Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Linnea C. Ehri

Committee Members

Alpana Bhattacharya

Katharine Pace-Miles

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Early Childhood Education | Educational Psychology | Language and Literacy Education


reading, word class, flashcards, sight words, context, kindergarten


This study examined three different instructional methods for teaching beginners to read context-dependent words. Two types of context-dependent words were taught: irregular past tense verbs and function words. The words were embedded either in scrambled contexts or in meaningful sentence contexts. Three different instructional conditions to teach the words were compared. In the Meaningful Context condition, students studied the target words embedded in meaningful sentences. In the Scrambled condition, students studied target words placed in scrambled word sequences. In the Combination condition, students studied target words in both types of contexts that were alternated across learning trials. Participants were 53 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, ages 5 to 6 years, who qualified as beginning readers based on pretests. The two word types were read on separate training days, with two sets of posttests administered a day after each training session. Posttests included measures of sight word reading, spelling, sentence production, irregular past tense verb transformations, and syntactic awareness. It was hypothesized that instructional condition would affect the word identities that were learned. Results showed that instructional condition did not affect word reading measures during training or on any of the posttests. It was also hypothesized that function words would be easier to learn across measures. Results showed that function words were easier to read and spell, while past tense verbs were easier to embed in sentence contexts. Findings carry instructional implications for how to teach context-dependent words to beginning readers.