The California site included classrooms from two schools that primarily served working class Mexican-American children in both bilingual and mainstream classes. The classrooms in Massachusetts were from a school that served working class, mostly Puerto Rican and Dominican students, within both bilingual and mainstream classes taught by bilingual teachers. The Virginia classrooms were recruited from an “English-medium” magnet school that served mainly working class Spanish speakers from the Caribbean and Central America.
One-hundred forty-two English language learners1 in the fifth grade participated in this study. Students were recruited from 16 classrooms in California, Virginia, and Massachusetts. Ninety-four English language learner students were in classrooms randomly assigned to the intervention group, and 48 students were in classrooms randomly assigned to the comparison group. Ninety percent (128 students) of the participants had pretest and posttest measures for at least one outcome. Follow-up contact with the first author revealed attrition in the comparison group; one classroom was not included in the analyses because a teacher left the study prior to intervention implementation, but after random assignment of classrooms to conditions (17 classrooms were originally assigned to conditions, but only 16 were in the analysis sample). In addition, some
students in the overall sample received a pilot intervention in the fourth grade, and some did not. However, this intervention report focuses on fifth grade outcomes only.
The intervention implemented in the study was adapted and published by the authors as the Vocabulary Improvement Program for English Language Learners and Their Classmates (VIP). Students read newspaper articles, diaries, documentaries, and historical and fictional accounts related to the topic of immigration. This 15-week intervention included 30–45 minutes of teaching four days a week and focused on 10–12 target words per week. On Mondays participants were given the weekly text to preview in Spanish. On Tuesdays the text was introduced in English, and target words in the text were discussed. On Wednesdays participants formed heterogeneous groups (based on English language proficiency) and completed two types of cloze activities. On Thursdays participants engaged in word association, synonym/antonym, and semantic feature analysis tasks. Then on Fridays either analysis of root words and derivation, or knowledge of multiple meanings of words was stressed. Three lessons were observed (during weeks 4, 9, and 13), revealing that six of the nine of the intervention group teachers implemented more than 70% of the key lesson elements, two 50%–60%, and one 35%.
Students in the comparison group received their regular classroom instruction. The curriculum provided to the comparison group differed greatly across the schools in each region of the country. Teachers in the comparison group received some professional development in vocabulary teaching two years prior to the beginning of the intervention.
The study measured reading achievement using a researcher developed cloze measure. It measured English language development using measures titled Knowledge of Multiple Meanings of Words, Morphology, Word Mastery, Word Association, and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R) (see Appendix A2 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures). Assessments were given in the Fall and Spring of the academic year.
Support for implementation
Researchers conducted biweekly Teacher Learning Community meetings with intervention group teachers, providing teachers with curriculum materials including detailed lesson plans, quasi-scripted lesson guides, overhead transparencies, worksheets, homework assignments, and all necessary reading materials. At these meetings, researchers facilitated discussions of practices that worked well in previous lessons and aspects of the curriculum that were problematic. The curriculum was not modified as a result of these meetings.