Improving English Language Learners' Academic Vocabulary, Kenneth McKee
Implications for my Classroom, Students, and Practice

Morphology study is an effective and viable way to build English Language Learners' general academic vocabularies. Connections between target morphemes of instruction and students current knowledge of English words as well as cognates in their first language create bridges to deciphering new words they encounter. This form of instruction works better when connected to words in high-interest informational texts.

Regular game play and interactive morpheme anchor charts enhance the impact of this vocabulary instruction.

Potential Changes in Future Research

If I were to engage in this action research again, I would have integrated more game play because students and the classroom teacher both attributed much of their word learning to these games.

Implications for Other Teachers and Other Classrooms

Morphology instruction is especially important for enhancing the vocabulary knowledge of English Language Learners. For these learners especially, relying simply on context clues can lead to frustrations as some words have no context, and when they do, students current language levels may inhibit them accessing and using contextual clues.

In addition, morphological word study works better when connected to real reading in informational texts, which by nature, contain more general academic words than works of literature. Such texts work much better when the topics are aligned with student interests. Students were more interested in both the content and searching for morphologically related words when texts addressed their true interests.

Interactive morpheme anchor charts and vocabulary games motivated the students. The charts and games also provided scaffolding for students to continue expanding their vocabulary knowledge. Integrating cognate study within this context acknowledges the value of students' first language to leverage new understandings of words in the English language.

Implications for Further Action Research to Improve Student Learning

One implication of this research is determining how differentiated texts might further enhance students' vocabulary learning. Overall, the students whose vocabulary knowledge increased the most were the students who had only been in the United State for one year. Especially, in regards to many of the informational texts from Newsela, which were set to approximately fifth grade reading levels, I wonder if more complex texts for students who had been in the United States for longer periods may have yielded similar gains to those students who had acquired less English vocabulary knowledge.

Another implication of the research is to replicate the morphological lessons (without the cognate aspect) with economically disadvantaged English speakers. Due to many of these students' underexposure to reading and academic discourse in their homes, lack of vocabulary knowledge is a barrier to learning and academic achievement. A future research question would explore the impact of morphological study upon their overall academic vocabulary knowledge.

How the Action Research Project Developed my Skills and Knowledge as a Professional Educator

Integrating cognate knowledge into word study was a new concept for me as an educator. I believe it was one of the most powerful aspects of this research project.