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Study on Flashcards and Teach Spoken Language

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Study finds flashcards can help to teach spoken vocabulary

A research study, recently published in the Journal of Child Language, has reported that children with Down syndrome can benefit from the use of written words alongside pictures to help teach spoken vocabulary.

A research study, recently published in the Journal of Child Language [1], has reported that children with Down syndrome can benefit from the use of written words to support oral vocabulary learning.

In the study, 17 children with Down syndrome aged 7 to 16 years were taught 10 nonwords (words that do not mean anything but can be pronounced – e.g. “vum”, “sav”, “zot”). The children were told that they were going to learn about an alien planet and shown pictures of imaginary alien objects corresponding to each nonword. Half of the nonwords were taught with flashcards showing the English spelling, while half were taught accompanied by flashcards showing ‘alien’ spellings (random Greek letters).

The children were tested 10-15 minutes after training by showing them the pictures corresponding to the nonwords they had been taught and asking them if they could remember the names.

The study found that children with Down syndrome learned more nonwords taught with flashcards showing the English spelling than nonwords taught with flashcards showing ‘alien’ spellings. The authors argue that this shows that the written word enables the children to use their knowledge of letters and corresponding sounds to confirm what the word should sound like when spoken and offers another representation of the word in memory that aids retrieval.

The study also compared the performance of the children with Down syndrome to typically developing children matched on single word reading ability. It found that children with Down syndrome benefited from the presence of written words to the same extent as typically developing children.

The authors conclude that “this study has shown that children with Down syndrome are able to learn the phonological form of new words to the same level as typically developing children matched for reading, and that they benefit from orthography to the same degree as typically developing children. A practical application of this work is that children would benefit from being shown a flashcard of the written form of a word when learning its spoken form. This lends empirical support to current practice recommended for children with Down syndrome…”

The study was supported by a CASE PhD studentship from the UK Economic and Social Research Council and Down Syndrome Education International.

Reference

  1. Mengoni, S. E., Nash, H. and Hulme, C. (2013). The benefit of orthographic support for oral vocabulary learning in children with Down syndrome. Journal of Child Language, 40(1), 221-243. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0305000912000396 and
    http://www.dseinternational.org/en-gb/news/.
 

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