Developing Academic Vocabulary in English Academic Vocabulary in English-Language Learners By ... Books for English-language learners ... teaching word learning strategies that

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  • Developing Academic Vocabulary in English-Language Learners


    Dr. Diane AugustEducational Researcher

    Center for Applied LinguisticsWashington, D.C.

    As children progress through school and attempt to comprehend more challenging text, academic vocabulary becomes increasingly important (Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). Researchers have identifi ed a number of methods to develop students academic vocabulary (Ellis, 2008; Graves, 2006; Nagy & Stahl, 2006). Among these methods are engaging students in rich and varied language experiences, teaching individual words, and teaching word learning strategies.

    Engaging Students in Rich and Varied Language ExperiencesVocabulary is primarily acquired incidentally, through listening, speaking, and reading (Graves, 2006). Thus, to the extent possible, teachers need to immerse students in rich language environments. One method to expose students to rich language is through interactive shared reading in which adults engage children in rich dialogic

    discussion about the storybooks. Interactive shared reading has been successful with English-language learners as well as native English speakers (Zevenbergen, Whitehurst, & Zevenbergen, 2003; Carlo, et al, 2004; Biemiller & Boote, 2006;

    Silverman, 2007). It exposes students to language not often heard in classrooms and not encountered by young children or struggling readers in the texts that they are able to read. While many studies have been conducted with young children, there is some evidence that this technique can be effective with older learners as well (Brabham & Lynch-Brown, 2002).

    Students also acquire new vocabulary through texts that they read independently (Nagy, 1997). For example, when a large number of new and engaging reading materials are added to classroom libraries, ELLs have increased their independent reading and have improved in comprehension and oral language development (Elley, 1991; Tudor &

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  • Hafi z, 1989). Books for English-language learners must be carefully selected to ensure texts are at the highest grade-equivalent at which they can read with high accuracy and comprehension. However, as Laufer (2003) notes, structured support for ELL students reading comprehension and language development facilitates ELLs language development to a greater degree than reading that is not accompanied by these tasks. According to Laufer, a word that is fi lled in a given sentence, used in an original sentence or incorporated into a composition has a better chance of being remembered than a word seen in a text, even when it is looked up in a dictionary (Laufer, 2001, p. 10).

    Teaching Individual WordsA second method of developing academic vocabulary is through teaching individual words. General guidelines for teaching individuals words call for including both defi nitional and contextual information, involving students in active and deep processing of the words, providing students with multiple exposures to the word, reviewing, rehearsing, and reminding students about the word in various contexts over time, involving students in discussions of the words meaning, and spending a signifi cant amount of time on the word (Graves, 2006, p 69-70).

    Several methods have been used to teach individual words in the context of shared interactive reading. In one method, teachers provide embedded explanations of target words when they are encountered during the story reading; in another methodextended vocabulary instructionthere is explicit teaching that includes both contextual and defi nitional information, multiple exposures to target words in varied contexts, and experiences

    that promote deep processing of word meanings (Coyne, McCoach, & Kapp 2007, p. 74; Silverman, 2007).

    Teaching Word-Learning Strategies A third method of building academic vocabulary is to teach word-learning strategies. Well researched word-learning strategies used with fi rst language learners include using context clues, using word parts, and using dictionaries (Graves, 2006). There is a substantial body of fi rst-language research that supports two approaches to teaching word-learning strategies that are particularly effective when used together (Graves, 2006, p 90-93). In the fi rst, direct explanation of strategies, teachers fi rst explain the strategy, note its importance, and

    model its use and then gradually give students responsibility for employing it. In the second, transactional strategies instruction, there is some direct explanation as part of the initial instruction; however, this tends to be brief and less structured than direct explanation and carried out as part of the ongoing reading activities of the classroom when the occasion arises for students to use a particular strategy.

    Modifications for English-Language Learners While these instructional methods build on fi rst language research, in some cases they have been modifi ed for English-language learners. With regard to interactive shared reading and teaching individual words, modifi cations include using English-as-a-second-language techniques such as providing additional background information; scaffolding through the use of visuals, gestures, and body language by both teachers and students to demonstrate meaning; asking more literal,

    Interactive shared reading exposes students

    to language not often heard in classrooms and not encountered by young children or

    struggling readers in the texts that they are able

    to read.

