Lexical acquisition in elementary science classes

Best, Rachel M.; Dockrell, Julie E. and Braisby, Nicholas (2006). Lexical acquisition in elementary science classes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(4) pp. 824–838.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.98.4.824


The purpose of this study was to further researchers' understanding of lexical acquisition in the beginning primary schoolchild by investigating word learning in small-group elementary science classes. Two experiments were conducted to examine the role of semantic scaffolding (e.g., use of synonymous terms) and physical scaffolding (e.g., pointing to referents) in children's acquisition of novel property terms. Children's lexical knowledge was assessed using multiple tasks (naming, comprehension, and definitional). Children struggled to acquire meanings of adjectives without semantic or physical scaffolding (Experiment 1), but they were successful in acquiring extensive lexical knowledge when offered semantic scaffolding (Experiment 2). Experiment 2 also shows that semantic scaffolding used in combination with physical scaffolding helped children acquire novel adjectives and that children who correctly named pictures of adjectives had acquired definitions.

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