Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Linnea Ehri

Committee Members

Bruce Homer

Helen Leos Epstein Johnson

Alpana Bhattacharya

Lois Harris

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Psychology | Science and Mathematics Education


Vocabulary, Abridged Text, Prereading, Science Textbook, Reading Comprehension, Elementary students


The present study examined the effects of two prereading activities designed to improve fifth-grade students’ vocabulary learning and comprehension of science textbook content containing those words. Ninety-three fifth grade students participated in this study. The prereading activities consisted of students reading an abridged version of the text or receiving instruction on vocabulary words drawn from the text before reading the full text once. Students receiving these treatments were compared to a control condition in which students reread the full text passage twice but did not receive any prereading treatment. Students were grouped by reading ability levels into above average, average, and below average readers. ANOVAs confirmed that the treatment/control groups did not differ on any of the pretests. ANOVAs were performed to examine the effects of the prereading treatments on measures of students’ vocabulary learning and reading comprehension of the science text. Results showed that students in the vocabulary training condition and the abridged text condition performed similarly in defining the vocabulary words and generating sentences containing the words, and both groups outperformed the control group on these measures. In addition, the vocabulary trained group outperformed the other two groups on a prompted recall measure of text comprehension. Treatment effects conditioned by reader ability were found on the sentence generation measure. The difference favoring the vocabulary group over the control group was evident for above-average and average readers but not for below average readers. The difference favoring the abridged group over the control group was evident for average and below average readers but not for above average readers. Students in the abridged text condition performed similarly across all reading levels, whereas students in the vocabulary and the control conditions differed across reading levels, with performance declining linearly as reading level declined. Better readers outperformed poorer readers on all the vocabulary measures and all but one of the reading comprehension measures. Results of this study suggest that having students read an abridged version of a difficult science text can help students learn vocabulary words in the text. Teaching students vocabulary words contained in a difficult science text prior to reading the text can help students learn the vocabulary words and improve their comprehension of the text.