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A Quasi-Experiment Examining Expressive and Receptive Vocabulary Knowledge of Preschool Head Start Children Using Mobile Media Apps


This study examined the efficacy of using different types of mobile media apps to increase the receptive and expressive vocabulary development of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old preschool children living in economically disadvantaged communities. Children and teachers in four Head Start classrooms participated in the quasi-experimental study, which included an 8-week intervention in which the children interacted with one of two types of apps: one classroom used four scaffolding-like vocabulary apps for an average of 1.8 h per day (n = 16) and one classroom used four open-ended vocabulary apps for an average of 1.3 h per day (n = 15). Two classrooms served as comparison groups (n = 18; n = 14) which used apps that were chosen by the Head Start program with no specific instructional method for approximately 1 h per day. Children’s vocabulary was assessed pre- and post-intervention using the PPVT-4, the EVT-2, and iPad Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary Assessments. Using a repeated measures analysis of variance with split plot analysis, children who used scaffolding-like vocabulary apps performed statistically significantly higher on the PPVT-4 than children who used open-ended vocabulary apps. There were no significant differences between groups on the EVT-2. The study contributed to the literature on teacher instruction of utilizing scaffolding-like apps to increase preschool vocabulary knowledge.

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  1. Even though both groups of intervention children had access to the 13 Head Start-chosen apps on their iPads, the teachers with intervention apps emphasized the intervention apps given to them for the study. By teacher report, the intervention groups did not use the Head Start-chosen apps during their whole group iPad instruction. No record exists to determine how often the intervention children chose Head Start apps when the children were using the iPads on their own.


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The authors would like to acknowledge Ms. Jill Goodman, a nationally recognized app reviewer, and the county Head Start program which welcomed us into their classrooms.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Correspondence to Angela Vatalaro.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Because minor children were involved in the study, informed consent was obtained from legal guardians of all children included in the study. Verbal assent was obtained from children prior to researchers conducting assessments.

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Vatalaro, A., Culp, A.M., Hahs-Vaughn, D.L. et al. A Quasi-Experiment Examining Expressive and Receptive Vocabulary Knowledge of Preschool Head Start Children Using Mobile Media Apps. Early Childhood Educ J 46, 451–466 (2018).

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  • Apps
  • Head start
  • Mobile media
  • Vocabulary instruction