    D E V E L O P I N G A C A D E M I C V O C A B U L A R Y I N E N G L I S H - L A N G U A G E L E A R N E R SD E V E L O P I N G A C A D E M I C V O C A B U L A R Y I N E N G L I S H - L A N G U A G E L E A R N E R S

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  • inferential, and critical questions at strategically selected intervals than are generally used with fi rst-language learners; providing reinforcement, such as choral repetition of selected words and phrases, repeated exposures to words and concepts through re-readings and glossaries; and brief summaries after reading challenging passages (August & Shanahan, 2006). Other adjustments include selecting materials relevant to ELLs experience or culture; strategically using students fi rst languages to make the content delivered in a second language more comprehensible (Carlo, et al., 2004); teaching word learning strategies that build on fi rst language knowledge such as using cognates; and frequently using partner talk to give low-English-profi cient students more opportunities to talk with more English-profi cient peers.

    ReferencesAugust, D. & Shanahan, T. (Eds.) (2006).

    Developing Literacy in Second-language Learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Biemiller, A. & Boote, C. (2006). An effective method for building vocabulary in primary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98 (1).

    Brabham, E. G., & Lynch-Brown, C. (2002). Effects of teachers reading aloud styles on vocabulary acquisition and comprehension of students in the early elementary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94.

    Carlo, M. S., August, D., McLaughlin, B., Snow, C. E., Dressler, C., Lippman, D., Lively, T., & White, C. (2004). Closing the gap: Addressing the vocabulary needs of English language learners in bilingual and mainstream classrooms. Reading Research Quarterly, 39(2).

    Coyne, M., McCoach, B., & Knapp, S. (2007). Vocabulary intervention for kindergarten students: comparing extended instruction to embedded instruction and incidental exposure. Learbubg Disability Quarterly, 30, 74.

    Elley, W. B. (1991). Acquiring literacy in a second language: The effect of book-based programs. Language Learning, 41(3).

    Ellis, N. (2008). Phraseology: The periphery and the heart of language. Phraseology in foreign language learning and teaching. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

    Graves, M. F. (2006). The vocabulary book. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

    Graves, M. (2006). The Vocabulary Book: Learning and Instruction. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 69-70, 90-93.

    Laufer, B. (2001). Vocabulary acquisition in a second language: Do learners really acquire most vocabulary by reading? Paper presented at an Invited Symposium on Reading at the meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, St Louis, MO.

    Laufer, B. (2003). Vocabulary acquisition in a second language: Do learners really acquire most vocabulary by reading? Some empirical evidence. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 59(4).

    Lesaux, N.K, & Siegel, L.S. (2003). The development of reading in children who speak English as a second language (ESL). Developmental Psychology, 39(6).

    Nagy, W. E., & Stahl, S. A. (2006). Teaching word meanings. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    D E V E L O P I N G A C A D E M I C V O C A B U L A R Y I N E N G L I S H - L A N G U A G E L E A R N E R SD E V E L O P I N G A C A D E M I C V O C A B U L A R Y I N E N G L I S H - L A N G U A G E L E A R N E R S

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  • Saunders, W. M., & Goldenberg, C. (1999). Effects of instructional conversations and literature logs on limited- and fl uent-English profi cient students story comprehension and thematic understanding. Elementary School Journal, 99(4).

    Silverman, R. (2007a). Vocabulary development of English-language and English-only learners in kindergarten. Elementary School Journal, 107(4).

    Silverman, R. (2007b). A comparison of three methods of vocabulary instruction during read-alouds in kindergarten. Elementary School Journal 108(2).

    Tudor, I., & Hafi z, F. (1989). Extensive reading as a means of input to L2 learning. Journal of Research in Reading, 12(2).

    Zevenbergen, A. A., Whitehurst, G. J., & Zevenbergen, J. A. (2003). Effects of a shared-reading intervention on the inclusion of evaluative devices in narratives of children from low-income families. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 24.

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