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Language Learning and Memory Laboratory

Identify strategies that help children learn new words.

  • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Overview

    The overall goal of the Language Learning and Memory Lab is to identify strategies that not only help children learn new words in the moment, but help children remember those words days, weeks, and months later.


    What do we study?

    Suppose I told you that the plastic pieces at the end of shoelaces are called aglets. If I asked you what those plastic pieces are called 5 minutes later, could you tell me? You probably could. What if I asked you a week, a month, or a year later? Could you remember the name then?

    Children are exposed to new words all the time in classroom and home settings. However, they don’t remember all of the words that they hear. Why do they remember some words and forget others? How can we support children’s ability to remember words? The goal of our lab is to find answers to these questions.

    Who do we study?

    Currently, we focus on understanding learning and memory in preschool-age children. Some children learn words rapidly during the preschool years. Other children struggle with learning new words. For these children, supporting word learning early on can lead to better language development. We are particularly interested in supporting word learning in children with Developmental Language Disorders.

    What is Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)?

    Children with DLD struggle with saying what they want to say. This is because they have trouble learning new words and learning the grammar of their language. They also have a hard time understand what others are saying. About 2 children in a classroom with 30 students have DLD. Thus, it is common. However, DLD is often hidden. Children with DLD may be perceived as being shy, because they talk less than their peers. Conversely, they may act out because they have a hard time expressing their thoughts and feelings to others.

    Learn more about DLD

  • Current Projects

    Word Learning and Memory in Children with DLD

    If you were going to teach new words to a child, would you want to use strategies that lead to the best learning in the moment or the best long-term memory of that learning? Research involving children has shown that strategies that lead to the best short-term learning don’t necessarily lead to be best memory for that learning later. Given the time that clinicians, teachers, parents, and children dedicate to word learning, it is important to identify the strategies build learning that will last. In this project, we will determine if the strategies that support lasting word learning in children with typical development, also help children with DLD. Results from this project will help clinicians determine the best strategies to foster word learning in children with DLD.

    Learn More & Sign Up to Participate

    Individual Differences in Word Learning and Memory

    We know that children vary widely in their ability to learn new words. Some children learn new words quickly. Other children have difficulty learning new words even when they don’t have DLD. The overall goal of this project is to figure out variations in how quickly preschool-age children learn new words, and how long they remember those words. Also, certain types of training may be particularly helpful for some children, but not others. Thus, we will determine which teaching strategies support word learning in the majority of children, and which strategies are particularly helpful for children who struggle with word learning. The results from this project will help teachers support word learning across a variety of learners in their classrooms.