Clinical Forum  |   July 2007
Narrative and Vocabulary Development of Bilingual Children From Kindergarten to First Grade: Developmental Changes and Associations Among English and Spanish Skills
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Paola Uccelli
    Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA
  • Mariela M. Páez
    Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
  • Contact author: Paola Uccelli, 205 Larsen Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 14 Appian Way, Cambridge, MA, 02138. E-mail: paola.uccelli@post.harvard.edu.
  • © 2007 American Speech-Language-Hearing AssociationAmerican Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Clinical Forum
Clinical Forum   |   July 2007
Narrative and Vocabulary Development of Bilingual Children From Kindergarten to First Grade: Developmental Changes and Associations Among English and Spanish Skills
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 2007, Vol. 38, 225-236. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2007/024)
History: Received November 9, 2005 , Revised April 19, 2006 , Accepted November 22, 2006
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 2007, Vol. 38, 225-236. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2007/024)
History: Received November 9, 2005; Revised April 19, 2006; Accepted November 22, 2006
Web of Science® Times Cited: 34

Purpose: Research has identified English oral language proficiency as being critical for bilingual students' literacy development. This study examines developmental patterns and associations among oral vocabulary and narrative skills in a longitudinal sample of 24 Spanish/English bilingual children from low socioeconomic backgrounds so as to further our understanding of the development of oral proficiency.

Method: English and Spanish data were gathered using standardized vocabulary tests and narrative elicitation tasks provided to kindergartners and first graders. Narratives were coded for length using two measures of productivity and for quality at two levels: story score and language score. Descriptive, correlation, multivariate, and regression analyses were conducted.

Results: Significant gains from kindergarten to first grade were found for all English oral language measures. Despite showing improvements in English vocabulary, the majority of children continued to score below the monolingual mean in first grade. For English narrative productivity, total number of different words (TDW) proved to be a sensitive developmental measure in contrast to total number of words (TNW). In Spanish, significant gains were noted only for narrative story score. Kindergarten Spanish story scores predicted first-grade English narrative quality even when controlling for the effects of English vocabulary and English narrative productivity. First-grade Spanish narrative quality was best predicted by Spanish vocabulary.

Implications: The need for early assessment and monitoring of expressive vocabulary and oral narrative skills, and the potential contributions of Spanish story organization skills to English narrative performance in bilingual children from low socioeconomic families, are highlighted.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This study is a subproject of a program project titled “Acquiring Literacy in English” directed by the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC. The program project is funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and the Office for Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education (Grant P01 HD39530). In addition, Uccelli was supported during the writing of this paper by the Institute of Education Sciences (Grant R035G050201).
We would also like to express our gratitude to the editors and to an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments.
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