Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Linnea C. Ehri

Committee Members

Dolores Perin

Alpana Bhattacharya

Subject Categories

Cognition and Perception | Curriculum and Instruction | Early Childhood Education | Education | Educational Psychology | Language and Literacy Education | Pre-Elementary, Early Childhood, Kindergarten Teacher Education | Psychology | Teacher Education and Professional Development


reading, phonemic awareness, phonemic segmentation, urban, preschool, kindergarten


The purpose of this study was to examine the contribution of phoneme awareness training and orthography to the learning of new vocabulary words by partial alphabetic phase readers. We hypothesized that four and five year old children taught to segment words with letters would outperform those trained with shape markers and those that received no segmentation training on an invented spelling task. We also hypothesized that students seeing the spellings of new vocabulary words (names) would learn the words in fewer trials, remember the names and features better and would be able to better recognize letter labels when presented alone.

An experimental counterbalanced design was used. Children were screened to select readers in the partial alphabetic phase. They were assigned randomly to one of three conditions. Children were given training in phonemic awareness by learning to segment simple words with letter markers or shape markers. A third control condition was read a rhyming book and no segmentation was taught. Children were then taught new vocabulary words naming interesting and unusual drawings of characters. Half of the drawings were accompanied by simple consonant-vowel spellings symbolizing their names and half by unrelated two-digit numbers in a repeated measures design. Students were given up to 20 learning trials with corrective feedback to learn the picture-name associations.

Results indicated that children who received phonemic segmentation training with letters made significant gains from pretest to posttest in producing simplified spellings of words whereas the other two groups who were not trained with letters showed no improvement. In the vocabulary learning task, results revealed that when participants were shown spellings of the words during study periods but not during tests, they required fewer trials to learn the words than when they were shown irrelevant numbers. Phonemic segmentation training with letters did not improve vocabulary learning compared to training without letters or rhyme training. Findings showed that beginning readers’ memory for vocabulary words can be facilitated when they are exposed to spellings of the words, even beginners in the partial alphabetic phase of reading development. Knowledge of letter names containing the relevant sounds in their names appeared to be sufficient to support facilitation of vocabulary learning from spellings but training in phoneme segmentation provided no additional benefit.