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The Role of Social-Emotional Abilities in the Vocabulary Outcomes of Young Spanish-English Dual Language Learner (DLL) Students


The number of children living in homes in which a language other than English is spoken, commonly referred to as dual language learner (DLL) students in early childhood settings, is steadily growing (Park, O’Toole, & Katsiaficas, 2017). With this increase in numbers it is important to understand the relationship between their social-emotional learning and vocabulary outcomes. DLL students encounter distinct cultural practices, at home and/or in school, which very likely influence their social and emotional behavior, that is, the way that they build relationships and manage emotions and behaviors, as they navigate social and academic settings. The relationships they build and behaviors they display may have implications for their language use. This quantitative correlational study examined the relationship between fall teacher-rated social-emotional indicators (i.e., engagement, cooperation, self-control, internalizing behavior, and externalizing behavior) and spring expressive vocabulary outcomes of Spanish-English DLL kindergarten-aged students. Consistent with previous work, social skills and behaviors were positively correlated with expressive vocabulary. However, this was only the case with English and not Spanish outcomes. Further analysis revealed that students with higher engagement, cooperation, self-control, internalizing behavior, and externalizing behavior ratings in the fall of their kindergarten year had higher predicted gains in English expressive vocabulary achievement in the spring of kindergarten, after adjusting for the effects of the covariate (i.e., gender). Implications for future analysis is also discussed.

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