What impact, if any, does the explicit teaching of vocabulary have on EAL learners' writing abilities in primary school?
The need to address the attainment gap in education is well documented. There exists much contemporary debate about how educators can best approach this issue. The problem has particular significance for those learners for whom English is not their first language, and for the professionals responsible for their learning. Current evidence suggests one key contributing element to the attainment gap is the lack of vocabulary known by many learners. This study focuses on young English-learners within a primary school setting, and aims to investigate the effect of direct vocabulary instruction on their writing skills in a mainstream classroom. The research investigates this pedagogy as a viable method of narrowing the attainment gap for the ordinary classroom teacher, who may have had little or, indeed, no training in working with students learning English. This study investigates current research and education policies within Scotland pertaining to the attainment gap, English-learners and explicit vocabulary instruction. The author proceeds to detail the examination of the topic through a mixed-methods approach. The data collection and analysis methods are analysed within the context of an Action Research methodology applied to a professional enquiry project. Data for the project were collected through observation, assessment, questionnaires and a focus group over a 5-week period. The results were subject to Grounded Theory Analysis, comparison and statistical analysis. Finally, this paper details the resulting recommendations. It is recommended that the direct vocabulary instruction method, though not the 'answer' to narrowing the vocabulary gap, is a viable pedagogy to be included in mainstream classrooms to support the language development of young English-learners. It is further recommended that additional research is conducted into this strategy for English-learners, in order that they, and the educational professionals responsible for them, are suitably supported in an increasingly globalised world
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