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1.1 Providing Rich and Varied Language Experiences

Language is primarily acquired incidentally, through listening, talking, and reading. Thus, to the extent possible, teachers need to immerse students in lan-guage-rich environments that provide them with many opportunities to acquire Learning Words in a Second Language. Children can be exposed to rich language through having text read aloud to them, their own reading of texts, and media such as television.

Shared Book Reading. As noted in the Introduction, one method that has been used frequently and successfully to develop vocabulary in children is shared book reading in which adults read aloud to children, periodically stopping to highlight and discuss individual words as well as other aspects of what they are reading. Research with native English speakers indicates that this method has an impact on oral language outcomes, including vocabulary, grammar, and listening comprehension. The same appears to be the case for ELLs. In a study with young ELLs, Roberts and Neal compared small-group comprehension-oriented instruction, which consisted of shared book reading, vocabulary instruction, and comprehension activities, with emergent literacy instruction, which consisted of naming and writing letters and recognizing and generating rhymes. Findings indicated that children in the comprehension-oriented instruction outperformed children in the emergent literacy instruction in vocabulary and print concepts, while emergent literacy instruction resulted in better letter-naming and writing.
Additionally, English oral proficiency was more correlated with the

comprehension-related skills than with the decoding-related skills.

There is evidence that shared book reading can be an effective component for programs for older learners as well. In a study conducted by Carlo et al. (2004), a 15-week intervention was designed to build breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension in 254 bilingual and native English-speaking children from nine 5th-grade classrooms in four schools in California, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The intervention used immigration as a theme. Each weekly lesson began with shared reading of one of a variety of text genres, including newspaper articles, diaries, first-hand documentation of the immigrant experience, historical accounts, and fiction. In accordance with research indicating that words are best learned from rich semantic contexts, target words were selected from the brief, engaging reading passages. Twelve words that students at this level were likely to encounter repeatedly across texts in different domains were introduced each week. [3]
Although there were relatively few words introduced each week, activities helped children make semantic links to other words and concepts and thus to attain a deeper and richer understanding of each word’s meaning, as well as to learn other words and concepts related to the target words. The lessons also taught students to infer meanings from context and to use roots, affixes, cognates, morphological relationships, and comprehension monitoring. All the strategy instruction used the reading passages as a springboard. Findings indicated that the ELLs did better in generating sentences that conveyed different meanings of multi-meaning words, in completing cloze passages, on tests of knowledge of word meanings, and on measures of word association and morphological knowledge. On a cloze test used to evaluate comprehension, students showed significant improvement, but the impact on comprehension was much lower than on vocabulary. These results indicate that this multifaceted training led to improved knowledge of the words studied.

In Chapter 3, we discuss several shared book readings in some detail. We

want to note that this is an extremely important type of vocabulary instruction for chil20 Teaching Vocabulary to English Language Learners who enter school with relatively small vocabularies and that a number of studies have shown that shared book reading can successfully teach word meanings. However, these results must be taken as encouraging rather than definitive. All of the studies have been relatively short, and few of them have taught anything like the number of words that less advantaged students need to learn in order to catch up to their more advantaged peers. Instruction that successfully bridges this gap will need to extend over several years and help students acquire many more words than have been acquired in studies thus far.

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