First Advisor

Marjorie S. Terdal

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Teaching English as a Second Language




Vocabulary -- Study and teaching, English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, xiv, 253 p.)


Long-term studies with both native and non-native speakers of English have shown that vocabulary can be learned passively or "incidentally" simply through the act of reading, even through reading for pleasure. Generally, studies of incidental vocabulary learning have tested subjects' knowledge of words learned after reading novels or other longer works of prose fiction. Eighty-four students from a short-term ESL program participated as subjects in this study. Subjects were divided into three treatment groups and one control group. All subjects were given a 100-i tern word-recognition pretest, containing 45 test words and 55 dis tractors. The three treated groups were each given three treatments meant to increase their vocabulary knowledge: Vocabulary exercises alone, short story reading alone, and a combination of vocabulary exercises and short story reading (using a short story which contained the words taught in the exercises). Fifteen of the 45 test words were taught under each treatment. All subjects were then given a 45-item multiple-choice post-test, testing the 45 vocabulary words taught in the three treatments. It was hypothesized that story-reading alone would produce the highest gains between pre- and post-test scores, exercises and story together would produce median scores, and exercises alone would produce the lowest scores. Analysis of the data revealed a much different pattern: Story-reading alone actually produced the lowest score gains, while the two treatments involving exercises produced gains that were similarly high. Apparently, vocabulary exercises combined with a short story provided the extra context and practice the subjects needed to learn those words better than did story reading alone. Vocabulary exercises alone produced better scores than story reading alone perhaps because the subjects were accustomed to the task of learning vocabulary words through exercises, and because the task (learning words) was obvious. The subjects were probably not accustomed to learning words simply through reading stories, nor was the task of learning words obvious in that case. Thus, given the special parameters of this study and its subjects, score gains were lowest on the treatment that was expected to produce the highest gains.


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