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Preschoolers' Engagement to Teachers' Questions and Comments during Interactive Book Reading

Using Electro-dermal Bracelet : An Abstract

Interactive book reading (IBR) has been found to be an effective classroom activity to promote children's early language development, and teachers' questions and comments during IBR may play an important role in facilitating children's vocabulary learning and reading comprehension (Barns, 2013; Dickinson & Porche, 2011; Dickinson & Smith, 1994; Sun, Toh & Steinkrauss, forthcoming). Despite being acknowledged as contributing to children's language learning in general, it remains unclear which specific type of questions and comments are useful, as not all of them were beneficial according to a meta-analysis conducted by Mol, Bus, and de Jong (2009). They cast doubt on questions and comments in dialogic reading, which involves children's extended conversation and self-connection to a story. Little is known when questions/comments make sense and which interactive questions and comments may trigger children's classroom engagement (i.e., willingness to make effort for comprehension and learning) in real time.

Prior research has described IBR from the perspective of the teacher, coding teachers' utterances and paying limited attention to children's roles. The current study will not only take teacher's language practice into account but also address children's learning behavior by focusing on Singapore preschoolers' classroom engagement during IBR sessions. Children's classroom engagement will be assessed using electro-dermal bracelets, which are more objective and reliable as a measure compared to traditional approaches such as classroom observation. The validity of electro-dermal bracelet will be examined using teacher's evaluation and classroom observation.

The purpose of this study is four-fold. We intend to explore:

1) whether questions and comments indeed attract more classroom engagement from children;

2) which type of questions and comments (i.e., attention-oriented or discussion-oriented) work better on children's classroom engagement;

3) how children's language ability may influence their classroom engagement over multiple readings of the same story; and

4) whether classroom engagement would function as a mediator between teachers' language practice and children's learning outcomes, namely reading comprehension, story retell and vocabulary acquisition.

150 preschoolers (4-5 years old) will be randomly assigned to three reading conditions:

1) readings with questions and comments to engage children and guide their attention to relevant parts of the illustration;

2) readings with a broad range of questions and comments including lengthy discussions of events and children's own experiences related to the events; and

3) readings with no questions and comments (control condition). The outcomes will be bio-metric data on children's levels of engagement and assessed knowledge of vocabulary, story retell and story comprehension.

The current study has strong science and social relevance. Worldwide, it will be one of the first studies that adopt electro-dermal technology to do research on children's classroom engagement in response to teacher's reading instruction, providing an objective measure to quantify the effectiveness of children's learning experience in real time. The findings will inform us about the mechanism of teachers' interactive questions and comments on children's classroom engagement, and such findings will probably provide educators and parents with specific pedagogical suggestions on how to improve language practice to better engage individual children and optimize their learning outcome.


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