Preschool Bilingual Learners’ Receptive Vocabulary Development in School Readiness Programs

Ann Anderberg, Maureen Frances McSparran Ruby


This article reports on a two-year study of the receptive language development of forty-five native Spanish speaking preschool children who were placed by parent request in three different program models—English with Spanish support, Transitional Bilingual (TBE) and Dual Language—with varying exposure to English and Spanish instruction. Outcomes on measures of receptive vocabulary skills in both English and Spanish were examined. Professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals is also described. Results indicate that all programs show significant learning effects, providing further support for the value of quality preschool instruction for bilingual learners and validate the practice of providing program choice to families. All programs showed significant gains in English and none suffered significant losses in Spanish. However, analysis at the individual student level reveals a bi-modal distribution of gains in each program. The results suggest the need for further inquiry into: 1) the optimal level of native language support children need based on a language profile taking first and second language competence into consideration; 2) on-going use of data for instructional design; and 3) the value of differentiated, high quality professional development based on scientifically-based reading research.


bilingual preschool; professional development; native language; assessment

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The NABE Journal of Research and Practice is a publication of the National Association for Bilingual Education in association with the Northern Arizona University College of Education.  For more information, visit About the journal.

The author(s) of each article appearing in this Journal is/are solely responsible for the content thereof; the publication of an article shall not constitute or be deemed to constitute any representation by the Editors, the National Association of Bilingual Education, or Northern Arizona University that the data presented therein are correct or sufficient to support the conclusions reached or that the experiment design or methodology is adequate.