Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


Purpose of the Study: The purpose of this investigation was to study children's ability to read words presented in isolation or in a meaningful context. Furthermore, this investigation attempted to determine whether differences exist in children's ability to read polysemous words in two settings: (1) when they are used in their most common meaning in a sentence, and (2) when they are used in a less common meaning in a sentence.

Summary of the Procedures: The sample for this investigation was comprised of second grade students drawn from five elementary schools in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Students from seven classrooms participated. They were systematically assigned to one of three Student Groups according to alphabetical order by class. All testing was conducted by the researcher during the time period of March 12 through April 6, 1973. Only those students present for all testing were included in the final sample of 97 students.

The instruments used in this investigation were: The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test; the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test, Primary B; and the Word Recognition Instrument. The PPVT was used to gain a general indication of IQ for each subject. An estimate of reading ability was gained from the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test which was administered by classroom teachers during September, 1972. The Word Recognition Instrument, designed by the researcher, was used to assess the word recognition ability of the subjects in three contexts: (1) the word in isolation, (2) the word used in a sentence in its most common meaning, and (3) the word used in a sentence in a less common meaning.

Sixty polysemous words were randomly selected from the Stone- Bartschi word list, levels 21-32, for inclusion in the Word Recognition Instrument. The most common meaning and a less common meaning were determined for each of these words. Sentences were composed using each word in each of the two meanings. These sentences, along with the words in isolation, were then randomly divided into three groups, controlling for word level and condition (isolation, common meaning sentence, less common meaning sentence). These groups became Word Recognition Instrument, Form A, B, and C, and each one was randomly assigned to one of the Student Groups.

Students were asked to read aloud the words or sentences as they were presented to them. The student's response on each of the key words was noted, whether correct or incorrect, within the time limits established. Responses on words other than the key words were disregarded for purposes of this study.

The analysis of the data involved the use of a one-way regression analysis of variance and a related t test. Reliability of the Word Recognition Instrument was determined using Cronbach's Alpha.

Conclusions: This investigation has provided evidence which supports the following conclusions, subject to the limitations of the study:

1. Second grade students appear to be able to pronounce poly- semous words equally well whether they are presented in isolation or in a sentence using the word in its most common meaning.

2. The context in which a word is used may cause confusion for second grade students if that context is an unfamiliar one.

3. There is no difference in second grade students' ability to pronounce words in context or isolation by either sex or age.

4. More intelligent students are able to read more words used in varying meanings than are less intelligent students.

5. The advice of reading experts against presenting words to children in isolation may not be justified.