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IES Grant

Title: Returning to Our Roots: Development of a Morphology Intervention to Bolster Academic Vocabulary Knowledge for Adolescent English Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Crosson, Amy Awardee: Pennsylvania State University
Program: Policies, Practices, and Programs to Support English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2015 – 6/30/2018) Award Amount: $1,457,049
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A160401

Previous Award Number: R305A150019
Previous Awardee: University of Pittsburgh

Co-Principal Investigators: Margaret McKeown, Isabel Beck

Purpose: This project will develop and test a new intervention called EL-RAVE designed to help middle school English Language Learners (ELLs) learn academic vocabulary. Comprehending academic texts can be particularly challenging for adolescent ELLs who are not fully proficient in English, and lack of comprehension contributes to lower achievement and reduced persistence in high school for ELLs. EL-RAVE will build on an existing intervention developed for monolingual students called Robust Academic Vocabulary Encounters (RAVE). The new intervention will provide additional activities intended to teach students the relationship between Latin roots and meaning of words. This approach, although particularly helpful to Spanish-speaking ELLs, has the potential to help language minority students from any language background.

Project Activities: In the first two years of the grant, researchers will conduct a series of iterative studies to create, field test, and revise 8 lesson cycles and the associated assessments that will comprise EL-RAVE. Each lesson cycle will focus on 8 target words and several additional words that share the same Latin root. Instruments to measure fidelity of implementation will also be developed and used in a pilot study conducted in the third year. Professional development materials will be created to help teachers implement EL-RAVE as intended.

Products: The products of this project include a fully developed intervention, EL-RAVE, designed for middle school ELLs, including both lesson content and professional development materials. The team will also prepare peer- reviewed publications for both scientific and practitioner audiences.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The studies will take place in schools in urban Utah in which most ELLs are Spanish-speaking, and schools in urban Pennsylvania in which ELLs come from a variety of language backgrounds.

Sample: Studies will include middle school ELLs with intermediate and advanced English language proficiency. Development studies will include approximately 10 teachers and 300 ELLs. The pilot study will include approximately 6 teachers and 250 ELLs.

Intervention: EL-RAVE will include 8 cycles of instruction (each comprised of 6 daily lessons) to teach 64 academic words. In each cycle, students will be taught the Latin roots of eight target words and approximately 16 extension words. Extension words will be high-utility, domain-general scholarly words that share the target root, such as innovative (target word) and novice (extension word), which share the target root nov. The first 3 lessons will introduce the Latin root and its meaning, introduce a high frequency Spanish word that shares the a root with the target word, draw attention to the relationships in meaning, and introduce other words with a similar root for each of 8 target words. Materials will be developed to make connections to a range of Latinate source languages, but will emphasize Spanish-English connections. Lessons during the rest of each cycle will include interactive activities to support students' knowledge and use the Latin roots.

Research Design and Methods: The project will develop EL-RAVE in 3 iterative studies, and then evaluate the final version in a pilot study in which English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers are randomly assigned to use EL-RAVE or provide business as usual instruction. The first iteration will include selection of words and development, field testing, and revision of four cycles of instruction. The second iteration will include development and field testing of teacher training materials, the remaining 4 cycles of instruction, and a passage comprehension measure. The final iteration will include a field test of the 4 new cycles of instruction and development of a measure of fidelity of implementation. Fidelity will be measured using a checklist of key lesson components, time spent on instruction, and student participation rates. In the pilot study, six classrooms in each state will be randomly assigned to participate in EL-RAVE for 12 weeks. Fidelity of implementation will be documented using the checklist developed in the final iterative study four times in each classroom, along with student surveys and teacher exit interviews. Effects of participation in EL-RAVE on student learning will be measured with assessments of passage comprehension, word knowledge, morphological knowledge, and Spanish vocabulary (for Spanish-speaking ELLs).

Control Condition: ESL teachers assigned to participate in the control condition will provide business as usual instruction, without RAVE or EL-RAVE.

Key Measures: Student outcome measures include researcher-developed measures of word knowledge, morphological awareness, and comprehension; the Gates MacGinitie Reading Test, home language survey, Test de Vocabulario en Imagenes Peabody, and English language proficiency.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will analyze qualitative data collected in interviews, observations, and student surveys to guide the iterative development process to identify whether EL-RAVE is feasible and engaging. Researchers will use qualitative coding schemes to quantify and synthesize information on student participation, teacher satisfaction, and the perceived value of instruction. Researchers will use analysis of variance and multivariate analysis of variance to estimate the overall impact in the pilot study, as well as the effect of participation on knowledge of target versus extension words.


ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Project Website:

Select Publications:

Book chapter

Crosson, A.C. (in press). Supporting Linguistically Diverse Students to Develop Deep, Flexible Knowledge of Academic Words. In C.P. Proctor, A. Boardman, and E. Hiebert (Eds.), English Learners and Emergent Bilingualism in the Common Core Era. New York: Guilford Publishing.

Journal articles

Crosson, A.C., Tapu, C. & McKeown M.G. (2022). Think like a linguist: Leveraging multilingual students' expertise about language. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 65, 481–493. 10.1002/jaal.1226

Crosson, A.C., McKeown, M.G., Lei, P., Zhao, H., Li, X., Patrick, K. & Brown, K. & Shen, Y. (2021). Morphological analysis skill and vocabulary knowledge are malleable through intervention and may contribute to reading comprehension for multilingual adolescents. Journal of Research in Reading, 44, 154–174. 10.1111/1467-9817.12323

Crosson, A.C., Lei, P., Cheng, W. & McKeown, M.G. (2020). The curious role of morphological family size in problem solving of unfamiliar words. Scientific Studies of Reading, 24, 445–461. doi: 10.1080/10888438.2019.1701475.

Crosson, A. C., McKeown, M. G., Moore, D. W., & Ye, F. (2019). Extending the bounds of morphology instruction: Teaching Latin roots facilitates academic word learning for English learner adolescents. Reading and Writing, 32(3), 689–727.

Crosson, A. C., McKeown, M. G., Robbins, K. P., & Brown, K. J. (2019). Key elements of robust vocabulary instruction for emergent bilingual adolescents. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 50(4), 493–505.

Crosson, A.C & Moore, D.W. (2017). When to take up roots: The effects of morphology instruction for middle school and high school English learners. Reading Psychology, 38(3): 262–288. DOI: 10.1080/02702711.2016.1263699

Crosson, A.C., and McKeown, M.G. (2016). Middle School Learners' Use of Latin Roots to Infer the Meaning of Unfamiliar Words. Cognition and Instruction, 34(2): 148–171.