Speaking at the 2011 George Graham Lecture at the University of Virginia’s Curry School, Nonie Lesaux explained that students who do not have English skills—English language learners, English as a second language, language minority learners, and so forth—at the middle school level need to learn an academic vocabulary. After presenting background research showing that much of the problem in reading for students in US schools who do not have English as their primary language is not in mastering the phonological aspects of literacy, and not just in learning labels for nouns, she described a 20-week vocabulary curriculum for teaching students language used in academic texts.
Professor Lesaux, a member of the faculty at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, has conducted extensive research using multiple methods across diverse topics related to language learning and literacy. Her message is clear: Helping students, including those who are not native speakers of English, requires systematic and comprehensive instruction in multiple areas, including vocabulary, and we can’t expect that simply teaching students words as labels will be sufficient. We have to get them to use those words.
Kelley, J. G., Lesaux, N. K., Kieffer, M. A., & Faller, S. E. (2010). Effective academic vocabulary instruction in the urban middle school. The Reading Teacher, 64, 5-14.
Kieffer, M. J., & Lesaux, N. (in press). Breaking down to build meaning: Morphology, vocabulary, and reading comprehension in the urban classroom. The Reading Teacher.
For more, peruse Professor Lesaux’s vita.