Scaffolding Content-Area Vocabulary Instruction for English Learners

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Booth, Danica Wright
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Middle Tennessee State University
This study was a mixed methods design that investigated the benefits of instructing English Learners (EL) students in Tier Two academic vocabulary words. Research has shown the benefits of vocabulary intervention on comprehension for native English speakers; however, there is a necessity for more research on the benefits of vocabulary instruction for EL students in particular. This study was an experimental design and took place in 3 8thgrade literacy classrooms. Students were randomly assigned to a treatment (n=12) or control group (n=12). The treatment consisted of vocabulary squares using eight strategies: (1) linking vocabulary with background knowledge, (2) utilizing semantic mapping, (3) restating dictionary definitions in their own words and making up sentences, (4) exploring synonyms and antonyms, (5) analyzing the word for affixes, (6) using words from context, (7) maintaining personal word lists, and (8) working cooperatively.
The control used the same passages as the treatment group, worked with the same Tier Two academic vocabulary words, but wrote entire dictionary definitions in their word banks instead of using the 8 strategies. The vocabulary intervention lasted for 3 weeks for 10-15 minutes a day. Growth of student vocabulary knowledge and comprehension for the treatment group was compared to the growth of student vocabulary knowledge and comprehension for control group receiving only definitional instruction. Results indicated that the treatment group made significantly more gains in vocabulary, and both the treatment and control group made gains in comprehension, and that these effects remain even after accounting for initial oral vocabulary levels. Three students (the highest scoring, the lowest scoring, and a student in the median) were selected to participate in a Qualitative Interview regarding their histories and their attitudes and values toward learning English. These interview results were used to assess more deeply how these factors may affect student outcomes.
Content-area, English Learners, Vocabulary