Improving Vocabulary of English Language Learners Through Direct Vocabulary Instruction

Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2018

Document Type

Project (696 or 796 registration)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Brian Smith


Vocabulary, English Language Learners, ELL, Instruction


This study investigates the effect of explicit vocabulary instruction with elementary ELL students, in a small group setting through the use of vocabulary journals. Vocabulary development is one of the most important skills students need to acquire to become English-proficient. This study aimed to answer the following two questions: What factors have the most success for student vocabulary understanding? Do vocabulary journals help students learn, retain, and apply vocabulary words? The participants in the study were four fourth grade ELL students, and six fifth grade ELL students. Students were explicitly taught vocabulary words through vocabulary journals. Vocabulary journals allowed students to build background knowledge, view visuals, and use the vocabulary words in context. The targeted vocabulary words were selected from the research-based curriculum Read Well. The method used to collect data was pre and post assessments during each Read Well unit. Pre and post tests were designed to test vocabulary knowledge. All vocabulary words from the pretest were taught throughout the lesson. The words that students scored incorrectly on the pretest were explicitly taught through vocabulary journals. Results from the assessments showed a statistically significant difference between the pre and post-test score groups. The study showed that the use of vocabulary journals, visuals, and personal connections are important factors for students to successfully comprehend vocabulary terms. It can be concluded that explicit vocabulary instruction has a significant positive effect on student vocabulary comprehension.

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