantly predicted vocabulary outcomes, even after controlling for initial receptive vocabulary knowledge. Students who were more actively on-task benefited more from the vocabulary instruction, whereas students who were more verbally off-task were less responsive to instruction. Additionally, students who exhibited higher levels of adaptive skills benefited more from the vocabulary instruction, and this effect was greater in the whole class sessions. Limitations and implications of these findings are discussed. ^