Exploring effects of the keyword strategy on limited English proficient students' vocabulary recall and comprehension

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Special Education

First Committee Member

Jeanne Shay Schumm - Committee Chair


Although the keyword strategy has been found to be effective for a variety of students, research has not addressed adequately the use of this strategy with English language learners, and especially those with limited English proficiency (LEP) (Avila & Sadoski, 1996). Thus, the primary purpose of this study was to examine effects of the keyword (English/Spanish) strategy in comparison with the rehearsal strategy, on the vocabulary learning of fifth-grade students with LEP. Additionally, the study explored students' perception of strategies in their vocabulary learning.Sixty fifth-graders with LEP participated in the study. An experimental design used 3 (group: keyword 'English' strategy, keyword 'Spanish' strategy, and rehearsal strategy) x 2 (test: vocabulary recall, and sentence completion) x 2 (time: immediate and one-week intervals). Doubly multivariate repeated measures were implemented using time (2 levels) and test (2 levels) as within-subject factors, and strategy group as a between-subject factor. The Vocabulary Recall Test and the Sentence Completion Test were devised to assess students' vocabulary recall and comprehension. Additionally, the Vocabulary Acquisition Survey was designed to investigate participants' perception of the strategy and intention to use it in the future.Results of MANOVA showed statistically significant main effects for time and test and for interaction of test and group. Results also showed no statistically significant effects for interaction of time and group, interaction of time and test, or interaction of time, test and group. Scheffe post hoc tests revealed that students in two keyword strategy groups outperformed their peers in the rehearsal strategy group during vocabulary recall tests and sentence completion tests over time. There were no statistically significant differences between the two keyword strategy groups during these similar tests. Furthermore, the majority of students in two keyword groups reported in the Vocabulary Acquisition Survey that they enjoyed using the keyword strategy and planned to use it in the future.Overall, results of this study indicated that the keyword strategy is effective for students with LEP for recalling and comprehending word definitions immediately and over a one-week period. Findings are discussed in light of limitations, directions for future research, and instructional implications.


Education, Language and Literature; Education, Bilingual and Multicultural; Education, Elementary; Education, Reading

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