Research for whole school approaches

The following studies have shown that collaborations between speech and language therapists and teachers can result in significant increases in teenagers’ new word learning. This collaboration can focus on teaching new words across the whole school or in specific classrooms.

The excellent Word Generation Project in the USA is described here. Snow, Lawrence and White’s (2009) evaluated this programme. They taught five words a week across the school curriculum with 6th – 8th grade students (aged 11-14 years) in a 24 week whole-school programme.The words targeted were all-purpose academic words which were useful in a range of subjects across the curriculum. Teenagers made accelerated progress in vocabulary knowledge with higher levels of educational attainment in the schools which took part, when compared to schools which were not part of the project.

Similarly, Lesaux et al. (2010) delivered an 18 week vocabulary intervention programme in middle schools in the USA, working with teachers to teach new words to 296 children aged 11-12 years in 13 classrooms. The intervention taught 75 cross-curriculum words in whole-class sessions which focused on building depth of vocabulary knowledge across multiple meanings and morphological analysis (breaking down the word to figure out meaning). The study found significant gains on a researcher-designed measure of understanding of the targeted words and a morphological decomposition task for the children who took part, but not for children who did not get the sessions.

In Australia, a speech and language therapist (pathologist) Julia Starling worked with teachers to train them in modifications to their teaching which would support teenagers with language learning difficulties. Although not specifically focused on vocabulary, the study demonstrated the value of collaborative practice for both teachers (who successfully implemented instructional language modification techniques) and teenagers with language difficulties (who increased in their writing skills and listening comprehension).



LESAUX, N. K., KIEFFER, M. J., FALLER S. E., and KELLEY, J. G., 2010, The effectiveness and ease of implementation of an academic vocabulary intervention for linguistically diverse students in urban middle schools. Reading Research Quarterly, 45, 196-228.

SNOW, C. E., LAWRENCE, J., & WHITE, C., 2009, Generating knowledge of academic language among urban middle school students. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2, 325-344.

STARLING, J., MUNRO, N., TOGHER, L., & ARCILI, J., 2012, Training secondary school teachers in instructional language modification techniques to support adolescents with language impairment: A randomized controlled trial. Language, speech, and hearing services in schools, 43(4), 474-495.