Facilitating Vocabulary in English Language-Learners

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Carla Wood Jackson, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor, School of Communication Science & Disorders at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

Carla Wood Jackson, Ph.D. CCC-SLP is an assistant professor in the School of Communication Science & Disorders at Florida State University. Dr. Jackson’s teaching and research focuses on child language development and disorders. She has been a certified speech-language pathologist for over 16 years including service in public elementary schools. Dr. Jackson developed a multicultural/multilingual clinical program at Florida State University which provides outreach services to ELLs in surrounding communities. Her research has focused on facilitating early language and literacy skills of English language learners. She has presented on the topic at national conferences and published in professional journals such as Language Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools, Communication Disorders Quarterly, and Early Childhood Services: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Effectiveness. Jackson is in her fourth year as the principle investigator on a 4-year training grant focusing on serving culturally and linguistically diverse populations.

Dr. Carla Wood Jackson’s research lab, BLOOM, has focused on developing and examining language learning supports for young English language learners (ELLs). A series of language learning intervention studies have been conducted with the assistance of colleagues and graduate students in partnership with the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium on Migrant Education. Speech-language pathologists, teachers, and special educators continue to report challenges and obstacles in providing high quality intervention and instructional support for ELLs (Jackson, Leacox, & Callender, 2010). In response, the primary aim of BLOOM (Bridging for Language Outcomes in the Classroom) is to develop language and literacy interventions for young English language learners and refine and test implementation in authentic classrooms.

The use of native language expansions, referred to as “Spanish bridging”, during shared reading serves as a catalyst of English word learning by providing engaging, comprehensible input utilizing children’s stronger language. Spanish bridging shows promise as a transitional venue for facilitating English language learning, particularly in rich shared reading instruction. The use of children’s native language as instructional support during acquisition of English is controversial; however, burgeoning research supports the benefits of Spanish bridging for early English language and literacy development in some ELLs. The use of Spanish bridging demonstrated promising outcomes in the master’s thesis of Mirza Lugo-Neris (Lugo-Neris, Jackson, & Goldstein, 2010).

This project investigated word learning of ELLs in response to repeated shared reading with embedded instruction of word definitions in either Spanish or English. Children demonstrated growth in their word labeling in English, receptive understanding of targeted words, and expressive definitions in both English and Spanish intervention conditions; however, additional benefits were observed when the word definitions were provided in Spanish. Subsequent studies have examined supplemental Tier 2 and Tier 3 level supports for vocabulary learning including bridging with accompanying manipulatives (Jackson, Bancayan & Quiles, in preparation), voice-output pre-recorded definitions for preview and review, and bridging implemented through computer-mediated e-book instruction (Leacox & Jackson, in preparation).

Currently, doctoral student Lindsey Leacox and Jackson are extending the BLOOM project for broader implementation in preschool – 1st grade classrooms. Children practice and rehearse targeted English word labels by selecting the electronic links to hear a model of the English label and embedded expansion of the word definition provided in Spanish. Preliminary results support the use of Spanish-bridging during computer mediated instruction to facilitate English word learning. On-going longitudinal study of ELL’s vocabulary skill acquisition in English and Spanish is underway in the BLOOM lab at Florida State University.

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One response to “Facilitating Vocabulary in English Language-Learners”

  1. Nathan Cornish says:

    This is great information; thank you for sharing it! I wonder if you could provide us with an example of what “Spanish bridging” looks like. How could a bilingual clinician reproduce this in her or his own practice? Thanks!

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