UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Strategies for fostering reading comprehension in English Language Learners : simple and complex vocabulary instruction Johnston, Lauren E.


A link between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension has been well-established in research, and students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) are at risk for difficulties in both general reading achievement as well as academic vocabulary knowledge. Despite this link, relatively few studies have examined whether direct vocabulary instruction is an effective strategy for improving reading comprehension in students who are ELLs. The current study investigated whether incorporating vocabulary instructional procedures into brief, individualized reading fluency interventions would successfully enhance reading comprehension in students who were ELLs. An alternating treatments design comparing two instructional vocabulary procedures with a fluency-building only condition was used with four students who were ELLs. It was hypothesized that participants would show greater gains in reading comprehension following interventions that featured vocabulary instruction compared to interventions with no vocabulary instruction components. Further, it was predicted that instructional procedures encouraging active engagement with words would improve students’ comprehension more than simple vocabulary instructional procedures. Finally, participants’ reading fluency was examined to determine whether spending intervention time on vocabulary instruction in place of extra fluency exercises negatively impacted their reading fluency. In contrast with the study hypotheses, results indicated that neither one of the two vocabulary instructional procedures resulted in significant improvements in students’ comprehension of either taught or untaught material. However, instructional time spent on vocabulary activities yielded similar gains in reading fluency as time spent on additional fluency-building activities. In light of the findings, practical implications for reading interventions as well as future research directions are discussed.

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