Semester of Graduation

December 2021


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Early reading intervention can decrease the likelihood that children who struggle with reading develop long-term reading problems. Due to the prevalence of words that cannot be read phonetically in the English language, sight word instruction is required to supplement phonics instruction. In this study, we compared the effects of creating sets of sight words with the same starting letter (3 words per set, 3 total sets) versus distributing words with the same starting letter across sets when assessing acquisition of the combined set (9 words) in five 4-to-6-year-old children using a combined adapted alternating treatments design and pre-posttest design. All participants mastered the 3-word sets in both teaching conditions but did not master the control sets. With the exception of one 9-word set for 1 participant, all participants required teaching of the 9-word sets as a set (interspersed teaching). The total number of sessions to mastery of the 9-word sets varied across participants: two participants required substantially more sessions in the similar condition, two participants required approximately the same number of sessions in both conditions, and one participant required more sessions in the dissimilar condition. For the two participants who required substantially more teaching sessions in the similar conditions, they not only responded incorrectly more often during teaching but also made errors that suggest behavior was controlled by the first letter of the word rather the whole word. These findings are consistent with stimulus disparity research demonstrating that discrimination training is generally less efficient when comparison stimuli are similar.

Committee Chair

Jeanne Donaldson