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Maggie Jones, Kaitlyn Smoot, Hannah Yancey & Jacqueline Pirrung

READ 440- Trio Research Abstract

I. Citation
Harmon, Janis M., Hendrick, Wanda B., and Fox, Elizabeth A. (2000). A Content Analysis of
Vocabulary Instruction in Social Studies Textbooks for Grades 4-8. The Elementary
School Journal, 100 (3), 253-271. Retrieved from
II. Abstract
The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature and representation of vocabulary
instruction in the teachers' editions of social studies textbooks for grades 4-8. Using social studies
textbooks found on the Texas state adoption list, we conducted a content analysis of each teacher's edition
for grades 4-8. Findings indicated that although those publishers realized the importance of vocabulary,
they continued to include vocabulary activities that represent traditional ideas about how to support
vocabulary learning in the teaching of social studies. Many activities focused on an associational level of
word knowledge, such as matching definitions and fill-in-the-blank exercises. Instructional suggestions
calling for a higher, generative level of word processing, such as writing tasks, were problematic given
the lack of student support prior to such activities.
III. Research Questions (Purpose of the Research)
This study explores how vocabulary instruction is represented in teachers editions of social
studies textbooks found in 1997-1998 Texas state adoption list for grades 4-8. The following questions
guided this investigation:
(1) What is the nature of the words or key terms selected by the social studies
textbook publishers?
(2) To what extent and how is vocabulary represented at each grade level and across
series of published social studies programs 4-8?
(3) What vocabulary instructional support do publishers provide for teachers?
IV. Research Design (Independent Variable)
The independent variables for this research study were gathered from teachers editions of social
studies textbooks found in the 1997-1998 Texas state adoption list for grades 4-8. They represent
curriculum experts decisions concerning the areas of social studies taught at designated grade levels. The
texts that were used focused on Texas history, 5th grade texts on American history, 6th grade texts on
world geography and world civilizations, 7th grade texts on Texas History, and 8th grade texts on
American history. Publishers were taken into account as well by using Harcourt Brace, Houghton Mifflin,
Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, and Silver Burdett Ginn. Publisher Jarrett published one 4th grade Texas
history book. 7th and 8th grade levels recommended books on the state level and were not part of a series
and included Benson, Glencoe, and Holt for 7th grade Texas history with 8th grade American history by
Holt, Prentice-Hall, and Scott.
V. Performance Measurement (Dependent Variable)
The dependent variables were measured into four phases when analyzing this research study.
Phase 1 identify key terms and direct three teachers to select key terms from randomly selected textbook
lessons. They categorized kinds of words selected by publishers, analyzed extent to which key terms

represent conceptually loaded terms, and compare key terms to word selected by the teachers. Phase 2
identified vocabulary related objectives in scope and sequence charts and randomly selected three units in
each teachers edition, and identified vocabulary related instructional components. They examined
objectives for emphasis placed on vocabulary, analyzed quantity and location of vocabulary related
instructional components, and categorized instructional components as primary or optional. Phase 3
Formulated classification scheme for vocabulary related instructional components which analyzed
instructional components as labels or not labeled. It also analyzed vocabulary related instructional
components based on classification scheme. The last one, phase 4, randomly selected one unit from
previously selected units of each teachers edition which examine all vocabulary related instructional
components for each key term listed in unit. It also counted the amount of exposure given to each key
term and categorizing instructional components as instruction, application, or review.
VI. Research Results
Phase 1 found that the majority of vocabulary words were domain specific. There were
inconsistencies in the number of words teachers identified as key terms and the number of key terms
identified by the textbooks. Phase 2 finds that publishers seem to place more emphasis on instructional
components at both the unit and chapter levels while teachers for Grade 4-6 focused more on the chapter
level while Grade 7-8 teachers focused more on connecting the chapter back to the unit. Phase 3 finds that
labelled instructional components were much more prominent at the chapter level than at the unit level.
There was much more variation among the suggested activities at the lesson level. Phase 4 finds that key
terms rarely appear more than five times throughout a textbook. Instructional components containing key
terms can be categorized into three types: instruction, application, and review. The application and review
categories dominated the instructional components. Most instructional components in 7-8 grade textbooks
only require surface knowledge while 4-6 requires more in depth knowledge.
VII. Implications of the Research
This investigation shows that publishers strongly emphasized the selection of domain-specific
terms. However, they differed from one another in the way that they defined key terms. They discovered
inconsistencies with word choices when comparing publishers selections to those of classroom teachers.
Publishers did not neglect vocabulary but their choices of vocabulary activities still draw upon traditional
ideas about how to support vocabulary learning in social studies. The overwhelming number of labeled
instructional components called students to use key terms in some form of writing.
VIII. Questions or Concerns Regarding the Reading
This was conducted by one states textbooks which would make the argument stronger with a
more diverse comparison with different states. Also, it seems that there was not enough material
examined to come to an accurate conclusion and there is no control group.