In a recent study in the Elementary School Journal, one researcher asked if the right kind of vocabulary instruction could be equally as effective for English learners as it is for native English speakers. Her study shows a surprising result: English learners actually acquired vocabulary more quickly than their classmates did.
The study, conducted by Rebecca Deffes Silverman while at Harvard University, shows that the right type of vocabulary instruction makes a big difference for early childhood education students. According to previous studies, vocabulary is not only “the primary determinant of future reading comprehension,” but also the “single most encountered obstacle” for English learners. But that didn’t deter any English learners in the five Kindergarten classes that Silverman studied.
Silverman, realizing that young children understand oral language more easily than written language, developed and implemented a “multidimensional vocabulary program” over a fourteen-week period. As part of the curriculum, 50 new target vocabulary words were taught through storybook reading and reinforced through other activities, such as providing opportunities to say the word aloud or see it in other contexts.
Both groups of Kindergarteners (English speakers and English learners) showed significant improvement in their vocabulary development by the end of the study. The English learners, in fact, learned more new target words than their classmates did. In addition, by the end of the study the English learners’ general vocabulary level, which was lower at the beginning of the study, had caught up to that of their classmates.
As Silverman writes, “this study suggests that an intervention can be equally effective for EO [English speaking] and ELL [English learning] children” if teaching methods are appropriate. Judging by the results, Silverman’s methods certainly were appropriate. Her research has important implications for all early childhood education programs, suggesting that multidimensional vocabulary instruction can make a big difference.
Imagine Learning English uses a multidemensional approach to teach vocabulary. Early childhood education students are introduced to vocabulary with picture scenes, and they play interactive games to practice new words. They also have many opportunities to speak vocabulary words aloud, like practicing with parents through take-home worksheets. Children even learn new vocabulary through stories: each page is read aloud, and children can explore the new vocabulary by clicking words or pictures on the page.
To learn more about how Imagine Learning English can help your early childhood education students or English learners, click here.