Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Mary R. Jalongo, Ph. D.

Second Advisor

James D. Hooks, Ph. D.

Third Advisor

DeAnna M. Laverick, D. Ed.


Vocabulary plays an important role in the academic lives of adolescents; if students lack a mature vocabulary, their reading comprehension suffers significantly. Adolescent students also have need of instruction that is motivating and engaging. If students are not engaged in the lesson, very little learning takes place. Engaging adolescents through stimulating instruction is one of the keys to learning, and one way to hold students’ attention is to incorporate visual prompts and examples. This study investigated the effects of using three different visual approaches to vocabulary instruction on students’ engagement and perceptions. Twelve 11th grade students enrolled in an academic English course and their classroom teacher were the participants in the study. Student-created graphics, still commercially-made vocabulary cartoons, and vocabulary DVDs were each used to augment the vocabulary instruction. Findings indicated that each visual approach served to increase student engagement and perceptions of their learning. Overall, students preferred the student-created vocabulary visuals. Using these visuals, students could draw on prior knowledge to create personal connections that were relevant to their own lives. This approach was also most engaging since students were actively creating their own images. Moreover, the classroom teacher’s perceptions of the visual approaches were favorable; her comments supported the use of all three visual approaches for vocabulary instruction. It was concluded that middle and high school educators can support literacy and vocabulary development by providing literacy experiences that stimulate students’ interests and incorporate a variety of strategies that will help students build on prior knowledge. Incorporating visual approaches into vocabulary instruction is one viable strategy that can be used to achieve this goal.